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We all know that amazing food is the result of huge amounts of passion being poured into cooking, and what nation gets more passionate about great food than the Italians?

Italian cuisine is everything you dream about in cooking. Incredible fresh ingredients like creamy mozzarella, fragrant basil, rich olive oil and juicy tomatoes, are just some of the first foods that spring to mind when you think specifically of Italian food.

And when these are just some of the base ingredients, it’s no surprise that dishes like velvety arrabbiatas, hearty ragus, and crisp, unbelievably fresh tasting pizzas are what come steaming out of the kitchens of Rome, Naples and Tuscany.

But here at Not In The Guidebooks, we’re all about experiencing the new – that’s why we’re bringing you 4 Italian dishes you might never have heard of, but that we know you’ll love.

1.     Tuscan Panzanella Salad

bowl of panzanella Italian salad

With the warm summer evenings now within sight, this authentic Tuscan recipe is a perfect meal for when you just need something refreshing and full of flavour.

A tomato and bread salad with lots of olive oil, fresh basil, salt and red onion, it’s a favourite of one of our hosts in Tuscany, Mirella, and is a staple dish you would learn to make the proper way on her cookery holidays in a 400 year old palazzo.

A favourite for vegetarians or vegans, it’s a classic main for the Tuscany locals in the summer, but can also make a great starter or a side, and it also provides a great use for any bits of stale bread you’ve got lying around.

We’d recommend serving with a good Italian white like Vernaccia, and enjoying in the sunniest part of your garden, flat, balcony, closing your eyes, and imagining yourself in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

2.     Fritto Misto

A real crowd pleaser and a seafood Christmas classic, as is tradition in Italy, Fritto Misto requires few ingredients, but a little cooking nous and top quality ingredients to make the perfect platter of light, crispy pieces of squid, prawns and vegetables.

Plate of fried squid and shrimp fritto misto

Splashed with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt, it’s the culmination of salt, fat, acid and heat to create one of the most moreish Italian dishes we have ever tried.

Little touches like making sure your oil is hot enough before you fry, seeking out responsibly sourced and fresh (but not cleaned) squid, adding a splash of cold lager to your batter for the courgette and potatoes (and then to a the nearest glass to enjoy with your food), they’re all vital if you’re to get the dish just right.

Typically served in paper cones on the streets of Naples or Avellino, our partner and cooking holiday host Rita will show you exactly how to craft piles of perfectly fried goodies that will have you making the next batch before your guests have finished smashing through the first.

Italian Cooking Holidays

Italian Cooking in Lake Garda

Italy, Lake Garda

View Experience

Cooking and Wine-Tasting in Tuscany

Italy, Tuscany

View Experience

Palermo Street Food & Local Market Tour

Sicily, Italy

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Umbria Bike & Slow Food Retreat

Italy, Umbria

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3.     Trota en Saór

Sticking with the theme of fish, but very much changing its source, our next Italian dish is from the other end of the country to the sun-soaked streets of Naples, as we travel to the incredibly beautiful Lake Garda.

pier at lake garda in italy

Fresh, simple, and easy to whip up, trota en saór the perfect taste of Lakeside Italian life, and is perfect served with a simple side of polenta.

Cooking the fish with a sauce of olive oil, garlic, capers, anchovies and red onions, brings a gorgeous saltiness and balance to the dish, and all it really needs is a simple polenta and salad side to complete a truly authentic, truly delicious north Italian recipe.

A creation from the kitchen of Chef Andrea, our partner who runs cookery holidays near the town of Torri del Benaco, we guess the only way you’ll learn how to cook it like a true local of Lake Garda, without following this recipe, would be to head to Italy and try it yourself…

4.     Tigella

Italian tigella bread in basket

Last but not least, something a bit different to a proper meal, tigella is a traditional Italian bread to test out your baking skills on. Originating in the culinary centre of Italy, Emilia Romagna, this incredible little bread is usually stuffed with a selection of great Italian fillings and eating whilst still hot.

Think cured meats, pesto, cheeses, olive oil, stuffed in a fluffy, steaming, soft Italian bread, and you’ve got yourself one of the most mouth-watering snacks you’ll find anywhere on earth.

A typical snack from a region that prides itself on good food (Emilia Romagna is also the home of lasagne), have a go at baking some for yourself using this recipe, and see just how good the Italians do something even as simple as bread.


Here at Not In The Guidebooks, we’ve searched for some of the best cooking holidays in Italy that get you hands-on with one of the most popular and delicious cuisines in the world, and we’ve grouped them here for you so that you too can discover the secrets of authentic Italian cooking.

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