The Best Food of Calabria

April 30, 2020

Calabria, the “toe of Italy’s boot,” is a picturesque region in southern Italy with mountains, beaches… but the food of Calabria is what gets us really excited!

Calabria’s produce and seafood are well enjoyed with its hearty, local red wine. Many dishes are a mix of fresh ingredients, preserved vegetables, and meats and fish with oil and spices.

Want to know what to eat in Calabria? Here are some of our favorite dishes of the region!

'Nduja (flickr: Girl Interrupted Eating)

‘Nduja and cipolla rossa di Tropea. Photo by Girl Interrupted Eating (Flickr)

‘Nduja: One of Calabria’s most famous and beloved foods! The unique soft, spreadable spicy sausage really brings the heat, thanks to its blend of local chili peppers found in the dish. We love it on crispy bread and fresh pasta.

Cipolla rossa di Tropea: Many of Calabria’s vibrant dishes get their flavor from this famous onion (grown in Tropea), recognized by its bold purple red exterior and sweet flavor! You’ll see this onion in salads, pastas, meats… and even on pizza!

Lagane e cicciari: Calabria’s tradition of cucina povera (peasant cuisine) boasts some of the most simple, yet flavorful, comfort food dishes! One of our favorites is the pasta dish made with wide noodles, chickpeas, garlic and oil.

Pasta ccu ri sarde: Fresh sardines are a staple in Calabrian cuisine and are especially delicious in this sweet and salty, Arab-inspired pasta dish with breadcrumbs, raisins and pine nuts.

Caciocavallo cheese hanging to dry

Caciocavallo cheese hanging to dry

Caciocavallo: Literally meaning “cheese on horseback,” this tasty cheese is known for its salty and sharp yet smooth flavor. Caciocavallo is easy to recognize because of the teardrop shape it forms when hung to dry. The versatile cheese in delicious in pasta dishes like baked lasagna, or on its own with cured meats.

Ciambotta: Eggplant is everywhere in Calabria, mainly as a condiment on pastas and meats, or as a contorno (side dish). Don’t miss this spicy eggplant stew with chili, tomatoes, onion and herbs for a healthy kick! The dish is usually vegetarian and the recipe varies from city to city.

Olive oil: Did you know that almost a quarter of Italy’s olive oil is produced in Calabria? Because Calabria isn’t as well-known of a producer as, say, Tuscany, often the Calabrian oil is used as a base and mixed with other regions’ oil, then labeled as a product of that region! Calabria’s oil is known for its medium robustness and fruity undertones.

Licorice plant and candy

Licorice plant and candy

Licorice: Calabria’s licorice—considered some of the best in the world—is known as rigulizza in local dialect, and is beloved for its digestive properties (not to mention the distinctive taste of the gourmet candy!).


Pignolata, a delicious Calabrian sweet

Pignolata: More popularly known as struffoli, these delectable fried honey balls originally come from a Sicilian recipe and are very popular in the region, especially in the city of Reggio Calabria. You’ll especially find these in pastry shops around major holidays like Carnevale and Christmas.

Bergamot oranges (flickr: John Loo)

Bergamot oranges. Photo by John Loo

Liquore al bergamotto: After a large meal, make like a Calabrian and sip the region’s digestive liqueur made from bergamot oranges! The concoction, similar to limoncello, is made from the juice of an extremely tart orange found on the gorgeous groves throughout the region. We suggest bringing back bergamot scented teas and perfumes as a great souvenir! 

What’s your favorite Calabrian dish? Tell us about it in the comments!

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