Because I always love to bring back home a taste of my adventures!
I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t LOVE food! So it makes an obvious choice for a gift for my friends and family (and myself!) when I come back from a holiday. Also, since I spend most of my time between local markets, supermarkets and speciality gourmet stores that’s really all I’m seeing and can get my hands on!
My trip to Italy and especially the Amalfi Coast was largely centred around exploring the regional food, ingredients and specialities. I’ve tried to omit certain things from the list like tomatoes and artichokes that would pretty much interest you only if you’re a chef!
Heady truffles in all forms can be found everywhere in Italy! Italy boasts of a range of truffle products you can bring back home like truffle oil, preserved truffles, truffle salt and truffle paste! For me, the truffle oil, salt and paste are an absolute must have! The preserved truffles are good too, but they have a shelf-life once you open the jar. So perhaps pick it up only if you’re ready to spend some time in the kitchen fixing things once you get back home. Beware of some tourist traps that sell overly commercial looking products with very little truffle flavour. I saw truffle pastes in Italy with a truffle content ranging from 1% to 79%. Eataly has some good, authentic products!
Lemons and Lemon Everything
If you’re heading down to the Amalfi coast, you’re going to be serenaded by lemons and lemon in every form! And it’s all mind-tinglingly delicious! I brought home fresh lemons, limoncello, hard lemon candy, lemon cream stuffed cookies, lemon and white chocolate dragees, lemon marmalade, limoncello centre filled chocolate… and maybe a dozen more things that I can’t remember right now! Haha! I definitely recommend going to Nino and Friends to get your hands on some of this lemon goodness. The best part is you can try everything here before you buy it. So go hungry!
Native to Puglia, Taralli are like breadsticks that have been twisted into a circle, boiled and then baked. They can be plain or seasoned. I specially loved the one speckled with fennel seeds. Taralli make a delicious addition to a plate of antipasti or cheese to go with a glass of wine.
You’ll see people eating this in every bar in Italy! I discovered it when my Airbnb host served me a bowlful with a drink during the meet and greet and tour of the apartment. Gosh! It was instant love.
A rich, complex sweetness that explodes in your mouth with notes of fig, molasses, cherry, chocolate, or prune and just so much oomph! How can you visit Italy and not buy some of its finest that’s produced in Modena? The price you will pay for a bottle will depend on the age. Try to pick a smaller but nicer one just simply because you have access to the best stuff and reserve it for savouring with some cheese and berries. I like it best with some Parmigiano-Reggiano or over vanilla ice-cream.
Every olive is not created equal. When in Italy you have to try the naturally bright green Castelvetrano olives from Sicily. They are definitely my new favourite olive! They are lively, tender and crisp! Butterly but not overbearingly so. Your friends will love you for introducing them to this! It makes for a no-brainer gift with a bottle of wine and some cheese.
The dried pasta here goes beyond penne and fusilli. You’ll see shapes you haven’t seen before and flavours like lemon and truffle (of course!) I brought back some Orecchiette which is native to Puglia and a couple of others that caught my interest. While you’re at it, you can also pick up some dried herbs and seasonings.
Nothing beats an earthy, woody mushroom like a porcini. While in Italy, you have to of course eat them fresh with some tagliatelle or risotto. To bring back home, the dried version works well to flavour stocks and risotto. When buying dried porcini, look for lighter brown pieces and whole slices. Give the bits and ragged pieces a miss. They’re not likely to add much pizzaz to your cooking.
A good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano is aged longer than commercial parmesan which allows it to develop a saltier and nuttier flavour. I could sit with a whole wheel and a cheese knife. No one would ever get hurt.
This has a longer shelf life than other fresh cheeses like mozzarella and burrata and are a great souvenir to bring back home.
From bright Pinot Grigio to a dry and earthy Chianti Classico, Italy has something for everyone with its bounty of indigenous grape varieties. Fantastic wines at supremely low prices! Life could not get better. Of course, this one makes sense only if your baggage allowance permits!