No country embodies the saying “What grows together, goes together” more than Italy. Throughout history, its regional cuisines have been able to develop alongside its local wines. It’s hard to go wrong with Italian regional recipes and their regional wines. So, pick a regional dish, a local wine, and have a feast!
What Grows Together, Goes Together
First, let’s go into the meaning of the famous saying. What does “If it grows together, goes together” mean? And does this rule of thumb really apply when it comes to food and wine pairings? The short answer is: Yes, it does. Think about some regional Italian classics: a Nebbiolo with an Ossobuco (braised veal shanks) or a Chianti with wild boar pappardelle. Just like wine, many foods have a sense of place – they are expressions of soil, climate and topography of a region. Regional dishes developed from whatever ingredients were available, and wine styles evolved in sync with culinary traditions.
Four Italian Regional Recipes to Try
We picked four Italian regional dishes: two starters and two main courses – and give a wine suggestion for each dish.
Sicily is the birthplace of a wonderful invention called the arancino (or plural: arancini). Deep-fried carby finger food, what’s not to love? These rice balls are stuffed with asparagus, ham and cheese.
Deep fry them (in a frying pan or air fryer) in batches of 4 or 5 balls at a time. This will ensure even cooking and a nice, golden brown hue. Let them cool off a little bit before digging in.
Serve this delicious starter as an aperitivo with a Sicilian white wine, such as the Scio Bianco. Its refreshing acidity will cleanse the palate in between sips.
Sformato di Spinaci
A “sformato” is the Italian word for a savoury flan. It’s easy to make, but has a sophisticated look to it. You’ll find sformati all over Italy, often incorporating seasonal vegetables with ricotta and a type of local cheese. This one has spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano.
The ramekins with the spinach filling are placed in a roasting tray with hot water (au bain marie). This ensures even cooking and prevents the sformati from drying out.
Served with a rich cheese cream, these sformati are great as an easy, festive starter. Pair with an unoaked Italian white, such as the Vallena Soave.
The Italian classic that we all know and love was invented during the Middle Ages – without tomatoes, of course, because those didn’t show up until centuries later. This recipe substitutes the traditional meat for tons of veggies.
Make sure to cook the vegetables slowly and thoroughly – they’ll become nicely caramelised and very flavourful. Together with the creamy Béchamel and cheese, the result is ultra satisfying.
A rosé would pair wonderfully with the vegetable flavours – a good acidity to cut through the richness of the dish, but with enough body to match the dish’s flavours. Try the Giuliana Vicini Rosato.
Claimed by both Campania and Sicily, this is a Southern Italian classic. Sliced and pan-fried silky eggplant, layered in a rich tomato sauce, generously topped with cheese and baked in the oven. It’s pure decadence!
Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce and a green salad. A wine that would be great to pop open with this dish? Try the Cirò Classico Superiore from Calabria (the toe of Italy’s boot).