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4 Dishes You Have to Try in Umbria

Posted 19 Jan 2024

The cuisine of a region can often be a window into the local cultures and traditions. When a place has a strong fishing history, you’ll find a multitude of seafood on the menu, and wine regions offer food which compliments the flavours which come from the vineyards. Sitting down for a delicious meal can often be the best way to immerse yourself in the culture. This is especially true for the verdant region of Umbria.

Umbria is the only Italian region without a coastline, meaning its cuisine is among the most unique in the country. Without access to the Mediterranean, Umbrians rely on the bounty of their valleys and forests, where wild boar roam and flavoursome truffles grow. When dining here, expect your food to have been foraged or grown just a valley away, where every town and village offers different specialities. Read on to discover the food you have to try in Umbria.

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4 dishes to try in Umbria

Truffles

Thanks to the plentiful Tiber River, Umbria is lush and verdant, with plenty of woodland. This creates the ideal conditions for black truffles to thrive. With an abundance of this resource, you’ll find it on every menu in the region. Whether it’s a garnish on top of pasta, or cooked into risotto, delight in the earthy and rich flavour truffle provides.

Across the region, you’ll notice a trend in the culture: Umbrians respect authenticity and strongly dislike pretension. This is something which is reflected in their cuisine, and the truffle perfectly captures this sentiment. A staple, truffle spaghetti is one of the most delicious dishes on any menu you’ll find and is also one of the most simple in terms of ingredients. Umbrians would argue that you can’t add to perfection, so why overcomplicate things? Flavoured with local olive oil or butter and topped with garden-grown herbs, you’ll struggle to find fresher ingredients than in Umbria.

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Truffles

Wild Boar

As Umbria is an inland region with no coastline, you’ll see few seafood options on the menu when visit. What you will find is a huge variety of vegetarian and meat choices, with wild boar being the superstar in any Umbrian kitchen. What makes the perfect conditions for truffles is what also creates a thriving wild boar population in the hills and valleys of Umbria. The plentiful acorns also mean the meat is naturally flavoured with a wonderful nuttiness.

One of the ways you can enjoy the delicious pork of Umbria is from a ‘norcino’ which is a specialised pork butcher. Here you can purchase some wonderful salami, with that distinctive nuttiness. This makes for a great present for friends and family back home. Make sure to look out for ‘porchetta’ on the menu – these are cuts of pork usually from a deliciously herbed joint just bursting with fresh and aromatic flavours; garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme are just a few of the notes you’ll taste.

If you’re in the mood for something hearty and utterly delicious, then you can’t go wrong with any wild boar stew you come across in restaurants. Almost every chef will cook it differently, from the Michelin-starred to the Nona slow-cooking it from her rural kitchen. What you can always expect is a rich and delectable dish that is made from only the freshest ingredients.

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Boar

Lentils

Although truffles and boar are two of the most famous Umbrian foods, lentils play a huge role in the everyday dishes of the region. Creating a natural phenomenon, Umbria actually enjoys a lentil bloom between June and July. Focused around the town of Castelluccio di Norcia, the valley floor is carpeted by a mosaic of colours, from vibrant reds to striking blues. The dishes these lentils create are just as special as the views. Thanks to the unique, thin skins of Umbrian lentils, they cook faster with a more delicious, earthy flavour than regular varieties.

Across the region, a ‘less is more’ approach is the most popular practice, and the lentil helps showcase this brilliantly. Lentil soup, simple in nature but wonderfully flavoursome, relies on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. You’ll find this dish on almost every Umbrian menu, with countless variations. In some places, expect pasta and vegetables added, whilst in others you’ll enjoy the dish with a fresh loaf of rustic bread. Feel safe in the knowledge that whenever it appears on a menu, it’s a fantastic choice for you.

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Lentils

Rocciata

A list of the best foods in Umbria would not be complete without including at least one delicious dessert. And the sweet spot here is given to the classic 'rocciata'. Originally from Assisi, this is a traditional Umbrian pastry consisting of a thin sheet of dough wrapped around a huge variety of fillings from apple and cinnamon to cocoa and figs. Simple yet oh-so elegant, the flavours are rich and often tart.

Across the region, you’ll find various adaptations of this dessert, sometimes with a single filling and other times filled to the brim with them. You could order a rocciata in every restaurant and not experience the same dish twice. So when you visit the region, make sure you leave enough space for dessert.

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Rocciata

For more information on the food you have to try in Umbria, call our cycle experts today. Alternatively, view our Umbria cycling holidays here.

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