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Tastes of THE LAKES

Fresh fish from the waters and other produce from the mountains are the staples of traditional cooking on the Italian lakes, as Mario Matassa explains

Understand the landscape here and you understand the food. The waters of Lake Como cover 60 square miles to a depth of 1,300 feet, so freshwater fish is naturally going to play a significant role in the local diet. Lake Como has more than 25 types of fish; Lake Garda has 30. Lavarello (a white fish) is the most popular, but other varieties include perch, pike and trout, which are served grilled or fried, with a slice of locally grown lemon. Yet fish is not the key player.

From the dark, impenetrable waters, the mountains rise sharply to dominate the landscape, and it is from these vertiginous surroundings that Lake Como derives its predominant culinary influence. The Alpine pastures produce excellent cheeses like crescenza, gorgonzola, taleggio, bagoss and robiola, not to mention the innumerable nostrani, artisan cheeses, that feature strongly in many local dishes.

The hard terrain and challenging climate is such that hardy varieties of grain dominate over traditional wheat varieties. Polenta features heavily, as does rice. Another staple is pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta that is served with potatoes, cabbage and melted taleggio cheese. This dish has its origins in Valtellina, an area also renowned for its air-cured beef fillet, bresaola. Gnocchi are also popular, cooked in game sauces (in season) or with wild mushrooms. Try hearty gnocchi alla comasca, served with a rich sauce of pancetta, pomodori and taleggio cheese. Not a dish for the faint-hearted!

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About Italia!

Welcome to this first issue of 2020! We send you our best wishes for a productive and peaceful time in the year ahead. Here we are looking forward to travelling deeper into Italy, discovering new places and seeing the familiar in a new light.