Besides having the best Pizza, Neapolitans are also devoted to pasta: maccheroni, spaghetti, vermicelli, fusilli, perciatelli and ziti, among others. The pasta sauce of predilection is pummarola from the rare, tiny plum-shaped San Marzano tomatoes that are protected by DOP in the Sarnese-Nocerino area in the fertile valley to the southeast of Vesuvius in the provinces of Avellino and Salerno.
Campanians have been known as mangiafoglie (leaf eaters) because greens and vegetables so dominated the diet. In the sun-drenched fields around Vesuvius and the gulf, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, various types of peppers, salad greens, garlic and herbs reach heights of flavor, as do peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, melons, oranges and lemons.
The large, thick-skinned lemons of Sorrento and the Amalfi coast are renowned as the source of the liqueur called limoncello. Chestnuts and hazelnuts from the hills of Avellino enjoy IGP status. Olive oil from the Cilento and Sorrentine peninsulas and the hills of Salerno enjoy DOP status.
Seafood is a mainstay of the Neapolitan diet, especially the compact creatures that go so well in antipasto and pasta or deep fried in a grand fritto di pesce. The gulf abounds in little clams called vongole veraci, mussels, tender young octopus, cuttlefish, squid, prawns, shrimp, anchovies and the smelt called cecenielli.
Campania’s hill people also make fine salame and prosciutto, along with tangy pecorino cheese.
Water buffalo grazed in marshy lowlands around Capua and Salerno yield the ultimate in mozzarella di bufala, too fine in its pristine state, admirers insist, to melt onto pizza when cow’s milk fiore di latte will do. They prefer it within hours of when its strands are pulled like taffy and formed into rounds like snowballs that do indeed melt in the mouth. The DOP of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana differentiate the cheese from widespread imitations.
Ricotta and mascarpone from buffalo are also prized, as are provola and scamorza, which are sometimes lightly smoked. A specialty of Sorrento are caprignetti alle erbe, golf ball-sized goat’s milk cheeses rolled in herbs. Caciocavallo and provolone are popular. Part of the Caciocavallo Silano DOP is in Campania. The prized grating cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano, protagonist in dishes called parmigiana with eggplants, zucchini and other vegetables.
Naples is justly proud of its pastries and sweets, among which sfogliatelle ricce, pastiera, struffoli and zeppole are legendary. Gelato is often made from fresh fruit and nuts. Icy granita is usually flavored with lemon or coffee. Some say the secret of Napoli’s seductively sweet espresso is a pinch of chocolate in the coffee grounds.
The grandest cru of ancient Rome was Falernum, whose vineyards lie in northern Campania. Today, Falerno, as one of the region’s 20 DOCs, is respected in its red and white versions, as are wines from around the Gulf of Naples that carry the names of Ischia, Capri and Vesuvius (as Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio). But the most vaunted wines of Campania come from the heights to the east: the white Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino and the red Taurasi, which was selected as the south’s first DOCG (the G for guaranteed).
Pasta – Tomatoes – Olive Oil – Vegetables – Legumes – Mozzarella – Cheese – Anchovies – Tartufo Nero – Chestnuts – Hazel Nuts – Figs – Torrone – Wine – Limoncello ____________________________________________________
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