Umbrian people love good food. The cuisine is characterized by simple dishes made from healthy ingredients.
Among the characteristic features of Umbrian cuisine, we can find olive oil of excellent quality and the wise use of spices such as thyme, sage, rosemary, basil and tarragon.
These spices are found in a variety of dishes, soups, meats and desserts. Many dishes have a close bond with poor cuisine of the past, a cuisine based mainly on the use of imaginative Umbrian unsalted bread and typical food of the times when people could not help but use their wits to make the best products available.
The characteristic of Umbrian cuisine is its simplicity.
It relies strongly on seasonal produce such as mushrooms and wild asparagus, on wild delicacies such as truffles, on vegetables, cereals, regionally reared meat – particularly lamb, pork and game – either cooked over the fire or worked into cured hams and salame.
Probably the most typical Umbrian pasta dishes are spaghetti – or strangozzi – Tagliatelle and potatoes gnocchi.
Generally reserved for special annual festivities or religious ceremonies, traditional Umbrian desserts are almost always baked in the oven, with a predilection for ingredients such as almonds, spices or candied fruit.
Among the best known are the Torcolo di San Costanzo – a typically Perugian dish traditionally prepared on January 29th, the feast day of St Costanzo, one of the city’s three patron saints.
Panpepato is a form of Christmas ‘biscuit’ common throughout Central Italy, while the ciaramicola is a speciality unique to Perugia and is traditionally baked for Easter.
The Assisi rocciata, a spiral kind of pastry sausage vaguely resembling a strudel, is also made in slightly different versions in Foligno and Spoleto.
Norcia’s fame as centre for the production of cured meats has even produced the term norcino, used in the Italian language to indicate all kinds of meats preserved in this manner.
Norcia is also the homeland of the black truffle, which is exported throughout the world along with the white varieties of Città di Castello and Gubbio.
These tubers are ideal both for the preparation of tasty appetisers and with pasta, and are also used in fresh and seasoned cheeses from the area – particularly in Umbrian pecorino cheese or the local formaggio di fossa, seasoned in the soil.
As well as playing an important role in the traditional Umbrian diet, a number of the region’s vegetables and cereals have earned the prestigious DOP quality denomination label.
These include Lake Trasimeno beans, Cannara onions and Trevi black celery. In terms of extra-virgin olive oil, Umbria boasts no less than five different DOP denomination varieties: Colli Orvietani, Colli Martani, Colli Amerini, Colli di Assisi-Spoleto, Colli del Trasimeno. Umbria’s largest production centre for olive oil is Trevi, around which visitors will be able to admire entire mountain sides given over to the cultivation of this legendary tree.
Surprisingly, Umbria also has a long standing history in the production of chocolate. Founded in 1907, the Perugina chocolate factory rose to international popularity and fame with its Baci, made with ground hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Initially named cazzotti, Baci were re-baptised by the decadent Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. The original machinery used in the production of Perugina chocolate is on display at a museum devoted to the history of the factory that opened in 1997. In 1988 Perugina was incorporated into the holdings of the Swiss multinational Nestlé.