With so many TV shows nowadays like Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, it would seem that wacky cuisine was a trend that arrived in the 21st century. However, Italy was a champion in the adventurous food category centuries before these shows existed. In fact, if you’re willing to try unique things Italy is a great place to start. Though strange and atypical dishes can be found in every region of Italy, the following three are definitely some of the most adventurous the country has to offer. So bring your iron stomachs and let’s dive right in to this list of outlandish Italian cuisine!
La Pagliata – Region of Origin: Lazio
La pagliata’s a very traditional Roman dish. It is prepared by taking the small intestine of a calf or ox, rinsing it and boiling it. The inside of the intestine should not be drained before cooking and the chyme must be left intact inside. This is because when the pajata is cooked, a strong, sour tasting sauce can be created. Once cooked, tomato is added and the resulting sauce is used for a typical pasta dish of rigatoni with pajata.
Though the dish originates from Lazio, other regions of Italy serve it in different ways as well. In the Marches, specifically in the area of Ancona, they serve the pajata both roasted and grilled. Traditionally, the pajata recipe calls for the accompaniment of rigatoni with sauce. However, it can also be eaten as a main dish on its own, baked, stewed or grilled. Next time you’re in Rome, try an award-winning plate of rigatoni con la pajata at Flavio al Velavevodetto.
‘O Pèr e ‘o Muss – Region of Origin: Campania
Considered a street food in Naples, ’o pèr e ‘o muss is a dish that came about out of the necessity of the poor folk of the Campania region who didn’t have much disposable income and as such, were accustomed to not throwing away any parts of the animal. The dish has both a reasonable cost and a very unique taste. Found predominantly in Naples and Agro Nocerino Sarnese, this delicacy is prepared with pork foot which in Neapolitan dialect is called “pèr” and the mouth/lips of a calf or “muss” as it is known in Neapolitan dialect. The hair is removed from both the foot and the mouth and then the ingredients are boiled, cooled, cut into small pieces, served cold and seasoned with salt and lemon juice.
Other ingredients that are often added to the dish are calf’s foot, goat’s foot, and offal such as the four stomachs of veal (including tripe), the udder of the dairy cow, the uterus of the heifer, and the rectum of the calf. Sometimes the dish is even served with the additional dressing of fennel, lupines, olives and chili peppers. ‘O pèr e ‘o muss is available in traditional stores, butcher shops, street stands, kiosks or carts and motorized vehicles such as the Apecar. In the past, the dish was salted using a characteristic instrument made of an animal horn with a hole poked in the tip. Certain nostalgic vendors can still be found using this tool today. Think you’re brave enough to give it a try? If so, stop by Antica Tripperia ‘O Russ during your next trip to Naples.
Casu Marzu – Region of Origin: Sardinia
Typical of the Sardinia region, casu marzu cheese, which literally translated from Sardinian dialect means rotten cheese, is not for the faint of the heart. Prepared with sheep’s milk, casu marzu is a Sardinian tradition. However, what makes this cheese so noteworthy is the fact that it contains live insect larvae. Yes, you read that right; I said live maggots! Why in heaven’s name would the good people of Sardinia put live maggots in their cheese you ask? That’s because the maggots cause an elevated level of fermentation, which brings the cheese to the border of decomposition.
The maggots called “piophila case” break down the fat in the cheese causing liquid to seep out and the cheese to become very soft. Don’t worry, before consumption the larvae’s removed. However, the truly courageous casu marzu purists eat the cheese with the worms still inside! The cheese has an aftertaste that can last up to several hours, making this a milky delicacy for the adventurous. Want to give it a try? Stop by I Sapori Dell’isola di Daniela Porceddu for a taste.
Though the ingredients in these dishes might seem rather unorthodox by modern day cuisine standards, they span centuries worth of history. They are also still very much considered delicacies in Italy. These foods add to the mystique of Italy and are an illustration of its origins. If you’ve read this article without getting squeamish, then these Italian delicacies might just be the ticket for you. If you find yourself in any of the above mentioned regions in Italy, be sure to try these dishes. Happy eating!
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