Lake Como’s Culinary Heritage
All of Lombardy is famous for its culinary delights from the mountains or hillsides that go far beyond the well-known dish, Spaghetti Milanese. The area around Lake Como takes a special place among the 12 provinces in Lombardy. The spot, where the lake branches into a western and eastern part, Bellagio is located at the tip of a peninsula which is called the “LarianTriangle”. Connoisseurs appreciate the beautiful landscape and a very unique cuisine.
Lake Como beyond Spaghetti and Pizza:
Today, the province of Como is one of the wealthiest in Italy, with the highest average income. That was not always so, and therefore it is not surprising that the traditional cuisine is influenced by the formerly poor mountainous areas and hills surrounding the lake adding a more rustic character to the dishes. Buckwheat dishes, cheese, lard, cabbage, tomatoes, rice. corn, beef, pork and dried fish were the main ingredients at certain times of the past’s diet. Meanwhile, the dishes have changed, but still keep their “rustic touch” highly appreciated by many domestic and foreign gourmet visitors, even those with the most discriminating palate. To be honest, after a week with haute cuisine business lunches, who would not feel a ravenous appetite for a hearty homemade stew?
Among the better-known dishes is risotto, especially the Risotto alla Milanese, cooked with saffron. A delicacy of the region. And the famous Osso buco (braised veal shank stuffed) is also found in international gourmet temples. During winter time the local stew Cassoeula with cabbage, pork and ribs is very popular.
The 146 sq km Lake Como is shared by 28 different species of fish. The most popular among gourmets are, whitefish, feints, perch, pike and burbot, which can be found on the menu with their Italian names such as Agone, Cavedano, Lavarello, Persico, Pigo, Pike and Savitta. In the nearby rivers cavort countless trouts. On the plate you will find the goodies, fried, boiled, dried, cooked or marinated. Side dishes of fresh vegetables, rice or polenta are served.
There is no limitation to imagination and skills of the local chefs. One of the classics along the lakeshores are perch dishes like risotto al persico. A unique specialty is called Como “Missoltin”, or Missolta, salted and sundried white fish cut into strips with laurel and kept in a barrel for months before consumed sprinkled with vinegar and olive oil. Equally popular among locals and tourists is the “Fritto Misto di Lago”, a choice of fish, baked with butter and sage.
There are different kinds of polenta in the region – the traditional corn flour and buckwheat polenta Taragna. Whichever you choose, they are so popular because the preparation is very complex and therefore hard to include to the typical home cooking.
This specialty of the Intelvi Valley is a half-fat cheese made from cow’s milk, which only requires a short-maturity. It goes especially well with salads and fruits.
A spicy rennet cheese, it is manufactured according to different ingredients. The home of this specialty is about 20 minutes drive south-east of Lecco, located in the province of Lecco Prima Luna.
Originated in the neighborhood of Pasturo, about 16 km northeast of Lecco. The cheeses are pierced with needles during the ripening process. They develop the special flavor in 100-200 days in natural caves at constant temperature and humidity. Raw material is low-fat milk, it is the quite sweet condensed marbled blue-green color that gives the cheese its intense flavor and spicy character.
The Robiola comes from the area around Valsassina, 15 km north-east of Lecco. It is a medium long bearing soft cheese from cow’s milk, with a crust in Italy known as “pinstripe crust”.
Taleggio Dop ~
A whole-milk cheese from the alpine region of the Taleggio valley, about 40 Km from Lecco at the eastern lake shore. It will be stored for 35 days in pine boxes in cellars, to develop its characteristic flavor.
Manufactured in South West Lario. It is a cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk served depending on short, medium and long maturation. It comes in different colors from pale yellow to greenish with irregular holes.