Is autumn your favourite season? If it is, you are in excellent company. Autumn has a particular charm and a unique palette of colours, flavours, and fragrances that make us feel warm and fuzzy, reaching for a soft blanket and a mug of something steaming and spicy. In Italy, this translates into beautiful countryside landscapes burning red with drying leaves, lead-grey sea water – best seen from behind a window in a cozy living room – and the unique richness of Italian autumn recipes, to be served with a glass of hearty red wine. If you want to bring some of that magic to the office, this is the perfect opportunity for a fall-inspired team cooking with an Italian flavour. Here are three delicious recipes you should work into your menu.
3 Italian autumn recipes to Fall for
1. Polenta – a taste of the north
Polenta is a popular base for countless recipes in the whole of Northern Italy, particularly in the alpine regions. Like most traditional Italian foods, it started out as a popular alternative to more expensive ingredients, such as pasta and bread, that were often beyond the means of the poorest tiers of the population. Polenta is one of the simplest recipes in the world: a dough made from water and cereal flour. Corn is the most common variety, but polenta can be made with all sorts of grains and even dried fruit, basically anything that can be ground into flour. Corn was, however, the original ingredient of the first ever polenta, dating back to the XVI Century, when this brand new cereal was first imported from the American continent. Polenta recipes are countless and in constant evolution: in some regions, the dough looks more like batter, it is dense but fluid and it is best eaten with a spoon, often with the addition of melted local cheeses. In other regions, the finished product is firm enough that it can be baked and cut into slices or fired. This kind of polenta tastes delicious with red meat, ragù, and mushrooms. Find your ideal recipe and get stirring!
2. Tastier than gold: how to eat truffle
What’s dirty, smelly and more expensive than gold? Admittedly, that’s not a hard question: we are talking about truffle. One of the reasons this ingredient is so precious and expensive is that it can’t technically be grown or cultivated: it has to be found, hiding under the earth in very specific places. Italian truffles are among the tastier and most valuable in the world and, while they are available all year round (to those who can find them), they are particularly suited to autumn recipes. Their strong, pungent and almost intoxicating taste will instantly change the personality of any dish and it is always a good idea to pair them with a good glass of red wine. Just like polenta, black and white truffles can be used in a variety of recipes, from the Piedmontese Tajarin (a variation on the classic tagliatelle) with melted butter and grated truffle, to the delicious Central Italian recipe for crock-pot-cooked eggs with black truffle and béchamel sauce. Truffles are to be found in most of Central and Northern Italy and in some subregions of the South. Why not discover all the regional recipes that use them and try a whole truffle-based menu?
To round off your team cooking menu with something sweet and comforting, we selected Castagnaccio, the undisputed king of Italian autumn desserts. This simple, unassuming and yet exquisite flat cake is what fall is supposed to taste like. It originated in Central Italy (most likely in Tuscany or Umbria) and its main ingredient is chestnut meal. Unlike most internationally popular autumn desserts, Castagnaccio is not particularly sweet: the recipe uses sugar sparingly and adds savoury ingredients like olive oil and rosemary to the mix. These spicy notes clash quite deliciously with the mild taste of chestnuts, the sweetness of honey drizzle and the crunchiness of pine-nuts and sultanas that are used to enrich the batter and to decorate the cake. Try it with a mug of hot chocolate!