Milan & Lombardy Food and Recipes

This is an excerpt from the book “Milan and the Lakes – Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.”

Panettone - Photo © yuichi.sakuraba

Milan, Milano in Italian, where cooking is done with butter, gives its name to several dishes: minestrone alla milanese, a soup of green vegetables, rice and bacon; risotto alla milanese, rice cooked with saffron; cotoletta alla milanese, (Milanese Veal Cutlet) a fillet of veal fried in egg and bread-crumbs with cheese; ossobuco, a knuckle of veal with the marrow-bone; panettone, a large fruit cake containing raisins and candied lemon peel. Here the commonest cheese is again the excellent Gorgonzola. Few wines are produced, apart from those of Valtellina, Franciacorta or the Pavia district. There is a large selection of salami.

A bit of historical curiosity of Lombardia food

If you’ve ever traveled through Lombardy, you may have noticed the dominant presence of the color yellow that’s used in restaurants. This is not a coincidence. It’s a custom that dates back to medieval times when the courts would coat their food with gold before serving it to guests. Gold was widely believed to be the remedy for illness and promised good health. Food was also prepared in this fashion for the sake of pure decadence. As gold became increasingly valuable, the Lombardians looked for ways to create the same effect without the cost of using gold. The golden hue of saffron risotto is one reminder of this tradition.

Specialty Lombardia Food

The famous Risotto alla Milanese gets its golden hue from the precious spice saffron. Legend has it that the dish came about when a Milanese painter decided to gild the risotto served at his wedding banquet with a harmless gold-colored dye. Risotto alla Milanese is traditionally served with ossobuco (braised veal shank).

Traditionally made with raisins and candied citron, or with a creamy cream filling, the light, fluffy brioche-like bread called panettone may be tall or short, covered with chocolate or flavored with various liquors, but it’s always a symbol of the Christmas season. With its hallmark domed shape, panettone has graced Christmas tables in Milan, where it is claimed to have been invented, since at least the 15th-century is the most famous Christmas Lombardia food. The traditional recipe calls for using nothing but white wheat flour, sugar, top-quality butter, eggs, and sultana raisins. To safeguard tradition and ensure that panettone is made in the time-honored, non-industrial manner, efforts are currently underway to establish guidelines for ingredients and procedures that will serve as the basis for obtaining a special DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) certification from the European Union.

In Lombardia food cheese is very important: Taleggio cheese is named for a valley in the province of Bergamo, but it is produced throughout Lombardia. This soft, creamy cow’s milk cheese, which can be dated to a thousand years ago, was traditionally ripened in underground caves; today, it is matured in climate-controlled cellars. Taleggio has a mild, somewhat acidic flavor, and subtle aroma makes it ideal for many traditional Lombard dishes, but it’s also used in scores of recipes in other parts of Italy. Because it melts quickly, Taleggio is excellent in omelets and crepes, or, as the base for a creamy pasta sauce.

Another traditional Lombardia food is the Mostarda di Cremona, from the inland port city of Cremona on the River Po (and the birthplace of violin master Antonio Stradivarius) consisting of candied fruits, such as cherries, figs, and pears, preserved in a mixture of sugar syrup and white mustard. The result was a tangy condiment that was served with bollito misto, boiled, meat, game, or poultry. Today, Mostarda di Cremona is most produced commercially with stewed fruits instead of candied fruits and lacks the “heat” of the traditional preparation.

Valtellina, The Cuisine
Valtellina is a land of ancient flavors. The authentic country cuisine of the Valtellina, like the natural environment in which it originates, is unique among Lombardia food, as it presents dishes that are much appreciated by the most demanding palates: “pizzoccheri”, “sciatt”, “polenta taragna”, made with buck wheat flour, “brisaola” or “bresaola”, a type of dry salt beef typical of Valtellina, the unsurpassed quality of which is due to delicate preparation and perfect curing in unique environmental conditions; “Bitto” cheese, which bears the DOP (protected denomination of origin) mark and “bisciola”, a rustic cake containing walnuts, figs and raisins.

Ossobuco con risotto

Milan and Lombardy, The Food: Recipes

Agnoli in brodo – Broth agnolotti
Amaretti – Almond Cookies
Bollito misto – Boiled dinner
Busecca – Tripe Soup
Cappone con le noci – Capon with Walnuts
Casonsei – Ravioli filled with sausage, bread and cheese dressed with butter and Grana Padano.
Cassoeula – Pork Rib and Sausage Stew
Colomba pasquale – Easter Dove
Cotoletta alla Milanese – Milanese Veal Cutlets – Veal Chop Milanese Style – Milanese Veal Wiener Schnizel
Erbazzone or scarpazzone Savory Pie with Chards
Insalata di riso novarese Rice Salad Novarese Style
Lepre in salmi’ – Hare in Salmi’ Lombard Style
Luccio in salsa – Salsa pike
Lumache al burro d’erbe – Herb butter snails
Mostarda di frutta – Fruit Mustard
Mostarda di Cremona – Cremona Mustard
Nervetti in insalata – Calf’s Foot and Veal Shank Salad
Ossobuco con gremolata Ossobuco with Gremolata
Ossobuco alla milanese – Milanese Veal Shank
Pan de mei – Sweet Corn Buns
Panettone – Panettone
Panettone Ripieno – Stuffed Panettone
Polenta e osei – Polenta with skewered meats
Polenta pasticciata – Cooked cornmeal, sliced and baked with layers of tomato, pork, and mushroom sauce.
Rane in guazzetto – frogs cooked with butter, onions, garlic, tomato, white wine.
Riso al salto – Crispy Rice Patty
Riso in cagnone – Rice with Sage and Parmigiano
Risotto alla certosina – rice braised with onions, peas, leeks and tomatoes, served with froglegs, filets of perch, crayfish and mushrooms.
Risotto alla milanese – Milanese Risotto
Risotto con la zucca – Squash Risotto
Salsa Verde – Greene sauce
Sbrisolona – Crumbly Cake
Stufato (“Rustisciada”) – Mixed Stewed Meat with Onions
Tacchina ripiena – Christmas roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts, apples, pears, walnuts, minced veal, salt pork, brandy, and herbs.
Torrone – Nougat
Torta paradiso – Angel Cake
Tortelli di zucca Mantovani – Mantua pumping ravioli
Uccelli scappati chunks of veal and pork skewered with sage leaves and cooked to resemble “escaped birds.”
Vitello tonnato thin slices of roast or braised veal served cold with a creamy sauce (or mayonnaise) flavored with tuna, capers, anchovy and lemon, though recipes vary.
Zuppa pavese – Egg and Bread Soup

  Valtellina Recipes:

Pasticcio di pizzoccheri – Pizzocheri with Cabbage and Cheese

This is an excerpt from the book “Milan and the Lakes – Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.” Get the ebook for the complete content with a list of restaurants and description of the localities and attractions.