What are the most popular Italian dishes?

Italy has a mouthwatering reputation for delicious food thanks to its strong connections to local history and traditions. From the sun-soaked beaches to the breathtaking mountainous regions – Italian food has a lot to be inspired by! Whilst pizza and gelato are definitely crowd-pleasers, there are plenty more Italian dishes you simply need to treat yourself to…

10 of the most popular Italian dishes you need to try

Love Italian food? Or perhaps you’ve only indulged in pizza and want to explore the cuisine further. Here are the top ten most popular dishes that you must tick off your food bucket list:

     1. Spaghetti alla carbonara

Italy is well-known for its tempting pasta dishes with spaghetti alla carbonara being one of the most beloved. The warm pasta paired with a rich, creamy sauce made from egg yolk, milk, cream, and cheese, peppered with salty bites of bacon make this an unforgettable classic. Being one of the most versatile pasta dishes, there are countless variations from chicken to seafood carbonara, it never gets boring!

Rome quickly became the capital of spaghetti (no wonder it’s such a popular destination!) thanks to carbonara making history with many believing it originated from Rome. 

     2. Arancini 

A tasty Sicilian dish is arancini which are delightful balls of risotto rice with meat sauce, peas, and cheese that are breaded and then fried. As with many Italian dishes, you can enjoy many variations of arancini with there even being sweet options – Nutella arancini is what dreams are made of! Not only are these risotto balls delicious but also practical, the perfect snack to munch on when exploring the streets of Sicily. 

With the exact origins of arancini veiled in mystery, it’s been thought to date way back to the 12th century when “rice balls” were breaded and fried, then brought along on long trips since they were easily transportable and filling.

     3. Pizza

No Italian food list can exist without a mention of the country’s national dish: pizza. From the classic Margherita with rich tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella and basil to the decadent meat-filled toppings of pepperoni, salami and ham, pizza is a globally-adored dish. In Italy, pizza is a work of art, from the ultra-crisp stone-baked dough with the perfect amount of chewiness to the locally-sourced tomatoes simply bursting with flavour. 

Pizza originated in Naples, with Margherita gaining popularity after the Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia visited Naples and loved the classic cheesy dish. 

     4. Polenta

Made from cornmeal with common additions of butter and parmesan, polenta is an unassuming dish that shouldn’t be underestimated. Served in slices to accompany meat and cheese or as a side dish with a creamy mashed potato texture, polenta is about as versatile as it gets. This hearty comfort food even has festivals dedicated to it throughout Italy, making it a must-try for any fans of Italian cuisine.

Originally, polenta was a food that became popular amongst the poor as a type of porridge. However, the wealthy soon got a taste for it and began to top their polenta with rich sauces. 

     5. Focaccia

The epitome of summer: focaccia. Moist but airy, thin and crunchy top and bottom crusts with salt and rosemary to finish. High-quality flour and olive oil are the key ingredients for delicious focaccia. The perfect addition to a summer picnic, olives and cured meats pair with the bread perfectly. The name focaccia derives from the Roman “panis focacius,” meaning “hearth bread”, as focaccia was traditionally baked in coals during Roman times.

     6. Fiorentina 

Fiorentina is a type of beef steak that originated in Florence. This thickly cut, large t-bone steak is well browned on the outside and rare on the inside, maintaining its succulent texture. The taste of the meat is really allowed to shine through as it’s only served with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil. Traditional Fiorentina steaks are taken from the loin of the Chianina breed and matured for twenty days before cooking. 

     7. Ribollita

One of the most popular Italian soups, the ribollita is a hearty dish featuring vegetables, beans, herbs, olive oil, parmesan cheese and chunks of dry bread. Ribollita was first created in Tuscany as a rural soup, popular with poorer families in the Middle Ages. These families couldn’t afford meat and so would create this soup in large quantities, mixing stale bread with leftover beans and vegetables. These days, it’s an incredibly delicious soup that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

     8. Risotto 

Another Italian dish that features on the carb hall of fame: risotto. This comforting rice dish is traditionally made using onions, wine, stock and a generous amount of parmesan cheese. Cooked lovingly on a low heat, this simple dish is truly delicious. We see countless variations of risotto now with mushrooms, seafood, vegetables, meat and much more. Creamy and rich, this versatile dish is loved around the world. Risotto originated in northern Italy back in the Middle Ages, starting with the most simple recipe of boiled rice. 

     9. Truffle 

Truffles are an Italian delicacy that are known for their unique flavour, adding a touch of opulence to a dish. Truffles are edible fungi that grow underground and can be hard to find, which is what makes them such a prized delicacy. What does truffle taste like? Like nothing you’ve ever tasted before! It’s simply something you must try. Popular Italian dishes featuring truffles include pasta, risotto and even scrambled eggs!

     10. Tiramisu 

What better way to end a meal on a high than with a generous slice of tiramisu? Rich, creamy layers of tiramisu cream (mascarpone, eggs and sugar) with Savoiardi biscuits dipped in coffee and Marsala (a liqueur wine), topped with a dusting of cocoa powder – pure bliss! The true origins of tiramisu aren’t known, with the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia both claiming that their chefs created the masterpiece. Either way, we are very grateful for the creator of the original recipe! 

Craving some authentic Italian cuisine? We don’t blame you after reading about these delicious dishes. Thankfully, you don’t have to start booking your trip to Italy just yet. The COSMO menu boasts an impressive array of authentic Italian dishes for you to enjoy. And did we mention that it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet? So you can sample all ten of these tasty dishes with ease!

Looking to indulge in some of the most popular Italian dishes in the UK? Look no further than our locations in Norwich, Oxford, and Doncaster. From traditional pasta dishes to mouth-watering pizzas, our restaurants offer a wide variety of Italian cuisine to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re in the mood for a cosy dinner for two or a family-friendly buffet, our locations in Norwich, Glasgow, and Manchester have something for everyone. Come visit us and experience the delicious flavours of Italy right on your doorstep.