South Tyrolean culinary classics and Italian specialities – served up together
When you think of South Tyrolean dishes, it’s not just Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes), Schlutzkrapfen (pasta pockets) or apple strudel that spring to mind. You might also entertain tempting images of spaghetti carbonara or lasagne – after all, the best of north and south naturally come together in our beautiful little land. But original South Tyrolean cuisine actually has very little to do with Italian specialities. I will be happy to tell you why we can't imagine our tables without these local delicacies – and which specialities can be found in our individual holiday regions!
South Tyrolean cuisine – as always, the motto is “tradition”!
Not only but especially when it comes to culinary traditions, you can clearly feel – and taste – the province’s shared history with the Austrian Tyrol ;-) And, although today South Tyrol is Italy’s northernmost region, our Austro-Hungarian past has had at least as much of an influence on the local cuisine.
The traditional, simple and cereal-based peasant dishes have always included wheat and oat mash, spelt and rye bread, polenta and barley soup.
Cabbage, beets, potatoes, green beans and white cabbage (often made into sauerkraut) are among the traditional vegetables grown here. Dairy products too have always been very important owing to the widespread practice of livestock farming. Meat was mainly – and is still partly – processed into smoked products, e.g. Speck and Kaminwurzen (cured ham and sausages).
Typical soups include Saure Suppe (tripe soup), Brennsuppe (flour soup) and Terlaner Weinsuppe (wine soup) – while popular soup ingredients are Milzschnitten (toasties filled with spleen). Dumplings in all their variety, pasta pockets and the rest remain among the most popular hot starters. Main courses are the typical farmer’s roast, various game dishes, cold cuts or Marendplatten (with cheese, ham, bread, etc.) and the popular selection of meats served during törggelen, the celebrations around the new wine. These delights are typically accompanied by Tirtlen (fritters), Krapfen (farmer’s fritters), Schupfnudeln (finger-shaped potato dumplings) or roast potatoes – and dumplings, of course!
And the desserts are no less hearty. :-) Sweet, filled Krapfen, cakes, Strauben (sugary swirls), buckwheat cake, apple strudel and Buchteln (sweet buns) all definitely belong in any South Tyrolean cookbook, as do homemade jams and compotes.
What sounds quite down-to-earth and straightforward has, over the years, achieved a balance between Alpine and Italian cuisine, all with a fine touch of gourmet finesse. South Tyrolean cookery has thus evolved into something more elegant, lighter – yet without losing its typical charm. Nevertheless, depending on which holiday region of South Tyrol you visit, there are still one or two differences and specialities typical of each.
What they eat and drink in the south and west…
South Tyrol’s south
certainly holds a special position as far as winegrowing is concerned – after all, Bozen
, the Überetsch and the Unterland regions are among the sunniest in South Tyrol! White wines predominate, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer – while Lake Kaltern
is the ideal place to grow the Vernatsch grape, typically accompanied by Kalterer Plent (the local polenta dish). Apples and asparagus are also grown in South Tyrol’s south, with a creative and sometimes highly artistic fusion of down-to-earth farm cooking and Italian delicacies.
But also – or even – the restaurants in and around Meran
offer a fusion of Alpine and Mediterranean cuisine: a South Tyrolean “speck platter” might appear on the menu right next to smoked ham with melon, or barley soup next to minestrone and apple cake
next to tiramisù. Just as further south, pizza, pasta and risotto are to be found almost everywhere in the Meran area. There are also many different types of bread – and a wide variety of aromatic herbs to complement the hearty farmhouse cookery. There is one particular classic of this spa resort: freshly caught trout from the River Passer!
Apricots, pears – including the old “Palabirne” variety – apples, berries, chestnuts, asparagus (from Kastelbell), potatoes, buckwheat, rye, wheat and cheese: the specialities to be found in the Vinschgau Valley
resemble its inhabitants, who are characterised by their homeliness, but also by their versatility and inventiveness. The recipes form a culinary circle between traditional starters, hearty main dishes such as game stew or Schöpsernes (lamb ragout) and sweet delicacies such as apricot dumplings, Palabirne pancakes or Vinschgau Schneamilch (bread mixed with milk, raisins and rum). Moreover, the Vinschgau Valley has a tradition of high-proof spirits: fruit brandies, grappa and whisky – and in Glurns you can find Italy’s first whisky distillery!
… and in South Tyrol’s easternmost parts?
Nowhere else in South Tyrol is the autumn festival of törggelen so enthusiastically celebrated as in its place of origin, the Eisack Valley
– here the tradition is even known as the “fifth season”. :-) Surfleisch (cured pork roast), spare ribs, local sausages, sauerkraut, barley soup, Schlutzkrapfen, speck dumplings
and more – törggelen
means feasting for all you’re worth!
And of course everything – nature, tradition and the culinary arts – revolves around the sweet chestnut, the supreme fruit of the Eisack Valley. With cream of chestnut soup, ratatouille or semifreddo, local chefs are constantly reinterpreting it in new dishes!
Further east, in the Dolomites
the emphasis is on hearty fare, some with rather odd names ;-): dumplings with goulash, Nigilan mit Honigtunke (sweet buns with a honey dip), Erdäpfelblattlan
(potato fritters), Herrengröstel (a veal and potato platter) or Ladin delicacies such as Cütles da pom (apple pancakes) and Gnoch da zigher (gnocchi with cream cheese): the peoples of the Puster Valley know a thing or two about good food :-) Sugar beet syrup, potatoes from the Ahrntal Valley and Graukas (grey cheese) are also typical of the region. Try them with a glass (or two) of wine or beer: two local breweries, the Rienzbräu and the Puschtra Freiheit brewery, invite you to drink a toast in (and to) the Pustertal Valley!
Have I stimulated your appetite? I’ve certainly whetted mine! :-) Here
can be found even more on the subject of culinary delights, as well as some recipes from the South Tyrolean cookbook. Enjoy – and let yourself be spoiled with culinary delights on your next holiday in South Tyrol! :-)
Yours from the heart