There are three main regions in Italy for the purpose of distinguishing culinary specialties. There is north, central and southern. The northern region is bordered on the north by Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. This is farm country and the cuisine reflects what is grown in the fields. There is less use of pasta and olive oil. Also, tomato sauce is not as prevalent as it is in the other regions. The regional dishes use more rice, butter, corn and cheeses, which are used to make creamy sauces. Risotto and polenta are favorites.
There are seven distinct areas in Northern Italy.
This area is home to fontina cheese. One of their specialities is veal chop covered in fontina cheese. They also have a delicious venison stew, complete with vegetables and wine. Their vineyards are in an Alpine region and produce some unique reds and whites.
Fonduta is one of their signature dishes, which is composed of melted cheese, eggs, milk and white truffles. They produce several fine cheeses including Tumin electric which is white mountain cheese that is soaked in red peppers. Many of their dishes contain rabbit, veal tongue and oxtail. Piedmont is home to Porcini mushrooms and truffles which are prized the world over. They also produce Asti wines from which we get our Asti Spumante.
There are many recipes that incorporate rice in Lombardy. One is Risotto alla Milenese which is a creamy rice dish with meat stock and saffron and cheese. They also make a ravioli with pumpkin filling. Osso bucco, which is veal knuckle, is another of their specialities.
Polenta and rice are staples here. They also enjoy rabbit, duck, pigeon and guinea fowl. For those who live by the sea, shrimp, clams, fresh fish and eels are an important part of their diet. Veneto is also the home of Asiago cheese.
Trentino Alto Adige
This area combines Italian and German elements in their cooking. Gnocchis, which are dumplings, as well as polenta and sauerkraut are common to the kitchen here.
Corn is a big crop here and as a result, polenta is very popular. Goulash and dumplings as well as a soup of beans, potatoes and cabbage reflect the German and Slavic traditions. Seafood is enjoyed along the coast.
Liguria is best known for its pesto sauce. It is also famous for its olive oil, which is unusual for Northern Italian cuisine. Seafood is an important part of their diet, especially anchovies and swordfish.
This is a brief overview of Northern Italian cooking. I will cover the other regions in other posts.