Named for its topography - Piedmont or Piemonte literally means ‘foot of the mountain’ - this northern Italian region shares an alpine border with both France and Switzerland. In the winter months the area, understandably, gets very cold and many Italians flock to the resorts of Sestriere and Bardonecchia to partake in the winter revelries. Whilst snow sports are extremely popular in Piedmont, and Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, a mountain break for many Italians is about more than just skiing. A time to relax and unwind, an Italian winter break - better known as la Settimana Bianca (white week) - is as synonymous with eating good food and drinking good wine as it is with fresh, white pistes and salopettes. Given this fact it is no surprise that this region boasts some culinary treasures.
Like pretty much every part of Italy, there are several varieties of fresh pasta which are unique to Piedmont, these include agnolotti - a filled pasta traditionally stuffed with braised meat - and tajarin - a Piemontese take on Emilia-Romagna’s tagliatelle. Served in a simple buttery sauce and sprinkled with Parmesan, Agnolotti del Plin makes the ideal winter warmer whether you’re recovering from a long day on the slopes or you’re sharing a meal with your loved ones at Christmas time – it’s definitely worth a try. The most famous way of serving tajarin - for good reason - is with a generous portion of Parmigiano Reggiano and a sprinkling of luxurious white truffle. A divinely inspired combination, this freshly spun pasta is brought to life by the rich, earthy impression of the truffle. To sample this dish at its finest, we recommend you spend some time in Alba. The home of the legendary white truffle, this beautiful medieval town is like a winter fairytale with its narrow streets and rolling hills, and nestled at its heart you’ll find Osteria dell’Arco, a cosy little eatery where you can try this iconic dish. If you’re after a slightly more upmarket experience, which comes with a more upmarket price tag, we also recommend Ristorante Larossa, here the young chef Andrea Larossa plays with traditional Piedmontese dishes, adding his own special twist to each plate that is served up.
Truffles are not the only delicacy to be found in Piedmont. This region also boasts the Nocciola del Piemonte, a particularly delicious variety of hazelnut. In Turin during Napoleon’s occupation at the start of the nineteenth century, a paste made from these hazelnuts was incorporated into a rich chocolate spread known as gianduja. A little like the Nutella that is enjoyed around the world today, this rich, chocolatey, hazelnutty spread in its pure and unadulterated form is far superior and we highly recommend that you seek it out to try - we promise that when you do you’ll be trying to smuggle as much as you can back home. Another derivative of gianduja is Gianduiotto, a divine confection concocted in Turin in 1865 by Michele Prochet. These deliciously smooth chocolates will melt in your mouth, making them a truly irresistible delight.
Another highlight of this region is Barolo wine. Now popular throughout the world this variety of vino rosso is made with the Nebbiolo grape, native to the vineyards of Piedmont. Enjoyed in abundance as part of the après ski culture, Barolo also forms a key ingredient in another Piedmontese speciality, Risotto al Barolo. Instantly recognised by its deep red colour, this wine-enriched rice dish is the perfect remedy for a cold winter evening.
Named after the two iconic Piedmontese pastas, Plin e Tajarin is a lovely restaurant in Turin, situated on Via Goffredo Casalis, which puts a contemporary twist on many traditional dishes. This is a really great way to enjoy a fine dining experience whilst also getting a true taste for what this historic region has to offer.
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