Trentino food: 10 things we love
Roberta d'Elia, head chef of artisanal pasta delivery Pasta Evangelists, shares her recommendations for what to eat and drink in Italy’s far north region of Trentino
Want to learn more about Trentino food? Looking for Trentino dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out the best Interrail routes for food lovers.
Trentino, Italy’s far north province, is usually known for its mountains, especially the Dolomites. It’s also where the Alps meets the Mediterranean – feel the breeze of Lake Garda on your skin, visit ancient olive groves and enjoy the region’s renowned sparkling wine.
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Trentino food: 10 things we love
Forget about prosecco – Trentodoc is the bubbles of the mountains. This delicious sparkling wine is specific to the region and only uses Trentino grapes. It’s produced using the Metodo Classico, or classic production method (the same as champagne). The Alpine growing environment, meanwhile, gives the wine its own beautiful and unique flavour profile.
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I adore a glass of Trentodoc as part of aperitivo, our ritual before a full meal designed to whet the appetite. Alongside the wine, I enjoy serving a light assortment of cheese and focaccia: these pair well with Trentodoc's bubbly nature and refreshing quality.
Tortei da patate
A typical dish of the ‘cucina povera’ (the pauper’s kitchen) tradition, tortei da patate is a delicious Trentino appetiser of fried potato, typically served with speck, carne salada, mortadella and bean and onion salad. I love it with a dollop of red currant jam on top to round off the perfect lunch!
Vin santo is a passito, or sweet dessert wine, made from raisins. But it isn’t any regular dessert wine: vin santo is considered a pearl among passito wines, due to its relative rarity – only limited amount of bottles are produced annually because the production process is so long.
It has an intense flavour, sweet but balanced with the right acidity, as well as fruity and spicy notes. These qualities make vin santo a perfect complement for dry pastry like torta fregolatta (a typical Trentino cake) or local cheeses.
Carne salada is a traditional meat product made by flavouring beef rump with salt, pepper, juniper berries, rosemary, crushed garlic, and bay leaves. Given this repertoire of aromatics, it has a beautiful fragrance and flavour. It looks like bresaola, but it’s not as dry. It’s a must try if you’re in the region, either raw and thinly sliced as a starter or pan-seared and served with beans.
You’ll see hundreds of apple orchards as you drive around the Non and Sole valleys of Trentino. If you visit in the spring, the orchards will be covered in a sea of white and pink blossoms. The most popular cultivar from the region is the Golden Delicious, a yellow apple which locals use in a savoury strudel, although sweet strudel is also a popular choice here.
This local Grana cheese is produced in the Alpine and lower Alpine valleys. It belongs to the same family as Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano but is produced using a slightly different technique.
Trentingrana is a particularly versatile cheese and can be enjoyed in delicious, roughly cut wedges as part of a rustic northern Italian aperitivo or grated over pasta dishes. Come to think of it, it’d also be fabulous served alongside a digestivo at the end of a meal – vin santo, which we discussed earlier, would pair commendably.
No visit to Trentino is complete without a visit to one of its beautiful bakeries. I recommend trying torta fregolatta, a rustic cake from the region prepared with flour, cream, sugar and not a lot else. This simplicity is in keeping with broader Italian gastronomy, where we prize foods not for their complexity but, on the contrary, the art of making something delicious with as few ingredients as possible.
I particularly enjoy a slim slice of torta fregolatta for breakfast when I’m in Trento, along with a cappuccino. As the sun rises over the Alps on the horizon, it makes for a beautiful start to the day.
Mezzelune (half moons) are a semi-circular filled pasta similar to ravioli. It’s a popular pasta shape in South Tyrol and northern Italy more widely. In Trentino, the dough is made from wheat and buckwheat flour, with typical fillings including ricotta, local herbs (depending on the season), or spinach. Served with a simple sauce, mountain butter, fresh sage and a smattering of grated Trentingrana, this is another simple dish that brings together tradition and the delicacy of local products.
This digestif is a centuries-old Trentino tradition and is the best way to end your meal. White grappa is made by decanting into steel or glass vats, and yellow grappa is aged in wooden barrels. The aromas and flavours of this spirit change according to ageing, the most aged will be the most aromatic. The only problem is it goes straight to my head due to the high alcohol content – a little goes a long way: grappa must be sipped, rather than guzzled in one go.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Trentino is one of the world’s northernmost olive-growing regions, producing award-winning oils certified with Protected Designation of Origin. While it’s too cold to make olive oil in the mountains themselves, Lake Garda, which straddles the southernmost part of Trentino, has a milder Mediterranean microclimate which produces wonderful green-gold-coloured oils.
Garda DOP extra-virgin olive oil is distinguished by its exceptionally light, delicate and fruity flavour, perfect for all those simple recipes where extra-virgin olive oil is the star of the show. I like to use this type of olive oil to dress spaghetti al pomodoro before serving, as well as a glug over freshly baked focaccia and seasonal salads.