Campania - Italy

Campania

map by Dino De Angelis

Settled by the Greeks and then dominated by the Etruscans, Samnites, and Romans, the southern region of Campania is more densely populated along the coast than inland, where hills and mountains make for harsher living. Profoundly influenced by the Normans, who conquered the region in the eleventh century, Campania later belonged to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which comprised the Bourbon territory of Sicily and Naples. Near the busy capital city of Naples, Mount Vesuvius reigns impassive and foreboding, a daily reminder of the eruption of August 24, 79 A.D., when the nearby cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae were covered in red-hot lava and a cloud of ashes. But the volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius has also ensured Campania fertile land where some of Italy's tastiest produce is grown, ready to be shipped and enjoyed all over the world.

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Additional Recipes from Campania

The Best Pasta Sauces cookbook by Micol Negrin

Published in The Best Pasta Sauces by Micol Negrin (Ballantine Books, October 2014):

  • Summer Tomato Sauce with Basil and Lemon
  • Classic Seafood Sauce
  • Quick and Fiery Tomato Sauce with Olives, Capers, and Anchovies
  • "Poor Man's" Garlic Bread Crumb Sauce
  • Mussel Sauce with White Wine and Tomatoes**

**Bonus recipe available in exclusive companion eBook when you order The Best Pasta Sauces directly from RUSTICO COOKING.

Campania: Food Traditions

The Greek ruins at Paestum are among Italy's best-preserved

Best known around the world for its pizza, Campania's exuberant cuisine relies on sun-kissed vegetables and herbs, salty capers, dried pasta, and fresh farmhouse cheeses (chief among them water buffalo's Mozzarella). In the nineteenth century, people living in the capital city of Naples were nicknamed Mangia Maccheroni (Maccheroni Eaters); to this day, Neapolitans remain devout pasta eaters, and their pasta is among the best and the most varied in all of Italy. In Campania (as in Sicily) you will find the elaborate dishes of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French monzù tradition; one, a rich rice Timballo called Sartù di Riso, is made only for feasts.

On the Amalfi Coast (a stretch that has been called "The Most Beautiful Coast in the World") there is a unique pasta called Scialatielli, prepared with flour, eggs, milk, grated Parmigiano, and parsley, shaped into stout strands, and tossed with seafood and flavorful cherry tomatoes. Fertile volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius and a thriving fishing industry combine to make Campania's kitchen one of the luckiest, and most varied, in Italy. Seafood dishes are bright and vibrantly flavored, a true ode to the sea, while pastries bespeak an Arab and Greek influence and often feature honey, nuts, and spices.

Seafood in Campania

The Campani, as the people of Campania are called, are renowned for their fish and seafood specialties. All along Campania's glittering coastline, cooks tenderize octopus by stewing it in a sealed clay pot with olive oil, garlic, capers, olives, and parsley or with chili and tomatoes. Squid and cuttlefish are boiled and served in salads, stuffed and baked, or fried into crunchy rings, while mussels and clams are cooked with a whisper of wine and tossed with handmade pasta or added to seafood salads. Salt cod, fresh sardines, and anchovies too are staples, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without eel marinated with vinegar and herbs or cooked with tomatoes and white wine.

Campania: Recipes

Crostini con Pure' di Carciofi, Mozzarella e Pomodorini

Crostini with Artichoke Paste, Mozzarella, and Roasted Tomatoes

Crostini are similar to bruschetta--both are finger foods based on crisp bread--but crostini are baked rather than grilled, and they emerge crustier than bruschetta. You can try mild goat cheese instead of Mozzarella for a sharper flavor.

Fresh Artichokes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 thin slices baguette (about 1/4-inch-thick)
  • 1 cup artichoke paste (available in specialty food shops)
  • 1 pound fresh buffalo's milk Mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • ¼ cup snipped chives
  • ¼ cup oregano leaves
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat an oven to 450°. Arrange the cherry tomato halves, cut side up, in a single layer on an 11- x 17-inch baking sheet. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until just soft and slightly wrinkled. Remove from the oven.

Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on an 11- x 17-inch baking sheet and top with the artichoke paste. Arrange a slice of Mozzarella on top of each slice of baguette. Top each with 1 roasted cherry tomato half, cut side down.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the Mozzarella melts and the baguette becomes golden.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, chives, oregano, mint, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and the olive oil until nearly smooth in a blender.

Pour the herbed olive oil over the hot crostini and serve immediately. Makes 24

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Fried Mozzarella in a "Carriage"

This is a classic recipe from Naples. Serve piping hot, as an appetizer.

Fresh Mozzarella is often paired with cherry tomatoes and basil
  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 pound fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Place 4 slices of bread on the counter. Top with the Mozzarella, being careful not to allow the Mozzarella to protrude beyond the edges of the bread (trim as needed). Cover with the 4 remaining slices of bread, making 4 sandwiches in all.

Spread the flour on a plate. Dip the four edges of each "sandwich" in the flour.

Pour 1/2 cup of water into a bowl. Dip the four edges of each sandwich in the water, being careful to moisten only the edges and not the inside of the sandwiches. The purpose of dipping the flour-dipped sandwiches in the water is to form a sort of glue that will prevent the Mozzarella to leak out once it is melted in the hot oil.

Arrange the four sandwiches on a platter in a single layer.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the salt. Pour over the sandwiches and set aside for 10 minutes. Delicately flip the sandwiches over and set aside for another 10 minutes. The purpose is to allow the bread to soak in the egg as much as possible.

Heat the olive oil in a deep pot until it registers 350°. Deep-fry 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time until golden on both sides, turning once, about 3 minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon to a platter lined with paper towels and blot dry. Cut each of the sandwiches in half and serve hot. Serves 8

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

This is the pizza that has made Naples famous the world over. It was first baked in 1889 in honor of the visiting Queen of Italy, Margherita, and topped with ingredients that recalled the colors of Italy's flag: red tomatoes; green basil; and white Mozzarella.

For the dough:

  • 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional--in Naples they don't use garlic)
  • 3/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, grated (fresh buffalo's milk Mozzarella is traditional in Naples; slice it if using)
  • 16 basil leaves

Make the dough: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade.

Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier). Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

Top the pizza: Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel. Working quickly from this point forward so the dough does not stick to the baking peel (if it sticks you will have a lot of trouble transfering it to the baking stone) rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel). Season with a pinch the salt.

Top with one quarter of the Mozzarella and 4 basil leaves.

Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the mozzarella is bubbling. Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas

Step-By-Step Recipe

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil
Step 8: Bake on a Preheated Baking Stone in a 550°F Oven Until the Dough is Lightly Browned and Crisp Step 1: Make the Dough and Let it Double; Cut in 4 Pieces and Shape into Balls
Step 1

Mix 3 and 1/4 cups of bread flour with 1 teaspoon of instant yeast and 1 tablespoon of salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade. Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

Step 2: Shape the Balls into Flat Disks; Place 1 Disk on a Floured Baking Peel and Rub with Olive Oil

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier).

Step 2

Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel and rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. From this point forward, you will need to work quickly so the dough won't have time to stick to the baking peel (if it sticks, you will have trouble transfering it to the baking stone).

Step 4: Sprinkle with Salt and Scatter Sliced Garlic Over the Tomatoes
Step 3

Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel).

Step 4

Season with 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Top with a few slices of garlic (the garlic is optional--pizzaioli in Naples don't add it to the classic Pizza Margherita).

Step 5

Top with 1/4 pound of the mozzarella

Step 5: Top with Mozzarella
Step 6

Arrange 4 basil leaves over the Mozzarella in a pretty pattern (you can tear the basil leaves if you like).

Step 7

Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

Step 8
Step 7: Stretch the Dough into an 11-Inch Circle

Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the mozzarella is bubbling.

Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas

Five Essential Pizza Facts

  1. High Oven Temperature Preheat your oven at the highest possible temperature with a baking stone in it for at least 30 minutes before baking pizza; baking stones emulate brick burning ovens by drawing out moisture from the pizza crust. Traditional wood-burning (or coal-burning) pizza ovens heat up to 950°F, which ensures that pizzas bake quickly (in 2 or 3 minutes maximum) and emerge light and crispy rather than heavy and dry. A home oven can usually reach 550°F, which will bake a pizza to a crispy, crunchy, lightly brown in 5 minutes or less--provided you are using a baking stone, which you can buy at Sur La Table or King Arthur Flour
  2. Great Flour Use a top-quality flour--I like King Arthur Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour, which you can order at King Arthur Flour
  3. Little Yeast Use little yeast in your dough (I use 1 teaspoon of instant yeast per 3 and 1/2 cups of flour) and let it rise slowly; don't add a lot of yeast, as most recipes call for, or the dough will be fluffy and soft and will taste distinctly yeasty. Check my recipe for dough above
  4. San Marzano Tomatoes Buy genuine canned Italian plum tomatoes--San Marzano are the best. In Italy, we don't cook the tomatoes before adding them to our pizzas, yielding pizzas that taste fresh and vibrant
  5. Go Light on the Toppings Exercise restraint when creating toppings: in Italy, we use one or two toppings per pizza, if any (aside from tomatoes and cheese)--the result is that each ingredient brings its own personality to the pizza without fighting the other ingredients. Also, the more you load your pizza with toppings, the heavier it will be, making the crust soggy rather than crisp

Pizza con Spinaci, Pancetta Piccante e Ricotta

Pizza with Spinach, Spicy Pancetta, and Ricotta

Saute the spinach before topping the pizza with it, so it releases water and becomes a silky, savory tangle of tender leaves.

For the dough:

  • 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 5 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 pound Pancetta, defatted and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1/2 pound fresh Mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta

Make the dough: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade.

Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

Meanwhile, make the topping: Place the spinach in a 12-inch skillet over a medium flame with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and cook 5 minutes, or until wilted. Drain into a colander, cool under running water, and squeeze dry. Season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Toss the Pancetta, chili, and pepper in an 8-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat until the Pancetta releases its fat and becomes golden and lightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain off the fat.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier). Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel. Working quickly from this point forward so the dough does not stick to the baking peel (if it sticks you will have a lot of trouble transfering it to the baking stone) rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel). Season with a pinch of the remaining salt.

Top with one quarter of the Mozzarella, one quarter of the Ricotta, one quarter of the spinach, and one quarter of the Pancetta.

Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the Mozzarella is bubbling. Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas

Pizza ai Carciofini

Pizza with Artichoke Hearts

Here's a delicious variation on the classic pizza, featuring artichoke hearts, olives, and thinly sliced onions.

For the dough:

  • 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, grated
  • 12 marinated artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 pitted black olives
  • 12 basil leaves, slivered

Make the dough: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade.

Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier). Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

Top the pizza: Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel. Working quickly from this point forward so the dough does not stick to the baking peel (if it sticks you will have a lot of trouble transfering it to the baking stone) rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel). Season with a pinch the salt.

Top with one quarter of the Mozzarella, one quarter of the artichokes, one quarter of the onion, one quarter of the olives, and one quarter of the slivered basil.

Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the Mozzarella is bubbling. Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas

Focaccia Rustica con Carciofi e Prosciutto Cotto

Artichoke- and Prosciutto-Stuffed Pizza Rustica

Fried eggplants are a delicious alternative to the artichokes.

For the dough:

  • 3 and ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup warm (110°F) water, plus extra if needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl

For the filling:

  • 1 box (10 ounces) frozen artichokes, thawed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup pitted black olives, such as Taggiasche
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • ½ pound smoked Mozzarella, grated
  • ¼ pound thinly sliced Prosciutto Cotto or Genoa salami

To bake:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Make the dough: Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add 1 cup of warm (110°) water. Add the olive oil with the motor running, and then add enough warm water to make a soft dough that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Process 45 seconds. Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it; wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. (You can also set the dough to rise in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours; it will develop more flavor during the slow rise. If you are refrigerating the dough, return it to room temperature before proceeding.)

Preheat the oven to 475°, preferably with a baking stone in it.

Fill the focaccia: Toss the artichokes and ¼ teaspoon of the salt in a bowl. Toss the tomatoes with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt of in another bowl.

Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Roll out into two 16-inch circles on a lightly floured counter. Place 1 circle on a lightly oiled 14-inch pizza pan; spoon in the artichokes, then the olives, tomatoes, Pecorino, smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Cotto.

Cover with the other circle of dough, pressing with your fingers around the edges to seal and cut off excess dough. Create a pretty border around the edges.

To bake: Brush the top with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Tear a small hole in the center of the top dough to release steam during baking.

Bake in the preheated oven (preferably on the baking stone) for 25 minutes, or until golden and slightly crisp. The pizza can be served at room temperature, but is best warm or hot. Serves 4 as a first course, 8 as an appetizer

Scarola Saltata all'Aglio

Garlic-Laced Escarole
Fresh garlic

Blanching the escarole before sautéing tames its bitterness and makes it silky soft, just like the Campani like it.

  • 2 pounds escarole (about 2 bunches), washed and separated into leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the escarole leaves and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Cook 10 minutes, or until the escarole is soft. Drain thoroughly, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and set the color, and gently squeeze dry with your hands.

Heat the olive oil in a deep 14-inch sauté pan or wok over a medium-high flame. Add the garlic and chili (if using) and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute, watching that the garlic does not burn or the dish will taste bitter. Add the escarole, season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring often, until the escarole becomes a soft, tender mass, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4

Mousse di Limoncello

Light-as-Air Limoncello Mousse

Limoncello, a bracing lemon liqueur from the Amalfi Coast, lends a summery note to some of Campania's favorite desserts.

Limoncello mousse

For the Limoncello mousse:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 1 cup whipping cream

To layer:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 8 ladyfingers
  • 1 cup fresh summer berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)

Make the Limoncello mousse: Beat the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a large stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk in the Limoncello. Beat vigorously for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and triples in volume; it should mound slightly when dropped from the whisk. Cool to room temperature by setting the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, whisking constantly.

In an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form; beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and fold into the cooled Limoncello mixture.

To layer: Combine 1 cup of water, the sugar, and the Limoncello in a small pot and bring to a boil; stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a shallow dish and cool to room temperature.

Dip the ladyfingers in the Limoncello mixture until just soft. Break the ladyfingers in half and set aside.

Spoon a little of the Limoncello mousse into each of 4 wine glasses. Top with 2 ladyfinger halves, more of the Limoncello mousse, 2 ladyfinger halves, and the remaining Limoncello mousse. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve, garnish the top with the berries. Serves 4

Campania: Wine

Campania's rich volcanic soil, combined with plenty of sun and well-exposed hillside vineyards, have long combined to make the region one of Italy's most prolific wine producers. Wines range from heady, sun-kissed reds to delicate, almost floral whites. And while many of Campania's outstanding wines cannot be found on U.S. soil yet, many others (including the prized Aglianico del Taburno, Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, and Lacryma Cristi) are now imported.

Aglianico del Taburno: The best red is from Aglianico; the best white is from Falanghina.

Falerno del Massico: The famous Falernum of ancient Rome (legend has it that it was aged as long as 100 years in ancient Rome), vinified red and white; when aged 3 years, the red is ideal with lamb.

Fiano d'Avellino: One of the few white wines suitable for prolonged aging; lovely with shellfish and oysters, it has a pear finish.

Greco di Tufo: White with an almond and peach aftertaste; also vinified in a sparkling version.

Guardiolo (or Guardia Sanframondi): Red, rosé, white, novello, and spumante wine.

Lacryma Cristi: Complex white and red wines from the foot of Mount Vesuvius; offer a subtle beer-like scent and apricot notes.

Penisola Sorrentina: The naturally sparkling reds of Gragnano and Lettere are good with pizza.

Sannio: Of the many wines produced in the area, the sparkling white is worth noting; try the passito (raisined) version.

Sant'Agata dei Goti: Among the various wines produced in underground cellars of this medieval town, the white is most memorable.

Solopaca: Produced in a red, white, rosé, Aglianico, Falanghina, and Spumante version; the red is rustic, with notes of tobacco.

Taurasi: Red from Aglianico grapes, prized since antiquity for its full-bodied flavor and intense aroma; reminiscent of chocolate and licorice.

Vesuvi: Red, rosé, and white wine with a limited production; from vineyards at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.

Campania: Cheeses

Campania is home to over 80 percent of Italy's water buffaloes, so the Campani produce a number of delicious water buffalo's milk cheeses… Though none as widespread or beloved as their Mozzarella di Bufala. While some cheeses are firm enough for grating, others are soft and tender, aged barely a few days before they reach the market in all their milky splendor.

Caciocavallo: Cow's milk cheese, pear-shaped, hung to age on ropes for a minimum for 15 days; excellent melted.

Fior di Latte: Fresh cow's milk Mozzarella; sometimes smoked.

Formaggio di Bufala: Water buffalo's cheese, sometimes flavored with oregano, paprika, or lemon leaves.

Mozzarella di Bufala: Mozzarella made from the rich milk of water buffaloes.

Scamorza di Bufala: Water buffalo's milk cheese, firmer than Mozzarella, softer than Caciocavallo. Aged to dry for a few days after a soak in salt water.

Campania: Cured Meats

Pork reigns supreme as the meat of choice in Campania: when it isn't eaten fresh, it is cured with salt or smoke and turned into a long-keeping staple. Spice-lovers will be happy to know that the Campani, like their neighbors in Molise, Basilicata, and Calabria, often add a bit of chili pepper to their hams and salami.

Cervellatina: Salami made from lean and fat pork, cut with a knife and spiced with chili.

Prosciutto di Montefalcone: Smoked, chili-laced ham from a mountain village in Alto Sannio; the same artisans produce excellent Capocolli, Soppressate, and salami.

Salame Napoli: Smoked pork and veal salami flavored with orange zest and garlic steeped in wine; sometimes conserved in olive oil or under ashes.

Salsiccia di Polmone: Sausage made from pork lights, especially in Apice.

Soppressata Napoletana: Spicy salami pressed under weights (hence its name) to acquire its flattened oval shape; the smoked version from Mugnano del Cardinale is especially tasty.

Campania: Visiting

It's three in the afternoon, and my husband and I have just left Amalfi behind. We are driving the narrow, winding road that connects Amalfi to Vietri when we spy a blue three-wheeler nestled in a curve just up ahead. An old man stands beside the truck, shuffling citrons the size of footballs and weighing tomatoes as red as flames. We stop the car and hop out, and the fruit vendor immediately slices into one of his brilliant tomatoes, proffering it on a callused, wrinkled hand the color of leather. It is, perhaps, the best tomato we've ever had. Without a drop of oil or a sprinkle of salt, it tastes purely of the sun, of the sea, of this magical strip of coastline where, it seems, everyday flavors are bound to become the stuff of dreams.

RESTAURANTS

Da Carmelo: Strada Statale 562, Località Isca, Palinuro, 0974/931138. Sample the Frittata di Neonati and the homemade Vermicelli con Vongole.

Don Alfonso 1890: Corso Sant'Agata 11, Frazione Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Massa Lubrense, 081/8780026. Some of the best food in Campania, ranging from the traditional to the innovative; don't miss out on the Astice Marinato ai Fiori di Zucca.

SHOPS

Agripaestum: Via Strada Statale 18, Contrada Cerro, Capaccio Paestum, 0828/730094. Excellent selection of cheeses, sweets, sauces, and more.

Not to be missed in Campania

Espresso in Naples: Some say the city is home to the best espresso in Italy. Short, dark, and intense, it owes its distinct flavor not only to locally toasted beans but to the local water.

Greek and Roman ruins in Paestum: Two timeless monuments to the glories of ancient Greece and Rome.

Limoncello: A bracing liqueur made from the skins of Campania's sweet, sun-kissed lemons. Sip it after meals and be sure to bring some home, then tuck it into the freezer for a taste of Campania months after you've left Italy behind.

Mozzarella di Bufala: This creamy, slightly tangy cheese is obtained from the milk of water buffaloes; it has been produced in Campania since at least the 1100s and must be savored the day it is made, before it ever sees the inside of a refrigerator.

Sunset in Salerno: A magical sight. Watch the sun set over the hills as you sip a glass of Greco di Tufo if you can.

The Amalfi Coast: A strip of coastline of dazzling beauty… Prepare yourself, however, for hair-raisingly narrow roads studded with maniacal drivers.