I love September! It is such a mellow month with first yellow leaves popping up here and there, cooler days rolling in. The woods smell of mushrooms and there is a bounty of seasonal Italian food to get through. Here is my pick of top five dishes to eat this month in Italy.
1. Porcini mushrooms are delicious in risotto or with pasta. In Tuscany you will find tagliatelle ai porcini (ribbon shape pasta with porcini), in Alto-Adige they make a hearty mushroom soup, in Trentino papardelle pasta with blueberries and porcini is absolutely to die for. So, if you see any dish on a menu with fresh porcini this time of year, go for it!
2. Pumpkin is another jewel of September. If you happen to be in Mantua, Lombardy, do not miss tortelli alla zucca mantovana. They are out of this world: delicate and slightly sweet with an unusual addition of amaretti buscuits and mustard in the filling. I also love pumpkin risotto, which I make in large quantities in autumn and just can’t get enough of it.
3. Figs are not the best this year because of constant rains across Italy. However, fresh jam made from new season figs is excellent with mature cheese.
4. Grapes harvest is in full swing and that means rivers of young local wines flow in restaurants and trattorie. If you happen to be in Emilia Romagna, Marche or Sardinia keep an eye out for Saba, or “grape honey” (“miele d’uva” in Italian). It is made by cooking slowly non-fermented grape must and a few walnuts in their shells. It is used to sweeten different dishes or pour over fruit. In Veneto exists another delicious concoction called “vincotto” (not to be confused with vincotto from Apulia!), which is made with grapes, apples, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Not easy to find but is worth the hunt!
5. Fichi d’india can be found in supermarkets or as a dessert in small restaurants in Sicily. They are small fruit that grow on cactus. Not for everyone’s tastes, cactus pear, or Barbary fig, as they are sometimes called are certainly worth a try. The fruit tastes like watermelon and is normally chilled for a few hours, peeled and eaten with a spoon.