Fine foods and wine
Although not the most renowned of Italian culinary traditions, Milanese cuisine has many delicious, and generally filling, traditional dishes that often bear the influences of the of Spanish and Austrian rule.
The regular use of milk and dairy products is one of the main characteristics of this robust, hearty cuisine.
Risotto allo Zafferano (Saffron Risotto) and the Cotoletta alla Milanese (breaded veal cutlet) are two of the most famous Milanese dishes.
Risotto allo Zafferano is traditionally prepared by combining saffron, beef marrow, beef broth with risotto rice, adding in plenty of butter and Grana Padano cheese until a creamy consistency is achieved. The rule dictates that once cooked and of a sufficiently creamy consistency, a spoon placed upright in the risotto will not fall over.
For years the Cotoletta alla Milanese was at the centre of a heated culinary debate on its origins, which according to some derived from the Austrian Weinerschnitzel.
A true Cotoletta alla Milanese is at least two fingers thick and is served on the bone. It is dipped in beaten egg, breaded then fried in butter. The Viennese version is thinner and is floured before being dipped in egg.
It is only relatively recently that the dispute was resolved in favour of the Milanese, after a letter addressed to the Emperor Franz Josef was found in an Austrian state archive, explaining that: “the Milanese know how to prepare an extraordinarily exquisite dish: a cutlet dipped in egg, breaded and fried in butter.”
Generally speaking, first courses generally include rice. Traditional recipes generally call for filled egg-based pasta (ravioli and tortelli) and buckwheat pasta – also known as pizzocheri in Valtellina valley.
There are also a number of different soups, such as leek and chard soup.
Some are various characteristic cold meats, such as Salame Milano, a fine-grain, pork-based salami with a small beef content, flavoured with white wine, garlic and herbs, with a sweet, delicate flavour.
Tradition dictates that these cold meats be accompanied by michette or rosette, a special type of bread that was once found in two versions - full or empty, crusty with very little white inside.
Unfortunately, the empty michetta, which was both soft and crusty, delicate and fragrant, is now almost impossible to find because it is so difficult to prepare. There may be some hope of finding it at one of the traditional bakeries, such as Panificio Ticozzi in Via Paladini or Panificio Storari in Via Oxilia.
As far as patisserie is concerned, Milan is synonymous with Panettone, the traditional Christmas sweetbread that is baked and packaged by hand in more than 1400 Milanese pastry shops during the Christmas season.
Anecdotes and legends once again accompany both its origins and its name: the most credible version is that of the Milanese historian Pietro Verri, who speaks of a “pan de ton”, a noble bread for aristocrats.
The traditional recipe calls for eggs, butter, yeast, flour, sugar, and raisins with small cubes of candied citron, although there are many variations (with or without raisins and candied fruit, covered with chocolate, with almonds or hazelnuts, or filled with Crème patissières or chocolate).
As the Lombard capital, Milan has adopted all the culinary traditions of the region, and it is thus possible to find enticing local products such as Gorgonzola, Robiola, Taleggio and Grana Padana cheeses, fish from Lakes Como and Garda, ravioli and nougat from Cremona as well as rice from Lomellina.
In addition to San Colombano, the only DOC wine in the province of Milan, wines are mostly found in the zones around Garda, Oltrepò and the Valtellina valley, while Franciacorta is renowned for its excellent spumante.
San Colombano is produced in the provinces of Milan, Lodi, and Pavia and is available in a variety of versions: red, either sparkling or still, red Reserve and white, either sparkling or still.
The Garda and the Mantovani Hills produce excellent local white wines such as Lugana and the classic Pinot, Chardonnay, Merlo, and Cabernet wines.
The most prestigious DOCG zones are the Valtellina valley and Franciacorta.
The Valtellina valley produces full-bodied reds such as Grumello, Sassella and Inferno, while Franciacorta produces great white wines fermented in bottles, as well as a rosé version and in Satén and Millesimato declinations.