Seriously Delicious Italian Recipes You Haven't Heard Of Before

Pretty much anyone can name some of the most iconic Italian dishes out there, whether those dishes are pizza, pasta with Bolognese sauce, carbonara, risotto, ragù, lasagna, or whatever else falls under the purview of Italian and Italian-American food. Most people can cook at least a few of them, too, making these meals dinnertime staples. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that Italy is a country with a truly diverse and storied culinary tradition. In fact, it's home to countless recipes and dishes, each varying from region to region, town to town, and even home to home.

So don't start feeling bad if there are a few Italian dishes that you've never heard of, given the vast food universe out there. Still, just in case you are tired of rustling up a pizza or a lasagna for the thousandth time — even when you've mastered eating spaghetti like a real Italian – we've got this list of some of the most delicious and intriguing Italian recipes you may not already know. 

These are recipes that aren't quite as well-known as the tried and tested classics, at least not in most non-Italian kitchens. Each of these meals will make for a handy addition to your recipe book, to be sure. If nothing else, they should mix things up a little the next time you're craving a real taste of Italy.


The word "ossobuco" means "pierced bone," and that about sums the dish up. It's basically braised veal shank with bone marrow, creating a deeply savory and tender dish after a couple hours of cooking. Although that might sound way too fancy for a home cook to pull off, you needn't worry, because our ossobuco recipe will take you through it step-by-step.

Of course, veal shank isn't exactly easy to source, but you can substitute it with pork or beef if you really can't find a good veal shank. Everything else should be easy enough to get a hold of, including onion, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs, broth, canned tomatoes, and a portion of some decent white wine. It's not the quickest or the easiest dish to make in the world either, but hey, if you want quick and easy, stick to the penne arrabiata. If you're ready to up your game, however, you'll find no better place to start than this.


More of a condiment than a full dish, giardiniera comes in two varieties in the United States. First, there's the Chicago-derived sandwich topping made with finely-chopped vegetables and olive oil, according to Kitchn. Then, there's the bona fide Italian style, made with vegetables pickled in vinegar. In Italy, it's sometimes known as verdure sottaceto, which essentially means "pickled vegetables". 

Our giardiniera recipe is kind of a mish-mash of the two main styles. The vegetables are cut fairly large, like in the Italian variant. It includes olive oil, too, like the Italian-American version of giardiniera that you might find in the Windy City. It also brings a unique twist to the table, in that the vegetables are cooked in that vinegar brine rather than being marinated raw. The benefit to this method is that you can rustle up a batch in around 15 minutes, rather than having to dedicate many hours to let the mix sit around and pickle. 

Use this giardiniera as a topping condiment like the Chicagoans do, or add it to your antipasto plate, alongside cured meats, cheeses, and olives, like Italians often choose to do. It really is the best of both worlds.


Caponata is about as simple as it comes. This is a dish of fried eggplant served with a mixture of vegetables and herbs, including onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, olives, capers, and tomatoes. Caponata originally came to us from Sicily, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It's basically as Italian as you can get while still keeping things vegan.

Our recipe for caponata is as simple as it ought to be, too. You fry up that eggplant until it's good and brown, then whip up a glaze, sauté the vegetables, then throw it all together and let it cook. Not only is this caponata supremely easy to put together, it's also incredibly delicious and packed full of veggies.


If you feel like something a little more coastal than usual, you can't do a whole lot better than our recipe for cioppino. Cioppino is a kind of seafood soup, cooked in fennel and tomato-infused broth. We're cheating a little bit by including it here, though, since it actually originated in 19th century San Francisco, which you may already know is in California and far away from Italy. 

Then again, as San Francisco Travel reports, cioppino was first developed by Italian-American fishermen working near San Francisco, so don't completely dismiss its pedigree. One taste of this dish, and you'll see that it has a pretty good Italian-inspired flavor, even if it is admittedly an American recipe.

Made with white fish, mussels, clams, and shrimp, the addition of fennel and white wine to the tomato broth will give it a hugely welcome flavor boost, while the fresh fish, parsley, and garlic should imbue the whole thing with a genuine taste of the Mediterranean, despite having been developed over 6,000 miles away. So, is this actually Italian? Kind of. It's more Italian-American than anything. But is it delicious either way? You betcha.

Pasta e fagioli

Most Italian foods seem best suited to a warm summer's day or a quiet balmy evening in spring. But the fact is that Italian cooking is a wonderful tonic to cold weather, something you likely already know if you live somewhere that gets truly cold in the winter. Nowhere is this clearer than with the warming, hearty embrace of pasta e fagioli.

Pasta e fagioli is, well, exactly what it says on the tin, assuming you know a bit of Italian: pasta and beans. It's a kind of soup that, in our recipe, is made with tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, spinach, pasta shells, a whole heap of herbs and seasonings, and three different kinds of beans. 

Throw in a pecorino or Parmesan rind to flavor the liquid, which will give the whole thing a nice, savory edge, too. This pasta e fagioli is quick, easy, and feels like a hug in culinary form. It's the very best of Italian cooking in a bowl.