Last updated on November 21st, 2023
When I first visited Naples I remember being terrified about missing out on the city’s best food. Everyone writes home about Campania and the amazing food, and I couldn’t stand the idea that I would somehow not check all the boxes.
It’s hard, though to find all the information you want in one place without being overloaded, so I am laying it out plain and simple: one article, the best foods to watch out for, with a short description including pronunciation.
I will also include my tips and recommendations. Keep this article handy as you travel throughout all of Campania as your “go-to” food guide.
Now, let’s get into the traditional food of Campania!
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Food from Campania vs Italian Food
There is not one identifying factor that sets Campania food apart from Italian food. Cooks in Campania follow the basic practice of simply combining fresh, seasonal ingredients to make extraordinary food.
Campania has lush pastors and rich soils perfect for raising livestock and farming practices. Cheese making is some of the best in the country, and the vegetables are always in abundance.
Coastal towns such as Amalfi and Positano are famous for being UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but from a culinary point of view, they are remembered and loved for their abundance of fish and other seafood.
Lemons have also played a large role in shaping the region’s cuisine as they grow in abundance year-round along the coast. All parts of the lemon can be used in cooking – the juice, fresh slices, and zested rind (also perfect for candied lemon rind).
While seafood and fresh produce are important on the coast, local livestock and cheese are more common as you move inland, including the world-famous water buffalo known for its mozzarella production.
The region’s capital of Napoli (Naples in English) has played a huge role in shaping Campania’s food traditions and recipes as a whole. Some of its most beloved recipes originate from Naples and been adopted throughout the region.
As you will see, pasta and cheese are the main protagonists!
Foodie Experience: Making fresh mozzarella and eating the best pizza are two of our top foodie experiences to take part in while in Campania. Read more in Italy Foodie Bucket List – 17 Amazing Italian Culinary Experiences by Region.
Learn More: Study up on formaggio with our Complete Guide to Italian Cheese!
Colatura di Alici
(Pronounced coh-lah-too-rah dee ah-lee-chee in Italian)
This is fish essence at its best: when anchovies are cured, the rich nectar left behind is collected and used as gold to flavor pasta sauces, pizza or vegetables. It gives a depth of flavor without being overwhelming fishy tasting.
Bring it Home: Head to Cetara where colatura di alici is produced to get your hands on the real stuff. It’s a great little gift by which to remember Campania and use in your kitchen back home.
Mozzarella di Bufala
(Pronounced mohz-zah-rehl-lah dee boo-fah-lah in Italian)
The tradition of mozzarella making goes back over 1,000 years, and today it is just as popular and important for the local economy. Mozzarella di bufala is one of those cheeses that will most likely be amazing no matter where you order it: whether you have gone directly to the source or are at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant, you are guaranteed authenticity.
We Recommend: Go directly to the source and visit the factory Caseificio La Reale (Caserta) for some of the best mozzarella di bufala in all of Italy.
(Pronounced bohk-cohn-chee-nee in Italian)
Meaning “little bites” – that is exactly what these are. Small, mini mozzarella balls about the size of a golf ball made from water buffalo milk.
Ricotta di Bufala Campana
(Pronounced ree-coht-tah dee boo-fah-lah cahm-pahn-ah in Italian)
This is a soft curd cheese made from buffalo mozzarella whey. Rich and creamy, it’s used in various pasta dishes and on its own with honey or jams. Kids also enjoy it on bread with Nutella for breakfast or as a snack.
Provolone del Monaco
(Pronounced proh-voh-loh-neh dehl mohn-ah-coh in Italian)
This semi-hard cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and is everywhere! The younger versions have a pretty mild flavor but the longer they age, the stronger the flavor.
(Pronounced scah-mohr-zah in Italian)
Scamorza comes from the same process of making mozzarella but it is then hung and aged for several weeks, giving it a nuttier flavor and firmer texture.
Fior di latte
(Pronounced fee-ohr dee laht-teh in Italian)
Fior di latte, meaning “flower of the milk” in Italian, is a mozzarella made with cow’s milk. It’s very mild and lighter in flavor than buffalo mozzarella.
Read more about the Different Types & Shapes of Mozzarella.
(Pronounced strahch-chah-tah in Italian)
Meaning “tattered,” this soft, fresh cheese reminds me of the inside part of mozzarella made from cow’s milk.
(Pronounced sah-lah-meh nah-poh-lee in Italian)
Made with pork shoulder, leg, neck and loin, black pepper, and spices, this salame is aged for a minimum of 30 days. You will often see it on charcuterie boards or as a pizza topping.
(Pronounced cah-preh-seh in Italian)
Arguably the best salad ever invented, the caprese, originating on the island of Capri, is made with mozzarella di bufala, tomato and fresh basil. This is a great example of Campania’s cuisine: the simple combination of the best quality ingredients makes for the best dishes.
Pasta alla Sorrentina
(Pronounced pah-stah ahl-lah sohr-rehn-tee-nah in Italian)
Pacchetti pasta is smothered in a velvety sauce of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and smoked scamorza.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
(pronounced spa-GHE-tee a-la putt-ah-nes-KUH in Italian)
Its name is hard to translate exactly, but it means “prostitute’s spaghetti.” Legend has it that this is a pasta made by puttane (Italian word for whore) who would leave this sauce on the stove simmering so that when she returned from their late night shift, it would be ready to eat. Recipes vary depending on what town you are in, but it’s traditionally made with tomatoes, garlic, spices, capers, black olives, crushed red pepper, and anchovies and served over spaghetti.
(Pronounced lah-sahn-yah nah-poh-lee-tah-nah in Italian)
This is not your traditional lasagna but rather, it’s made with ricotta, a silky ragù, tiny little meatballs, and hard-boiled eggs. Historically it was served in Naples during the carnival celebrations but nowadays, you see it all year round.
Pasta alla Genovese
(Pronounced pah-stah ahl-lah gehn-oh-veh-seh in Italian)
Don’t let its name deceive you: this pasta has nothing to do with the city of Genoa and everything to do with Naples! Thick ziti pasta is smothered in a rich ragù made from braising lots of onions and beef together for hours on end. Maybe not the best choice at lunch in the middle of August when it is unbearably hot but great for cooler evenings or a fall lunch.
(Pronounced cahn-nehl-loh-nee in Italian)
Surprisingly a pasta dish from the coastal town Sorrento, not made from seafood! This long, tube-shaped pasta is most traditionally stuffed with tomato, basil and mozzarella but you will also find several other meat variations.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
(Pronounced spah-geht-tee ahl-leh vohn-goh-leh in Italian)
Although spaghetti with clam sauce is popular throughout Italy it is particularly iconic in southern Italy. There is no better place to enjoy it than here where the clams are fresh off the fishing boats every day.
Spaghetti con Colatura di Alici
(Pronounced spah-geht-tee cohn coh-lah-too-rah dee ah-lee-chee in Italian)
A great way to try Cetara’s famous colatura di alici, an anchovy essence that is cooked with olive oil, garlic, parsley and chili peppers and served over spaghetti.
Linguine allo Scoglio
(Pronounced leen-gwee-neh ahl-loh scohl-yoh in Italian)
Sometimes called linguine ai frutti di mare, this classic is made either with linguine or spaghetti and a combination of various seafood, including plenty of shellfish like mussels, shrimp, and baby squids. Prepare to get your hands dirty!
Maccaronara con Tartufo
(Pronounced mahc-cah-roh-nahr-ah cohn tahr-too-foh in Italian)
Seemingly simple, this pasta must adhere to strict rules: truffles and pasta from the Avellino area. The truffles from here are some of the best in Italy and the pasta is similar to a hand-rolled spaghetti but slightly thicker.
Spaghetti alla Nerano
(Pronounced spah-geht-tee ahl-lah nehr-ah-noh in Italian)
Originating in Nerano, this pasta is made from thinly sliced zucchini sautéed until golden, mixed with the famous provolone di monaco and served over spaghetti. A sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some fresh basil and it’s ready for the table.
(Pronounced scahr-pah-ree-ehl-loh in Italian)
In the local dialect of Sannio, scarpari means shoemaker who traditionally did not work on Mondays. Story has it that they ate this pasta on their day off. Utterly simple, this spaghetti is served with a sauce made from fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, pecorino cheese and chili peppers.
Pasta e Fagioli
(Pronounced pah-stah eh fah-goh-lee in Italian)
Pasta and beans is popular throughout Italy and this is Campania’s version flavored with pancetta, tomatoes and garlic. This doesn’t sound like the most interesting of dishes but it’s delicious on a cooler day.
We Recommend: “Trattoria da Cumpa Cosimo” (Ravello) is a family-run trattoria that is popular with tourists and locals alike.
(Pronounced cah-lah-mahr-ah-tah nah-poh-leh-tah-nah in Italian)
Made with thick ring pasta, oftentimes colored dark with squid ink, dressed in a seafood sauce made with squid, clams, and shrimp.
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
(Pronounced nohk-kee ahl-lah sohr-rehn-tee-nah in Italian)
Tender potato dumplings are oven baked in individual clay pots called pignatielli with a tomato and basil sauce and mozzarella. Topped with more mozzarella, pecorino and sometimes parmesan, the gnocchi are then cooked until golden and oozing.
Risotto alla Pescatora
(Pronounced ree-soht-toh ahl-lah peh-skah-tohr-ah in Italian)
This seafood risotto is a classic dish in Naples and throughout the Amalfi Coast. The seafood will change depending on the catch of the day and the town you are in. This was a dish I loved trying throughout various towns as it was fun to see how each restaurant had their twists or techniques to make it unico or unmatched by others.
(Pronounced rah-goo nah-poh-lee-tah-noh in Italian)
This dish is great because it can be served for one meal as a primo by pairing the sauce with pasta and also as secondo. The slow-cooked meat is pulled out from the rich tomato sauce and sliced. This dish must be cooked all afternoon but it is certainly worth it!
(Pronounced freet-toh mee-stoh in Italian)
An absolute must-try while on the coast. Depending on the catch of the day, a variety of fish is flash fried until crisp. A squeeze of local Amalfi lemons and you are in heaven!
Trippa alla Napoletana
(Pronounced treep-pah ahl-lah nah-poh-lee-tah-nah in Italian)
This is Campania’s version made with beef tripe slow-cooked with seasonal vegetables, spices, and a big squeeze of lemon for freshness.
(Pronounced coh-nee-lee-oh ahl-ees-kee-tah-nah in Italian)
Native rabbits of Ischia (Capri’s neighbor island) are slow-cooked with tomatoes, white wine, basil, rosemary, and capers. Go directly to the Island for the best and most authentic version.
Zuppa di Cozze
(Pronounced zoop-pah dee cohz-zeh in Italian)
Fresh mussels are simmered with tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Make sure to sop up all the juices with a crusty end of bread.
Impepata di Cozze
(Pronounced im-peh-pah-tah dee cohz-zeh in Italian)
Translating to “peppered mussels” this dish is similar to zuppa di cozze but made without the tomatoes and the addition of lots of freshly ground black pepper.
(Pronounced pohl-poh ahf-foh-gah-toh in Italian)
Meaning “drowned octopus”, this secondo is prepared by sautéing boiled octopus with tomatoes, chili peppers and oil. This is one of my favorite dishes to eat while on the seaside. The octopus is so good compared to what you can find in other parts of the country (or the world for that matter!).
Pesce all’Acqua Pazza
(Pronounced peh-shey ahl-awk-wah pahz-zah in Italian)
“Fish in crazy water.” Yes, that is what its name means but it’s actually far from crazy but rather deliciously simple. The day’s fresh catch is simmered in water with garlic, tomatoes and parsley.
Totani e Patate
(Pronounced toh-tah-nee eh pah-tah-teh in Italian)
A classic dish you will find on the Amalfi Coast made from squid and potatoes flavored with tomatoes, olive oil, white wine and lots of parsley. Make sure you order yourself a glass of white wine to drink with it!
Polpo alla Luciana
(Pronounced pohl-poh ahl-lah loo-chah-nah in Italian)
This flavorful octopus dish from Naples is cooked with tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and served with lots of parsley.
(Pronounced pahr-mee-gawn-ah meh-lahn-zah-neh in Italian)
Eggplant parmesan is made by layering thin slices of fried eggplant with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. It is then baked until sizzling hot. Be careful not to burn your mouth!
(Pronounced pohl-peht-teh in Italian)
Polpette from Naples are one of a kind made with raisins and pine nuts. This dish doubles as two meals: the tomato sauce that the polpette are cooked in is used to dress pasta. The meatballs are served separately as a secondo.
Broccoli e Salsiccia
(Pronounced brohk-coh-lee eh sahl-seech-chah in Italian)
You will find this winter dish inland towards Ravello and Scala. Locally made fennel-infused sausage that is cooked with wild bitter broccoli rabe. Sometimes you even see this as a pizza topping.
(Pronounced peez-ziy-oh-lah in Italian)
Classic of Neapolitan cuisine, this secondo is made from inexpensive, tough cuts of meat that are tenderized by braising them with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and white wine until the meat starts to fall apart. If you see any meat that is alla pizzaiola, it means that the meat is prepared in this fashion.
Also called cianfotta, this is similar to the French ratatouille prepared with onions, garlic, potatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, olive oil, basil, and salt. The vegetables are stewed together until soft and served either warm, room temperature or cold, making it ideal for hot summer weather. This is one of those dishes that tastes even better as it sits.
Vegan Friendly: Ciambotta with fresh bread is a great vegan option.
(Pronounced peez-zah nah-ooh-lee-tah-nah in Italian)
Pizza has been around for over a century and it remains one of mankind’s most loved foods. In Naples, you will see dozens and dozens of pizzaioli (pizza makers) on every street. In my opinion, you should opt for the purist of all pizzas when in Naples: the pizza margherita topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and a few basil leaves.
Best Pizza: The absolute best pizza in Naples is L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and Gino e Toto Sorbillo. Don’t let the lines scare you away. Many famous joints don’t take reservations, so arrive 30 minutes before they open for lunch and get in line. I did that at Sorbillo, and didn’t have to wait too long.
(Pronounced peez-zah freet-tah in Italian)
Pizza dough is filled with pizza toppings and fried until crisp. You can order them in local pizzerias.
We Recommend: Antica Pizzeria e Friggitoria Di Matteo for fried pizza.
(Pronounced pahn-zehr-oht-tee in Italian)
Panzerotti are the ideal street snack that will keep you going and easy to eat. You will literally see them on every corner in the province of Benevento. It’s essentially the same thing as pizza fritta but the dough is slightly different, made from flour, lard and water.
(Pronounced bah-bah roo-stee-kah in Italian)
This bread hailing from Naples is made of flour, milk, yeast, eggs, and oil. It is then filled with bits of salami, ham, grated parmesan, and cubes of provolone, scamorza, or fontina cheese. Head to a bakery to get your hands on this savory treat.
(Pronounced cah-sah-tee-ehl-low in Italian)
A traditional Easter bread filled with various meats such as salami, ham, prosciutto, pancetta and cheese, rolled and baked in a ring mold. The bread is decorated with hard-boiled eggs and lattice strips of dough.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
(Pronounced mohz-zah-rehl-lah in cahr-rohz-zah in Italian)
This is a fried sandwich meaning “mozzarella in a carriage” (the bread being the carriage) that is particularly popular in Campania. The crusts are removed from stale bread which is filled with buffalo mozzarella, dipped in beaten eggs, milk and flour and deep fried. This is truly a special treat and not to be missed!
(Pronounced coo-ohp-poh in Italian)
A popular street food in Naples of various fried fish served in a paper cone.
(Pronounced pah-noo-ohz-zoh in Italian)
This is another amazing street food made from pizza dough that is filled with eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese. It also comes with various affettati or cold cuts.
Delizia al Limone
(Pronounced deh-lee-zee-ah ahl lee-mohn-eh in Italian)
This dome-shaped sponge cake is filled with lemon custard and covered in a limoncello glaze. It is either made in one large cake and cut into slices or as individual servings. You should do right by ordering this out. Do not attempt to make this at home as a way by which to remember your amazing trip to Campania unless you are very experienced because it is complicated!
(Pronounced bah-bah nah-poh-lee-tahn-oh in Italian)
A very popular sponge cake that is soft and soaked in citrus syrup (sometimes also in alcohol) that doesn’t actually come from Campania. It originated in Eastern Europe but made its way across borders to southern Italy where it became even more popular!
Torta Ricotta e Pere
(Pronounced tohr-tah ree-coht-tah eh peh-reh in Italian)
This is your kind of cake if you love great pears. You will see it served on the Amalfi coast. A hazelnut sponge cake drizzled with pear brandy syrup is layered high with a ricotta cream and pear filling.
We Recommend: Try “Sal del Riso” in Minori for great cakes (and not only!).
(Pronounced pah-stee-ehr-ah nah-poh-lee-tah-nah in Italian)
I love this dessert. Buttery pie crust is filled with cooked wheat berries, ricotta and pastry cream. Most versions have candied orange peel and orange blossom water. It’s not your everyday pastry but it sure is original!
(Pronounced cahl-zohn-cehl-lee in Italian)
Originally from Salerno, this dessert is made up of small deep-fried pastries filled with various fillings such as chestnut and pear, chocolate or pine nuts and coffee and finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. You will especially see them during the Christmas season.
(Pronounced sfohl-yah-tehl-lah in Italian)
Meaning “leaf layers,” sfogliatelle are small pastries are a true labor of love. They look somewhat like lobster tails made from hundreds of layers of puff pastry filled with a semolina and ricotta filling. These are great for breakfast!
We Recommend: For the best sfogliatelle check out “Sfogliatelab” or “Sfogliatella Mary,” both in Naples.
(Pronounced moh-stach-choh-lee in Italian)
Also known as Also known as mustacciuoli by the locals A soft, thin cake spiced with ginger and nutmeg is thickly covered in dark chocolate (and occasionally white). You can’t miss them around the Christmas holidays.
(Pronounced rahf-fee-oh-lee in Italian)
Sponge cake is filled with apricot jam (although you will also find other fillings) and covered in icing, which helps keep the cake fresh and moist. Most often they are served during the Christmas holidays.
(Pronounced mee-lahch-choh in Italian)
Once made with miglio, this smooth and silky soft ricotta cake is made with cornflour flavored with candied orange and vanilla.
(Pronounced soo-sah-mee-ehl-lee in Italian)
A chewy cookie flavored with cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg shaped like an S and decorated with almonds served around Christmas.
(Pronounced stroof-foh-lee in Italian)
This dessert is enjoyed throughout Italy but it did originate in Campania. The dough is formed into small balls, deep-fried and covered in warm honey. They are sometimes formed into a ring or piled high in a pyramid mound.
(Pronounced rohc-coh-coh in Italian)
Described as an oven-baked donut, this Christmas dessert is more of a cookie spiced with nuts, cinnamon, clove, coriander, star anise and nutmeg. Usually, they are served with wine.
Traditional Food of Campania FAQ
Strega: originally from Benevento, this bright yellow liquor is distilled from 70 different spices, botanicals, and herbs including Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, cloves, mint, juniper, and saffron. It is then aged in ash barrels and by the time it is ready it has an ABV of 40%.
Limoncello: this lemon flavored liquor is known by its bright yellow color. You can drink it as an aperitif or as a digestif but either way it will always be chilled. It is also used in various cocktails (including the limoncello spritz) and in local desserts.
Our top pick is a general category more of an item: lemons. If you check out an open air market, especially on the Amalfi Coast or in Sorrento, you will be overjoyed with the vast choice of lemon products such as preserves, jams, lemon honey, soaps, scents, ceramics, decorative towels, or limoncello.
Don’t Miss: Be sure to get a taste of lemon gelato or granita (shaved ice drizzled with a generous amount of lemonade) if you happen to be strolling through a market. You will always find a vendor selling them!
Coffee is made with a cuccuma, a stove-top drip coffee maker, instead of a moka pot. Unlike the moka pot, pressured steam is not the driving force in brewing the coffee but rather, it relies on gravity or the drip method. They are not as popular nowadays but many traditional households still use them every morning.
A cuccuma has three parts, just like a moka pot: the bottom is filled with water, the middle section with coffee, and the top is an empty chamber. When the water in the bottom vessel starts to boil, you flip the coffee pot over and let the water drip through the coffee grinds into the now empty bottom section. Finely ground coffee is preferred.