Campania, for many, defines Italian cooking:
It's one of the best-known cuisines worldwide, thanks to the tremendous number of Neapolitans who emigrated in the last century. Pizza , arguably the most popular food on the planet, is Neapolitan, as are many kinds of durum wheat pasta including spaghetti, and the red sauces (marinara, puttanesca, genovese, and so on) so many people put over them. Campania has also given us lasagna with ricotta, eggplant Parmesan, wedding soup, zesty carne alla pizzaiola, Christmas's struffoli, the Easter pastiera, and has contributed greatly to the popularity of the Seven Fishes dinner on Christmas Eve.
In terms of produce Campania is singularly blessed:
The slopes of Mount Vesuvius produce the San Marzano plum tomatoes that give the red sauces their richness, and there's much more, from cauliflower through broccoli raab and greens to eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. In terms of meats, though there is some beef, the lamb and pork are better, and inland you'll also find water buffalo -- the animals are raised primarily for their milk, which gives Mozzarella a tangy richness cow's milk mozzarella simply lacks. The fish along the coast is superb, as are the walnuts from Sorrento, and when you want to relax, what could be better than a glass of well-chilled limoncello?
Campanian Cooking can be quite earthy:
Before the unification of Italy a significant fraction of the Neapolitan population lived on charity, and out in the countryside the farmers were just as poor. And their foods reflect this: Pizza, a quickly cooked round of bread with a topping, is as simple as it gets, as are spaghetti with pummarola, Neapolitan for marinara sauce. Postcards from the late 1800s show barefoot kids eating both with their bare hands. Wedding soup, without the meat, would have been every day fare too, and indeed Neapolitans were once derisively referred to as mangia foglie, or leaf eaters.
But Campanian cooking can also be extremely elegant:
People forget that during the 17th and 18th centuries Naples was one of the richest and most sumptuous courts of Europe, attracting wealthy aristocrats from all over. The Neapolitan hosts rose to the occasion with lavish banquets; the best chefs were called Monsieur because of the way they adapted the dictates of elegant French cuisine to the Neapolitan ingredients and palate. With time Monsieur became Monzù, and if a particular Monzù served a particular family for a long time, he was referred to as Monzù, followed by his employer's last name. A selection of recipes by Monzù
Some Festive Campanian Dishes:
Le Lasagne del Carnevale: Carnival Lasagna
Lasagne alla Ricotta: More Carnival Extravagance
Pane Pasquale, a rich Easter Bread
Agnello Cac' e Ove, Easter Lamb with Eggs and Cheese
Minestra di Pasqua, Neapolitan Easter Soup
Zeppole, Fritters for San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph's)
Struffoli, Neapolitan Christmas Treats
La Pastiera Napoletana, a wonderful Easter pie
Linguine con le acciughe, or with anchovies, to start the Seven Fishes
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, for Sunday
Susamielli, a Christmas cookie
Summery Campanian Dishes:
Insalata Caprese: The ultimate Summer Salad!
Melanzane in Carrozza, Eggplant with mozzarella
Frienno e Magnanno alla Napoletana: Frying and Chowing Down Neapolitan Style
Pasta alla Puttanesca
Friarelli Ripieni, Stuffed Peppers
Mozzarella Fritta, Fried Mozzarella