The richness of Milanese cuisine

Milan, Italy

The fertility of the Padana plain and the resulting prodigality of nature make Lombardy one of the main agricultural regions of the peninsula. Shaped by the richness of the cereal crops and the importance of cattle and pig breeding, the local gastronomy is based on two pillars: veal and rice, two quality ingredients that serve as the basis for a rustic and robust local cuisine with strong flavors.

Rice, a story of water and saffron

Introduced to Italy by the Spaniards, the cultivation of rice, initially confined to the south of the country, spread to Lombardy in the 15th century. The abundance of water and the ease of irrigation in the Po Valley facilitated its spread, and the cereal quickly became a staple of the local cuisine. The risotto alla milanese, cooked in melted beef marrow and flavored with saffron and nutmeg, was the delight of Stendhal.

Served as a first course or as a main course with osso-buco, it is still the emblematic specialty of Milanese cuisine. Less well known but just as delicious is riso al salto, served as a crunchy patty and prepared with the leftover risotto alla milanese sautéed in a pan.

Inveterate carnivores

Contrary to popular belief that Italians are not big meat lovers, Lombards eat meat on a regular basis. It is impossible to stay in Milan without sacrificing to the rite of the cotoletta alla milanese, a breaded veal cutlet that must be cut thick, cooked with the bone and served slightly pink.

Although originally from Tuscany, fiorentina, a fire-cooked rib of beef, is a popular dish among the Milanese, who enjoy it al sangue, or rare. You will also frequently find battuta di fassona, a Piedmontese beef tartar with a lighter seasoning than its French counterpart. Don’t pass up mondeghili without tasting it. These are dumplings made from various leftover pork and beef meats, with the addition of liver mortadella and fresh sausage.

Tripe and offal

Indissociable from the Lombardy culinary tradition, tripe and offal can be prepared in many ways. A must try is the fritto misto alla milanese, made with fried brains and sweetbreads, the busecca, a tripe casserole with white beans and tomato or, on long winter evenings, the cassoeula, a kind of stew with pig entrails, sausage and kale. Other dishes include nervetti, calf’s feet cooked for hours and served cold in a salad, and animelle, golden sweetbreads that are a perfect accompaniment to risotto Milanese style.

Special for sweet tooths

Topping the list of Milanese sweets is the famous panettone, a kind of brioche with candied fruit, raisins and citrus peel, traditionally eaten at the end of the Christmas meal. Its cylindrical shape topped with a dome is now known not only throughout Italy, but all over the world.

Among all the legends that embellish its origin, the most widespread tells of a kitchen clerk named Toni who saved the head of a pastry chef who, during a meal held in honor of Ludovico the More, had his dessert burned. The young Toni offered a simple cake made for his own consumption as a replacement. To the question of the guests who, seduced, would have wanted to know where this brioche came from, the cook would have answered: “it is the pan of Toni”.

On the cheese side

Lombardy is a major producer of milk, but it is also known for its cheeses. The best known is without a doubt Gorgonzola, a raw cheese made from cow’s milk with a marbled paste. Although it is available all year round, it is best consumed between April and September, after a maturing period of at least five weeks. It is used in risottos, pasta, and often combined with nuts and pears.

Similar to the Parmesan cheese produced in Emilia Romagna, Grana Padano is a granular cooked cheese, hence its name, which can be enjoyed more or less aged. It is also used to season pasta and rice dishes. Talegggio is a soft, creamy cheese with a washed rind, a speciality of the province of Bergamo.

Café : Torrefazione Padova

Via Padova, 64
Monday: 3.30PM – 7.30PM ; Tuesday-Saturday: 8.00AM-1.00PM and 3.30PM – 7.30PM

With a bit of luck, the aroma of roasted coffee will guide your steps to this store from another time where, every other day, under the greedy and amazed eyes of the customers, the master of the place roasts his coffee himself until the beans acquire a beautiful brown color. The coffee, still hot and fragrant, is then sold in small yellow and white paper bags, unchanged since 1958.

Torrefazione Padova, Milan

Practical info

  • Milan, Italy
  • 20 starred restaurants in 2018

Photo Gallery

Risotto alla milanese

Risotto alla milanese

Risotto alla milanese, an emblematic specialty

Risotto alla milanese, une spécialité emblématique

Cotoletta alla Milanese

Cotoletta alla Milanese

Osso buco Milanese with tagliatelle

Osso buco milanaise et tagliatelles

The panettone, a famous brioche with candied fruit

Le Panettone, célèbre brioche aux fruits confits

Gorgonzola, an Italian cheese

Gorgonzola, fromage italien


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