What to eat in Milan – Colours and Flavours of traditional Milanese cuisine

Eating at a Milanese restaurant is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Milan traditional cuisine is typically rich in ingredients: on the one hand this provides colourful dishes; on the other hand these foods are always very tasteful.

Take Minestrone for example. Peasant dish par excellence, this is a rainbow of vegetables, a soup made with carrots, zucchini, cabbage, onions, and beans; but it’s also an intensely flavoured dish because according to the ‘perfect recipe’ it must contain even lard and pork rind.

And Risotto alla Milanese. Just try and find another dish of this colour  Ok, it’s a single shade of colour  nothing to do with the rainbow of Minestrone, but in its simplicity it is extremely particular. Saffron is the element that gives colour to rice, filling it with an unmistakable flavour at the same time. In some restaurants in Milan, saffron rice is served along with a delicious piece of meat called osso buco, cross-cut veal shanks cooked in butter and a little stock. At that point, even Yellow Rice becomes a multi-colour dish.

And what about the tasty Cotoletta alla Milanese, better known as “la Milanese” in all the restaurant menus around the World. That crispy, golden breadcrumb crust contains a veal cutlet with bone: if it is cooked to perfection, when you cut it you will still see blood-red meat at the centre and close to the bone, which offers a nice contrast. Also its taste is unique: a meat slice covered with a crust of bread and eggs.

If you happen to visit Milan in the cold winter (December to February) and you wish to try one of the most classic Milanese dishes, Cassoeula (pronounced Càsola) is the answer, to delight your eyes and nose with a preparation that bears the typical colours of autumn/winter: the straw yellow of fallen leaves, with shades of beige and brown. The main ingredients of Cassoeula are cabbage and all the less ‘noble’ parts of the pig, those scorned by the Lords in the past, which therefore ended up in the peasants’ pots: the rind, feet, ribs and head of the pig. That said: can you only imagine what a strong, extremely tasty flavour this popular dish now proposed in the best Milanese restaurants or served in many trattorias in Brianza and Lodigiano may have?

Talking of colours & flavours we cannot miss to mention Panettone, another cult in Milan with regards to traditional cuisine. On the outside it looks like a big bread with a thousand shades. When you cut it open, the inside is yellow due to the great number of eggs used in the preparation. Each slice is poetry for the eye, due to the presence of this storm of coloured drops: dark raisins, and multicoloured pieces of candied fruit. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth explosion of taste, which always sounds of Christmas carols as soon as you close your eyes.

So if someone tells you that in Milan you will only eat Polenta (hint: polenta with Gorgonzola cheese, mmmhh mouth-watering,) just remember that they are wrong. Milanese cuisine offers plenty of traditional dishes, that satisfy the palate and the eyes, too.