The typical gastronomy of the Lake Como area is strongly influenced by the territory from which it originated: the extremely mild microclimate favored the introduction of olive trees, whose oil is widely used in condiments. The great protagonist of the traditional cuisine, however, is the lake fish. Two main courses characterize the local cuisine:
  • The missoltini or missultén, the alosa agones fished in June and dried in the sun
  • The risotto with perch

In addition to alosa agone and perch, the bleak and the lavaret also characterize the local lake cuisine, the latter particularly appreciated in its variant “in carpione”.
Nevertheless, in the local gastronomic tradition we can also find the rustic mountain flavors, which preserve that poor tradition that is best expressed in the polenta (cornmeal much). In addition to the traditional simple polenta, we have: the polenta taragna, made of buckwheat, and polenta uncia (a variation seasoned with butter, garlic and cheese).
Among the desserts, the meascia is a cake with very ancient origins.
Below is a list of typical local recipes, divided by type.

Appetizers

Missoltini and squartoni

The populations of the Insubria lakes have always used to dry the fish. This system in fact allows to keep the fish caught in periods of "abundance" to consume them during the winter. In the past, the fish used for drying were the alosa agone, which gave the famous "missoltini", the chub and the pigo, which gave the "squartoni", the rudd and the bleak. Also other species such as the lavaret are suitable for drying.
The preparation of these products involves the salting of the fresh fillet, the drying and a period of maturation lasting some months which takes place in special containers subjected to pressure.
The preparation with this technique makes the fish take a "decisive" taste, suitable for many courses and, above all, for appetizers.
Remove any excess salt with a brush or leave the fish to soak in milk for a whole night.
Sear the fish on a grill.
Immerse them briefly in an emulsion composed of two parts of oil and a part of vinegar, with the addition of a couple of bay leaves. Serve over a slice of roasted polenta.
 
Ingredients and preparation
- Missoltini or Squartoni
- Olive oil
- Vinegar
- Laurel
- Salt

Fish “in carpione”

The “in carpione” fish is an ancient preparation that, at the time when there were no refrigerators, allowed to keep the fish for a few days. To prepare this dish you can use whole fishes of small size (maximum 15-20 cm) or slices or pieces of fillet (with skin) of any other fish that has larger dimensions. We recommend storing the “carpione” in the fridge and bringing it to room temperature before consuming it.
 
Ingredients and preparationpesce in carpione
- 300 gr of fish
- Olive oil
- White flour
- 1 onion - 2/3 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- White wine
- Red vinegar
- Salt
- Laurel
- Pepper in grains
- Juniper berries
- Thyme sprigs
Flour and fry carefully the fish, then salt it and place it in a pot. In a saucepan, sauté the onion, add carrots and celery cut into strips as well as some sprigs of thyme. Immediately add vinegar and wine in equal parts enough to cover the fish. Add the spices, without exaggerating. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, then pour on the fish and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

First courses

Risotto with perch

The risotto with perch is one of the typical dishes of the gastronomy of Lecco and Como: the perch is in fact a freshwater fish, widespread in Lake Como and much loved for its soft and delicate taste. The risotto with perch is ideal for a casual lunch or an elegant dinner, a dish to try!

Risotto con persico

Ingredients and preparation
- Perch - 250 gr
- Carnaroli rice - 320 gr
- Carrots - 30 gr
- Celery - 30 gr
- Red onions - 30 gr
- White wine - 60 gr
- Sage
- Rosemary
- Thyme
- Extra virgin olive oil - 45 gr
- Garlic - 1 clove
-Butter - 15 gr
- Lemon peel (untreated) - 1
- Fine salt
For the preparation of this dish, the risotto is toasted together with chopped carrots, onions and celery to enhance the taste. The meat of the perch is inserted at two different times to flavor the rice and ensure that the pieces of flesh do not lose their particular tenderness. When the cooking is almost complete, add the lemon zest that will give a pleasant citrus scent.

Main courses

Uccelli scappati

The uccelli scappati is a very characteristic meat dish in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto. These are basically skewers made by alternating cubes of bacon, sage leaves and meat rolls.uccelletti scappati
 
Ingredients and preparation
- Slices of loin (or veal rump)
- Sage leaves
- Butter
- Salt and pepper
- White wine
- Sliced bacon
Spread the slices of meat, put on a slice of bacon and a large sage leaf, roll and close with a toothpick. Melt the butter in a pan, brown the prepared meat, add salt and pepper and add half a glass of white wine. Allow the wine to evaporate, add half a glass of water, cover the pot and cook for about thirty minutes; remember to turn over the meat from time to time.
 
 

 

Polenta

Traditional polenta

In the past, polenta was eaten every day and cooked directly on the fire. There are countless recipes with hot polenta, with leftovers, cold with hot milk, toasted with eggs, toasted with cheese or, as a dessert, with sugar. Even the "Biscòtt de Ruunc" (Rongio cookies) were nothing but the crusts of the polenta scraped from the cauldron.. 

polenta valtellinese

 
Ingredients and preparation
- 500 grams of corn flour mixed with buckwheat flour
- 1.5 liters of water
- Salt
Before the water starts boiling, add salt and then add the flour slowly while mixing with a whisk so that it does not form lumps. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 45 minutes.

 
 
 
 

Polenta Uncia 

The Polenta uncia was an occasion for celebrating and socializing. A unique and delicious dish that everybody ate from the same pot. It was traditionally eaten while standing.

polenta uncia

Ingredients and preparation
- 1 kg of cornmeal mixed with buckwheat flour
- 400 gr of butter
- 2 kg of furmagèll
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 4-5 sage leaves
Put a cauldron with 3 liters of water on the stove; when this starts to boil, add the salt and then add very slowly 1 kg of cornmeal mixed with buckwheat flour (about 20%). Mix with a whisk to avoid lumps. Cook for about an hour stirring continuously with a wooden stick ("to beat the polenta").
Cut the furmagèll in slices and sauté 4 cloves of garlic in 400 g of butter with the addition of a little salt and some sage leaves.
 

The butter will be ready when it starts to foam, turning a beautiful golden-red color. Put in a pot alternating the polenta and the cheese and cover everything with hot butter.

Dessert

Meascia

The meascia is a typical dessert from Mandello that has many variants.
It was once cooked over the embers of the hearth with a special skillet made of tinned copper; the skillet was covered with a lid on which cob cores were placed together with little embers, and when the meascia was cooked, it was placed on a wooden plank, generally that of the polenta.
Since it is a traditional peasant recipe, ingredients and quantities were decided by eye and really depended on what was available at home.

miascia

Ingredients and preparation
- 1 cup of white flour
- 1 cup of yellow flour
- ½ glass of oil
- A pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- ½ liter of milk
- 1 apple
- 1 pear
- 1 handful of dried figs
- 1 handful of raisins
- Coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon of grappa (optional)
Mix the flours with sugar, salt, oil and a little milk. Mix adding the fruit into pieces, the dried fruit and eventually add more milk to mix the dough, which must be soft (but not liquid!). Pour into a pan previously greased with plenty of oil and covered with breadcrumbs. Put into the oven at 160 °C and cook for about 1 hour.

Paradell (paradello)

The paradell is a typical dessert and it can be either sweet or salty.

paradello1

Ingredients and preparation
- 1 cup of white flour
- 1 glass of water
- Salt
- Sugar
- Olive oil
Prepare a fairly liquid batter with flour, water and a pinch of salt. In a pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom, put on the stove at medium temperature and, when the oil is hot, add a ladle of dough and roast for a few minutes on both sides. As soon as golden brown, remove from the pan with a perforated scoop and place on absorbent paper on which a thick layer of sugar has been previously laid. The paradell can also be served without sugar. If you want, you can add apple and / or raisins to the dough.

Grigna cake 

The Grigna Cake originated from a recipe created at the beginning of the twentieth century, which tradition attributes to a pastry chef from Mandello. The traditional recipe is a well-kept secret.
 
Torta Grigna
Ingredients and preparation
- Flour - 220 gr
- Sugar - 220 gr
- Butter - 220 gr
- Eggs - 4
- Almonds (peeled and finely chopped) - 70 gr
- Hazelnuts (peeled and finely chopped) - 70 gr
- Lightly sweetened coffee - 3 cups
- Baking powder - 1 envelope
- Salt
- Icing sugar
Work the softened butter with the sugar to form a cream, using a wooden spoon. Incorporate the egg yolks to the mixture. In the meantime, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Mix the baking powder with the flour and add it gradually to the dough. Add the coffee, a pinch of salt, the almonds and the hazelnuts; then gently add the egg whites. Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured cake tin. Dust the surface of the cake with icing sugar. Finally, bake the Grigna Cake in the preheated oven at 170 °C for about 45 minutes.