But, even if you won’t be able to wander the aisles of the local supermercado in person, I’ve done a little shopping for you, and I’m giving a supermarket souvenir prize pack away to one lucky reader! A link to the giveaway is located at the end of this post.
Let’s start with the obvious – pasta. An Italian grocery store is full of all kinds of great noodle shapes in various sizes. I wouldn’t suggest wasting luggage weight on plain ol’ penne, so look for something that’s made regionally, such as pici. If you peek in the kiddie aisle, you’ll notice several types of pasta made just for babies and toddlers!
You’ll need to dress up those carbs somehow, and you’ll find an assortment of gourmet pasta sauces in the next aisle. But remember, most Italians make their own (and you can too!), so you may be better off carting home a few tins of San Marzano tomatoes.
And, while we’re on the subject of making your own, find the flour aisle and look for Farina Tipo 00. This is one of the two kinds of flour that Italians use to make pasta and pizza (the other is semolina, but I wouldn’t bother making room for it in your luggage since it’s more readily available outside of Italy). For a fun gift idea, pick up a pizza dough mix like the one above and an Italian-style rolling pin.
Mmmmmm, cheese! Okay, this isn’t going to make it home in your suitcase, but I highly recommend trying some Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese. I must warn you, however, that it’s not cheap. Doc Sci found this big block with major sticker shock – 82 euros!
Let’s talk liquids. Realistically, you won’t be lugging any five-liter bottles of olive oil home in your checked luggage. But, if you’re driving or are able to wrap up a smaller bottle carefully, I’d highly recommend purchasing a bit of true Italian extra virgin olive oil. Olives in tins are a bit more manageable for air travel.
I’m sure I don’t even have to mention that it’s imperative to give the local wines a try. If you can’t cart any home, just share a bottle in your hotel room. If you’re clueless about wine like I am, look for a bottle that bears the name of a hill town you’ve explored.
Moving on to sweets… These Pan di Stelle cookies were a big hit with our family. If chocolate star cookies with sprinkles aren’t your thing, you’ll still find something tasty to try. The cookie aisle is as big as the pasta aisle!
Never heard of pizelles? Don’t worry, you’re probably more familiar with biscotti (or cantucci as they’re known in Tuscany). The most traditional type is made with almonds, but the chocolate chunk variety is delicious as well.
Need some coffee to go with all those cookies? Pick up some espresso powder, or try orzo. Wait, whaaaaat is that? It’s a hot drink made from toasted barley that Italians often serve to their children since it contains no caffeine. Some orzo can be made like coffee or espresso (in a machine or with a filter). Other types are instant (look for solubile). If you’re staying in a villa or vacation rental, grab a few pints of the local gelato and throw a tasting party. Fancy schmancy toppings can be found near the ice cream in the freezer section and should make it all the way home without melting.
If five liters of olive oil just isn’t a realistic souvenir for you, check out the many olive oil products available. Italians literally bathe in the stuff. I’ve seen bar soap, hand soap, dish soap, body wash, lotion, etc. made with olive oil. Just check to make sure you like the fragrance first!
And now for that giveaway I mentioned…
Can’t make it to Italy any time soon, but want to try some Italian supermarket souvenirs? I’m giving away an Italian not-exactly-coffee break! Click here for details.
But first, let me know in the comments, what Italian supermarket souvenirs would you like to take home?