Food is certainly one of the highlights of your trip to Matera and Southern Italy in general.
The Basilicata Region is a place where food is genuine, where sun dried tomatoes are still actually dried in the sun and Slow Food is still very slow. Dishes are made with only the freshest local ingredients and prepared following ancient recipes. The peasant traditions of Matera and the surrounding regions like Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Abbruzzo, have given light to dishes that often make use of ingredients that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Local favourites include legume soups or ‘zuppe’ like that made from cicerchie (a hybrid between a fava bean and chick pea); fresh wild chicory served on pureed fava beans or the famous Peperoni di Senise - red peppers that are dried, then fried and salted and used as seasoning for several dishes. You may want to try the sweet Majatica Olives from Ferrandina (in the province of Matera) that are eaten without curing, rather fried and salted or the famous Beans from Sarconi, wild mushrooms or our very own variety of Tartufo (truffle), a lot less expensive than that coming from Piedmont and the northern parts of Italy.
Fresh meat is scarce on typical menus, it is easier to find a Pignata, a mutton stew that gets cooked in a traditional tall earthenware pot covered with a layer of bread dough to close it and form a kind of pressure cooker. The dish is left to simmer for several hours in a wood burning oven. Pork sausages can also be found on several menus. The typical Salsicce Lucane are seasoned with fennel seeds and often a touch of peperoncino, a fiery chilli pepper found in several shapes and sizes, that give a hot and spicy edge to almost anything. At restaurants all meals are served with Pane di Matera, typically oven baked bread made with durum wheat flour. It has a very hard crust and is a light yellow colour inside and believe me, it is quite addictive!