Italian cuisine is food typical of Italy. It has developed through centuries of social and economic changes, with roots stretching to antiquity. Significant changes occurred with the colonization of the Americas and the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, maize and sugar beet, this last introduced in quantity in the 18th century. Italian cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and the south of the Italian peninsula. It offers an abundance of taste, and is one of the most popular and copied in the world. It influenced several cuisines around the world, chiefly that of the United States. Italian cuisine is generally characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only two to four main ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated with variations throughout the country.
Which Region Is The Best?
- Marche-On the coast of Marche, fish and seafood are produced. Inland, wild and domestic pigs are used for sausages and hams. These hams are not thinly sliced, but cut into bite-sized chunks. Suckling pig, chicken, and fish are often stuffed with rosemary or fennel fronds and garlic before being roasted or placed on the spit. Ascoli, Marche's southernmost province, is well known for olive all'ascolana, (stoned olives stuffed with several minced meats, egg, and Parmesan, then fried). Another well-known Marche product are the Maccheroncini di Campofilone, from little town of Campofilone, a kind of hand-made pasta made only of hard grain flour and eggs, cut so thin that melts in one's mouth.
- Emilia-Romagna-Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pasta made with soft wheat flour. The Romagna subregion is renowned for pasta dishes like cappelletti, garganelli, strozzapreti, sfoglia lorda, and tortelli alla lastra as well as cheeses such as squacquerone, Piadina snacks are also a specialty of the subregion. In the Emilia subregion, except Piacenza which is heavily influenced by the cuisines of Lombardy, rice is eaten to a lesser extent. Polenta, a maize-based dish, is common in both Emilia and Romagna. Bologna and Modena are notable for pasta dishes like tortellini, lasagne, gramigna, and tagliatelle which are found also in many other parts of the region in different declinations. The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made only in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, and Bologna and is often used in cooking. Grana Padano cheese is produced in Piacenza.
- Sicily-Sicily shows traces of all the cultures which established themselves on the island over the last two millennia. Although its cuisine undoubtedly has a predominantly Italian base, Sicilian food also has Spanish, Greek and Arab influences. Dionysus is said to have introduced wine to the region: a trace of historical influence from Ancient Greece. The ancient Romans introduced lavish dishes based on goose. The Byzantines favored sweet and sour flavors and the Arabs brought sugar, citrus, rice, spinach, and saffron. The Normans and Hohenstaufens had a fondness for meat dishes. The Spanish introduced items from the New World including chocolate, maize, turkey, and tomatoes. Much of the island's cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, as well as fish such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of various couscous based dishes, usually combined with fish. Mint is used extensively in cooking unlike the rest of Italy. Traditional specialties from Sicily include arancini (a form of deep-fried rice croquettes), pasta alla Norma, caponata, pani ca meusa, and a host of desserts and sweets such as cannoli, granita, and cassata.
- Tuscany-Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, and fresh fruit are used. A good example of typical Tuscan food is ribollita, a notable soup whose name literally means "reboiled". Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins. Ribollita was originally made by reheating (i.e. reboiling) the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, beans, silverbeet, cavolo nero (Tuscan kale), onion, and olive oil. A regional Tuscan pasta known as pici resembles thick, grainy-surfaced spaghetti, and is often rolled by hand. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. High-quality beef, used for the traditional Florentine steak, come from the Chianina cattle breed of the Chiana Valley and the Maremmana from Maremma. Pork is also produced. The region is well-known also for its rich game, especially wild boar, hare, fallow deer, roe deer, and pheasant that often are used to prepare pappardelle dishes. Regional desserts include panforte (prepared with honey, fruits, and nuts), ricciarelli (biscuits made using an almond base with sugar, honey, and egg white), and cavallucci (cookies made with almonds, candied fruits, coriander, flour, and honey). Well-known regional wines include Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Parrina, Sassicaia, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
- Campania-Campania extensively produces tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, potatoes, artichokes, fennel, lemons, and oranges which all take on the flavor of volcanic soil. The Gulf of Naples offers fish and seafood. Campania is one of the largest producers and consumers of pasta in Italy, especially spaghetti. In the regional cuisine, pasta is prepared in various styles that can feature tomato sauce, cheese, clams, and shellfish. Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a popular dish made with olives, tomatoes, anchovies, capers, chili peppers, and garlic. The region is well-known also for its mozzarella production (especially from the milk of water buffalo) that's used in a variety of dishes, including parmigiana (shallow fried eggplant slices layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked). Desserts include struffoli (deep fried balls of dough), ricotta-based pastiera and sfogliatelle, and rum-dipped babà. Originating in Neapolitan cuisine, pizza has become popular in many different parts of the world. Pizza is an oven-baked, flat, disc-shaped bread typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese (usually mozzarella), and various toppings depending on the culture. Since the original pizza, several other types of pizzas have evolved. Since Naples was the capital of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, its cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of all the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients (pasta, vegetables, cheese) and seafood dishes (fish, crustaceans, mollusks). A vast variety of recipes is influenced by the local aristocratic cuisine, like timballo and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while the dishes coming from the popular traditions contain inexpensive but nutritionally healthy ingredients, like pasta with beans and other pasta dishes with vegetables.
From the Italian perspective, cookies and candy belong to the same category of sweets. Traditional candies include candied fruits, torrone, and nut brittles, all of which are still popular in the modern era. In medieval times, northern Italy became so famous for the quality of its stiff fruit pastes (similar to marmalade or conserves, except stiff enough to mold into shapes) that "Paste of Genoa" became a generic name for high-quality fruit conserves. Silver-coated almond dragées, which are called confetti, are thrown at weddings. The idea of including a romantic note with candy may have begun with Italian dragées, no later than the early 19th century, and is carried on with the multilingual love notes included in boxes of Italy's most famous chocolate, Baci by Perugina in Milan. The most significant chocolate style is a combination of hazelnuts and milk chocolate, which is featured in gianduja pastes like Nutella, which is made by Ferrero SpA in Alba, Piedmont, as well as Perugnia's Baci and many other chocolate confections.
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