Italian cuisine has been one of the best-loved styles of cooking for thousands of years for many different reasons. Throughout history, Italian dishes have combined not just the best local ingredients but the best exotic ingredients as well. This cuisine has evolved into various regional sub-styles of cooking, coming together to create a menu unlike any other in the world. Easily adaptable and uncomplicated to prepare, Italian food is a combination of both simple comfort food and gourmet dining.
A Love Of Food
It’s no real secret – Italians love food! They love to eat it and love the effort of preparing and serving delicious creations for others to enjoy. Throughout the various regions Italy, cooking has always been taken very seriously. It is considered to be one of its greatest cultural contributions to the world, right alongside the many other forms of art that have originated in Italy.
Different Regional Ideas and Tastes
Since the first documented recipes thousands of years ago, the people of Italy have used the ingredients available to them in their own regions to prepare both new and traditional dishes. The results are a variety of ingredients and cooking styles that still represent those various regions today. Following are types of Italian food traditional to each of these regions.
Northern – In the north, the food is simple and satisfying. Home to some of the best pasta and risotto dishes, this region is fairly diverse as its borders neighbor other countries where different tastes and ingredients are popular. Dairy, pasta, and meat are the staples of this region. The north is also famous for its cheeses. Traditionally, wheat, corn, barley, certain nuts, mushrooms and truffles are grown in this area; livestock is also raised here. Dishes vary, the mainstay being pasta or rice, cheese and dairy, heavier sauces, and frequently beef, lamb and ox.
Western – Western cuisine generally includes less dairy and is comprised largely of fish and vegetables. Fresh produce such as tomatoes, olives, greens, herbs, beans, chestnuts, and other nuts – and the products made with them – are staples. These Italian food dishes include tuna, cod, octopus, anchovies, and other ocean fish. Polenta and pastas are made of chickpeas rather than wheat, as it does not grow well in the region. Sauces are lighter and more tomato-based.
Eastern – Influenced in part by bordering countries to the north, the eastern region uses some dairy and cheeses with the addition of freshwater fish, pork, cured ham, and local wines. The southeast is a vast fruit and vegetable-producing area with hot peppers a specialty, so many local dishes are quite spicy. Pasta, meat, and wine make up the bulk of the menu, although there is much influence from the south. Tomato-based sauces and vegetables served in a wide variety of ways are common.
Southern – The southern half of Italy is a treasure trove of tastes and styles since there is the ability to grow, raise and catch just about any ingredient needed by local cooks. Much of the traditional Italian food current recognized is from this area. This is the wine region and the area with the most concentrated diversity as it borrows from the other three areas, lending its own flair through locally grown ingredients. While beef and larger livestock are not as prevalent, there is still a variety of meat, dairy and eggs, making the south a true culinary paradise that is also influenced by other Mediterranean cooking styles.
If simply reading this makes your mouth water, then we have accomplished our goal! With a variety of ingredients and the intermingling of techniques, there is no doubt that Italian food is some of the best cuisine available. Rich in history and flavor, there is much more to this style of cooking than just spaghetti and marinara sauce. Step outside of the proverbial pizza box and try something from a different region today. Excite the taste buds and have a unique worldly dining experience!