Italian cuisine is widely recognised as one of the world’s most delicious and diverse culinary traditions. From mouth-watering pasta dishes to incredible pizzas, hearty risottos to refreshing salads, Italian food has something for everyone. In this article, we will explore the history and key characteristics of Italian cuisine.
A Little History
Italian cuisine has its roots in the ancient Roman Empire. The Romans were skilled at creating sauces and combining different ingredients to create unique dishes. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Italian cuisine evolved through the influence of various cultures, including the Arabs, Normans, and Spanish. By the 18th century, regional Italian cuisines had developed, and many of the dishes we know and love today, such as pizza and pasta, became popular.
One of the hallmarks of Italian cuisine is its emphasis on fresh and simple, high-quality ingredients. Olive oil, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and oregano are common ingredients used in many Italian dishes. Italian chefs also love to cook with cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, as well as the vast array of cheeses including Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina and Ricotta.
Perhaps the most famous Italian dish is pasta, which comes in hundreds of different shapes and sizes. Spaghetti, penne, fettuccine, and lasagna are some of the most popular types of pasta. Italians typically cook pasta ‘al dente’, which means it is firm to the bite. Pasta is often served with a variety of home made sauces, including arrabbiata, pesto and seafood.
Who doesn’t love pizza? Originating in Naples, traditional Neapolitan pizza features a thicker crust, and is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Roman pizza has a much thinner crispier base. Each region has it’s typical toppings but don’t expect to find pineapple on a pizza in Italy!
Risotto is a classic Italian dish made with Arborio or Carnaroli rice grown in the North of Italy. The rice is cooked slowly with broth until it becomes creamy and tender. The most common variation of risotto is made with saffron but other ingredients, such as mushrooms, seafood or simple vegetables such as peas or asparagus can also be added.
Italian cuisine is also known for its delicious desserts. Tiramisu, a coffee-flavoured dessert made with ladyfinger biscuits and mascarpone cheese, is one of the most famous Italian desserts. Every region has a range of typical desserts including cannoli, a tube-shaped pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese from Sicily, and Baba’ a rum soaked cake made in Naples.
Italian cuisine is a diverse and delicious culinary tradition that has influenced food culture around the world. From pasta and pizza to risotto and desserts, Italian food has something for everyone. Whether you’re dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant or a cozy trattoria, Italian cuisine is sure to satisfy your taste buds.