Italian food is always associated with comfort, familiarity, and casual dining.
It conveys emotions and a contagious passion for life.
Many Italians value the quality of the meal as much as the company they share it with. Long tables seated with family and friends, enjoying each course while talking animated across the table, might sound like a cliché. In fact, scenes like this can be witnessed all over Italy at any mealtime.
Eating is a very sociable event, and this is reflected in Italian cuisine.
Most Italian recipes use only a handful of fresh and quality ingredients, and the result is sophisticated simplicity.
Pesto is one of those examples. The original Ligurian (Italian) recipe includes just basil, garlic, oil, grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and some salt. All these local ingredients are pounded into an aromatic sauce for dipping salads, bread, pasta, or soups. Simple but impossible to improve!
Italy has many distinct regions with a diverse range of local dishes and specialties.
Northern Italian recipes tend to use more butter, potatoes, rice (risotto), semolina (polenta), fresh pasta, sausages (mortadella), fish (fresh and dried), meat (pork, veal), and many varieties of cheese.
The further one goes South the more you will encounter olive oil, various vegetables (especially tomato, eggplant, zucchini), seafood, hard cheeses (parmesan, grana padano, pecorino), truffles, cured meats (parma ham, prosciutto) and, of course, pizza.
When you arrive at the bottom of the Italian boot the scenery has changed as well as the food.
As part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, many Southern Italian recipes include plenty of vegetables, olive oil, seafood, fish (tuna, anchovies, sardines), dried pasta, fresh cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta), and many citrus fruits.
The absolute champion of Italian food is pasta. There are 310 recognized shapes and many more local varieties. You probably heard of spaghetti, lasagne, macaroni or tagliatelle but what about casarecce, stringozzi or ziti?
In Italy pasta is divided into a dry version (pasta secca) and a fresh version (pasta fresca). The majority is made from durum wheat and water (dry), but eggs are added to produce fresh pasta (for tortellini or ravioli for example). Each region has their unique tradition in pasta production and ingredients vary throughout the country.
There is some pasta-variation required for nearly all Italian recipes, usually cooked ‘al dente.’ It means ‘with a bite’ and not soggy and overcooked.
Today pasta is probably available in all countries around the globe.
No other cuisine has been copied, replicated and bastardized more often than Italian.
Every Italian immigrant brought their favorite food to the new countries. With their particular style of cooking and the passion for their culinary heritage, they changed eating habits and food cultures forever.
When the pizza was introduced to the New World at the end of the 19th century, who could have predicted the global triumph of this humble dish?
When you create one of the following dishes, always remember that Italian cooking is as much about good food as it is about enjoying life.