Italian food (or cuisine) has developed significantly over the years and has roots back to fourth century BCE. Italian food is not completely unique however and takes many influences from other cuisines including: Etruscan, ancient Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and even Arab cuisines. Prior to the discovery of the new world and the unification of Italy, ingredients such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and maize were hardly ever used and are now considered to be a very important part of the food in Italy. There is much regional diversity in Italian cuisine – so you can enjoy different types of food in all parts of Italy. Italian food is known to be one of the most popular cuisines in the world and because of this it has influenced many other cuisines abroad.
Italian cuisine is mainly characterized by simplicity – many dishes are prepared using only four to eight ingredients. Most Italian cooks prefer to focus on the quality of the ingredients rather than on intricate food preparation. Most dishes and even recipes are inherited from older family members and this makes most Italian foods ideal for home cooking. Even though Italy offers a variety of different foods based on the region, many regional dishes have thrived nationally with few variations to cooking style. When it comes to ingredients, even to this day, cheese and wine continue to be an integral part of food in Italy. In more recent years, coffee (espresso to be more specific) has become a very important part of Italian food.
Food in Italy has a wide variety of different ingredients including: fruits, vegetables, sauces, meats, etc. In Northern Italy, fish, potatoes, rice, maize, corn, sausages, pork and several different types of cheeses are very common ingredients – although this is diversified when it comes to regional cuisines. Southern Italy however relies on the heavy use of tomatoes, peppers, olives, garlic, artichokes, oranges, ricotta cheese, eggplants, and zucchini in their cuisine. Central Italian cuisine (traditional) also uses tomatoes, meats, fish, and pecorino cheese – therefore cheese, fish and tomatoes are an integral part of almost any Italian regional cuisine.
If you didn’t know already, Italians love pasta – in fact, the average Italian consumes about 25 kg of pasta every year – that’s a whole lot of pasta. The Italians don’t limit themselves to one type of pasta but instead prepare dishes with a wide variety of pastas. Pasta encompasses noodles in various lengths, widths and shapes – some names you may recognize are: spaghetti, linguine, fusilli and lasagna.
Each region of Italy features its own specialty dishes – and the differences are characterized by bordering nations, distance from the sea or mountains, and the economics of that region. Of course, since Italian chefs prefer to work with the highest quality ingredients, Italian cuisine is also seasonal with great priority on the use of fresh produce. So, whether you are in Italy or any other part of the world, you can surely enjoy Italian cuisine – whether it is at a restaurant or in the comforts of your own home.