Italian Cuisine- Introduction, Features, Recipes And What You Should Know?

 Italian Cuisine- A depth Guide & what You Should know

Cuisines reflect the cultural variety of countries and their diverse history affected by the civilization. Each country has its own cuisine that differs from other countries and represents the country's  traditions. In today's article I am going to talk about "Italian cuisine".

Italian cuisine is undoubtedly one of the best cuisine in the world which is characterized by it's great diversity just like Indian cuisine. The factor that has most influenced in Italian cuisine is it's history as Italy was continuously attacked/colonized and ruled by other countries and there was a high degree of fragmentation in the country. The whole country was divided into smaller states. We can see influence of Greek, Roman, Germany, French, Turkish, Slavic, Arabic and Chinese cuisines in Italian cuisine.

The differences in climate and land are seen greatly in Italy as it goes from the Alps(typical mountain climate), the Po Valley(continental climate), the hills of central(coastal areas) up to the southern regions and islands(temperate climate). These differences have an impact not only on the available raw material but also on processed products.

Most people's common idea/perception of Italian cuisine is a combination of tortellini, minestrone, pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna. But, If you visit Italy with such an narrow view of Italian cuisine, you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of food that the Italians eat. The reason for this variety is simple. Italy has nineteen regions, each with its distinct cuisine. In addition, Italian cuisine changes according to the seasons. Fresh ingredients are of utmost importance in an Italian kitchen. As a result, you will discover that the summer cuisine is different from the winter cuisine with each region its unique style of cooking featuring local vegetables and animal products.

So, Don't limit your ideas of Italian cuisine to a few dishes of spaghetti and meatball. Italian cuisine is rich and complex. Many people are also under the misconception that the Italians use an over abundance of spices in their food. However, Italians use spices only to enhance the natural flavour of particular dishes. Moreover, the nature of Italian food depends on the seasons, and due to this, Italians do not depend heavily on the use of spices. Their meats, pastas, and sauces usually have a fresh flavour of their own. 

Though, Italy has nineteen regions, each with its distinct cuisine, we can distinguish Italian cuisine into North and South.

  • North Italian Cuisine

Usually, people are familiar with the part of Italian cuisine that is typical of north Italy. All the heavy dishes loaded with cheese and rich sauce comes from this region.

- They prefer unsalted butter instead of olive oil, and make use of cream, polenta, risotto, and Mascarpone cheese.

- They are into hearty soups during winter. 

- They have veal, beef, and pork as preferred meat choices, because of a good cattle breed in their region, fit for milk and meat production.

- They use less tomato and prefer fresh egg pasta.

- Cooking style is from frying and boiling through stewing and slow braising.

- Their cooks prefer to use broth or wine as liquid base, while adding herbs for good flavor.

- Apart from ducks and other bird species, they also have a wide variety of fish, shells, and other sea foods, ranging from eels, to clams and mussels, and to freshwater fishes.

  • South Italian Cuisine

The cuisine of south Italy is different. The people of south Italy use more fish in their diet. This variant of this Italian cuisine is named "Mediterranean food."

South Italian dishes are lighter and healthier. Due to their food habits. One of the factors that makes south Italian diet so healthy is the use of olive oil in most of their dishes. Spices are less used in southern cuisine when compared with northern cuisine. Similarly,The north use more butters and creams while the south more tomato and olive oil.

- They make use of larger amounts of tomatoes, as opposed to the Northern cuisine, which makes use of red as their preferred sauce, and eggplants. Tomatoes and eggplants are considered summer vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower are winter vegetables.

- They prefer to use dried pasta rather than the egg pasta of the North.

- Lamb and kid are necessary choices in their daily diet, as they are known for shepherding. Nevertheless, cattle and fish are still part of their dishes. In other areas, fish is even the dominating choice.

- They also have excellent cheese.Mozarella cheese for example.

Milan is famous for their risotto, while Naples seems to have perfected the authentic Italian pizza recipe. The coastal regions are heavy on their use of fish and seafood on their recipes while Sicily cuisine has North African influence.

Moreover, Italian cuisine depends heavily on some basic ingredients that have become key to Italian cuisine like bread, pasta, wine, olive, cheese. Italian cuisine is usually easy to cook and has variety of vegetable options. High priority is given on the use of fresh, seasonal products. Moreover, many dishes have only two to four main ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation like other cuisine. 

Italian Traditional Menu

A traditional Italian meal consists of:

1. Antipasto : They are Hot or cold appetizers. Literally it means "before the pasta"; and consists of a varied combination of colorful foods. The most popular ingredients are melon or tomatoes served with prosciutto cut into very thin slices.

2. Primo ("first course"): usually consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta or soup. There are usually many vegetarian options. There are also many types of pasta, each type usually named after its shape with common types including spirali (spirals), farfalle (butterflies; sometimes described as 'bow-tie-shaped'). Penne (hollow tubes) and conchiglie (shells). Different shapes are supposed to be better with the different types of sauces. Spirals are used with the heavier sauces, such as those containing minced meat and vegetables.

3. Secondo ("second course"): The main dish, usually fish or meat (pasta is never the main course of a meal). Traditionally veal is the most widely used meat, at least in the North, although beef has become more popular since World War II.

4. Contorno ("side dish"): May consist of a salad or vegetables. A traditional menu features salad after the main course. Common vegetables are beans (greens and pulses), potatoes (often sautéed), and carrots as well as salads.

5. Dolce ("dessert"): The cakes and cookies course Italians produce many sweet desserts and sweet treats.

6. Caffè ("coffee"): Espresso

7. Digestive (liqueurs): which may be grappa, amaro or Limon cello.

Famous Italian Dishes 

Italian Pasta Recipes: All Italians love pasta and they practically eat it every day. Many times they eat it twice a day, for lunch and breakfast. The reason for this love is because Italians have created such a large variety of pasta shapes that can be accompanied by a very wide variety of sauces and condiments that can literally satisfy the desires of everyone in the family. Of course Spaghetti by far may be the most popular pasta cut, but many others are quickly catching up. Lasagna, Ravioli, Rigatoni, Tortellini are just a few that should be mentioned.

Italian Fish Recipes: It is no secret that Italy is a country surrounded by water and therefore it has access to a large quantity and a large variety of fish. More interestingly, Italian fish has also a more distinct flavor. On every menu for sure there is a long list of fish dishes prepared in a wide variety of ways.

Italian Meat Recipes: Even though in Italy meat was considered a rich people food, many Italians, especially those that lived in farms, would grow their own animals and thus have access to meat as well. It was not unusual for those families to raise a pig and once butchered, every single part of the animal would be used to create a food product: Prosciutto, salami, pig feet, etc.. However, in line with the Mediterranean Diet, meat is not consumed in large quantities, it is only consumed in few and special occasions.

Italian Chicken Recipes: Chicken by Italians and everyone else, is considered to be an excellent meat both because it is very lean and also because it is inexpensive. Chickens in the Italian cuisine are very widely used as they can be prepared in many different ways. Perhaps the most popular and easy to make chicken dish is Chicken alla Cacciatore.

Vegetable Recipes: Vegetables play a large role in the Italian Cuisine. This is because many families would have their own garden and could grow their own vegetables, but also because vegetables have been integrated in many dishes including pasta

PIZZA

Every one loves pizza. Modern pizza has evolved from pizzas made by peasants in Naples. In ancient times many civilizations created dishes of flat bread with various herbs and toppings. As a staple for the poor, it was a matter of necessity that food could be eaten without utensils, and that the 'plate' it was served on could be eaten as well. They made a bread crust from flour, water and yeast and topped it with olive oil, herbs, cheeses, sometimes even leftovers, and baked the whole thing in a stone oven. 

Tomatoes reached Italy by way of Spain in the early 1500s but were thought to be poisonous. It was several decades later that tomatoes topped a flatbread in the form of a pizza sauce and made pizza even more popular. 

Types of Italian coffee

Italian Style Coffee is very famous, known also as espresso, a concentrated coffee prepared by forcing boiling water through finely ground coffee beans at high pressure. It is usually served in small amount. Cappuccino is mixed or topped with steamed, mostly foamy, milk. It is generally considered a morning drink. Caffe latte is usually equal parts of espresso and steamed milk and is typically served in a large cup.



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