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Behind The Most Popular Cuisine

When you think of Italy, it is likely that your mind wanders first to pasta or pizza, or perhaps their bold and crisp wines and delicious pastries. One thing is for certain– Italians do not mess around when it comes to food. Cuisine is one of the biggest ways that Italians take pride in their culture, and they have a widespread reputation to show for it.

Dynamic Elements

From the early Middle Ages, Italy has been split into 20 different republics, each featuring their own unique cooking styles. Each region proudly features a unique cuisine. Naples, a coastal town in central Italy, is the birthplace of pizza. Farms in central Italy produce plenty of notorious cheeses and meats, while the higher altitudes in mountainous regions in the north lay host to sprawling vineyards, producing some of the finest wines in Europe. While Italy is not necessarily the largest country in Europe, it makes up for its size with one of the most iconic and far-reaching cuisines in the world.

Fresh and Powerful

You can always count on high-quality when eating authentic Italian food. If the ingredients aren’t fresh, Italians don’t want them. Produce especially is more likely to be sourced fresh rather than canned or preserved. Tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, basil, garlic and capers are the most popular home-grown ingredients used in many Italian recipes. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or wine tends to act as a base. When in doubt, Italians tend to stick to the following reliable medley of ingredients in order to create a that quintessential Italian flavor: one thing sour (balsamic vinegar), one thing spicy (red pepper), one thing savory (an herb such as oregano or basil), and one thing “clever” (tomato or fennel).

The tastes of Italy are often impacted as much by the methods as it is the ingredients. Pasta is typically made on the spot, kneaded, shaped and then boiled. Most meats are pot roasted or braised. Most notable, however, is the pizza. This Italian staple is down to a science that only a professional pizza chef, or pizzaiolo, has mastered. Hand kneaded dough is topped with fresh ingredients and placed in a wood-fired oven for a few short minutes. The result is a delicious and traditional style pizza, with a slightly charred crust, melted cheese, and perfectly warm toppings.

Italians place an emphasis on familial bonds, so meals are typically shared with loved ones. Something to be savored, a traditional Italian meal consists of five courses: Antipasto or “before the meal” (small bites such as cheeses, olives, vegetables, or the like), Primo (the first course of risotto, soup, or pasta), secondo (a simple, often meat based course), contorno (the side dish to the secondo, often served at the same time and the dolce (dessert). When enjoying a traditional Italian meal, take note– mixing various dishes on one plate is not proper, and that includes spaghetti and meatballs.

Amiable Geography

This country may seem small, but the climate varies greatly from the northern part of the nation to the south. Surrounded by sea and boasting high and low altitudes alike, Italy has many notable resources that play a role in what is eaten and where. Surrounded by the Mediterranean sea and close with neighboring countries such as France, Austria, and Yugoslavia, Italy has been incredibly fortunate to develop a complex, inspired range of cuisine.  You likely cannot go to a major city in the western world and not come across at least a few Italian restaurants. Pasta, Pizza, and other staple Italian seafood or meat dishes are some of the most popular and renowned foods in the world. As immigrants from Italy began to step foot onto American soil in 1870, the Italian-American population has increased rapidly, as has the love and reputation of this culture’s food. While the west has adopted and modified many of these recipes and cooking methods, nothing compares to that authentic Italian taste.

Countries in Region Split into 20 regions, 110 provinces
Population 59.55 million
Regional Flavor Profiles Fresh, Herbal, Earthy
Featured Flavors