Italian food is very popular and can be found in most restaurants, bars and cafes around the world. Often the simplicity of the recipe mixed with the full flavours means Italian food is perfect for any occasion. Although true Italian foods are very diverse, here we are going to take you on a journey to Italy and focus on the 5 most popular Italian foods.
Everyone knows about pizza! Kids love it, adults love it and it has become a globally accessible dish. Pizza is a national food of Italy and the Italian people love it. Pizza is a simple recipe but has so many variations and styles that it has become one of the most popular foods in the world. Basic pizza is a freshly made bread base with tomato sauce and cheese topping. You can add just about any food topping you like to pizzas, everything from pesto, ham and onion to mushrooms, sausage and spinach.
Although you can buy frozen pizza in most supermarkets you can’t beat an authentic freshly made pizza from Italy. In Italian restaurants, pizza can be baked in an oven with stone bricks above the heat source or a wood-fired brick oven. On deck ovens, the pizza can be slid into the oven on a long paddle, called a peel, and baked directly on the hot bricks.
Pasta is another Italian food that offers a wealth of options bringing it such a variety of dishes, many of which are famous in different areas of the country. Northern Italy is fond of its pesto and Bolognese versions whilst central Italy prefer their tomato and carbonara pasta dishes.
Essentially pasta is made from dough and can be formed into many different shapes and sizes such as spaghetti (thin strings), macaroni (tubes or cylinders), fusilli (swirls), and lasagne (sheets). Gnocchi and spätzle are sometimes considered pasta; they are both traditional in parts of Italy.
As with pizza, pasta is the core part of the recipe but can be combined with many different types of food such as various meats, cheeses, herbs and sauces.
Lasagne is a wide, flat pasta that t is typically served in alternating layers with cheese, a sauce, and often other ingredients such as meat sauce, or vegetables. Typical of the central cuisine of Italy, many regional variations exist. In some areas, especially in the southern regions of Italy, the sauce is likely to be a simple tomato sauce and ragù, whereas in other areas such as Northern Italy, a Béchamel sauce is used. Lasagna has become a popular dish in other parts of the world. Lasagne Verdi means “green lasagne” and is pasta that incorporates cooked spinach.
A very popular Italian dish is the minestrone soup. This soup makes excellent use of one of the most popular ingredients in Italian food – beans. Beans are widely used in Italian food and are the featured ingredient in many soups, not just the minestrone. Together with beans, nuts are another popular ingredient. The main nut preferred for Italian food is the pine nut which is used to not only flavour pasta dishes, but also as a main ingredient in popular desserts. But, the most common and popular use of the nuts is in pesto sauce. Nothing says Italian food like a good pesto sauce.
Another popular Italian food ingredient is rice. By far the most popular use for this ingredient is in the signature Italian food dish of risotto. Here rice is mixed with broth, vegetables and spices to make a very creamy and flavorful dish. The broth may be meat-based, fish-based, or vegetable-based; many kinds include parmesan cheese, butter, and onion. Risotto is widely known as the most popular appetizer in Italian food and different regions take great pride in their individual risottos. Rice is also used in many different soups and stews throughout Italy.
There are many food ingredients worth mentioning that Italy has become famous for such as olive oil, breads and pastries. Breads serve an important role in Italian food. They can be used as appetizers, sides to a meal, and desserts. The most popular breads are flavoured with herbs, cheeses, and sun-dried tomatoes. An excellent dessert bread in Italian food is the biscotti which means “twice-baked”. This popular dessert is more like a biscuit or cookie and is often flavoured with almonds and spices. Fruit can be added to the biscotti and a popular choice is cherries.
There is much more to Italian food than just pasta and sauce. Italian food is a cuisine of wonderful taste and diversity. When you visit Italy try to sample the local dishes to get a flavour(!) of what real Italian food is like. Nothing is like tucking into a real Italian meal with a nice glass of wine. You just can’t beat authentic Italian food.
Tuscan Dawn – Wall print courtesy of Fotoviva Art Prints