Is there anything better than sitting down to a nice bowl of pasta cooked al dente with a delicate sauce or a perfectly sautéed piece of fish with a light butter sauce? Not if you are a lover of Italian food and who isn’t?
Most of us have incorporated Italian recipes into our family meals even if we have only visited Italy in our dreams.
When tucking into to your pizza, lasagne or ravioli have you ever stopped to think where the recipe came from? Here is a roundup of some of the best Italian delicacies and the beautiful regions they come from.
Northern Italian Dishes
Rather than using olive oil like the rest of the country, Northern Italian dishes tend to use unsalted butter. The focus here eases off some forms of flat pasta and instead focuses on polenta and risotto and in the cooler winter month’s rich warming soups.
While Campagnia in the south may be the source of many of our favourite dishes such as pizza, Emilia Romagna in the north is home to many of our favourite ingredients. Lambrusco, Prosciutto and Parmigiano are all produced in this area. Fellow Italians consider the people of Emilia Romagna to be the best at making fresh pasta, tagliatelle, sheets for lasagne and stuffed tortellini in particular.
If you head to Liguria, a particularly rugged area of Northern Italy you will find the home of ravioli. Most of the original recipes are vegetarian, using green vegetables and ricotta cheese and simple sauces such as pesto.
Southern Italian Dishes
Southern Italy is a region of extremes. Whilst it is home to some of the richest areas in the country it is also home to some of the very poorest and its dishes show both extremes. In southern Italy, dried pasta is more popular than the egg pasta used in the North and central areas. Since the growing season in the south is longer due to the hotter weather, vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli and cauliflower are popular in many dishes.
The region of Campania is home to one of the most popular dishes in the world. Because of the large number of Neapolitans who emigrated in the 19th and 20th century’s, taking their Pizza recipes with them, Pizza has become popular everywhere. Pizza indeed originates here as do many durum wheat based pastas such as spaghetti and the tomato based sauces that commonly accompany them.
If you visit the region of Puglia, you are sure to notice the many olive groves here, which play a large part in the traditional dishes of the region. Cheeses and lamb also feature heavily in Puglian dishes and for those with a sweet tooth the area produces fantastic almond cakes and delicious fresh fruit particularly figs.
The islands of Sardinia and Sicily have very different food from that of the Italian mainland. Although both islands share the fact that they are separate from the rest of the country that is where their similarities both historically and gastronomically end.
Sicilian cuisine is particularly sophisticated and is one of Italy’s most diverse. They use ingredients and cooking methods originating from the many nationalities of civilizations that have invaded, visited and settled in Sicily. These dishes have been passed down from generation to generation.
Different areas of Sicily have different influences. In Syracuse and Ragusa chefs are influenced by Greek cooking, in Trapani which faces North Africa, fish is popular – in particular fish couscous.
In Sardinia you would be excused for thinking that fish plays a predominate role on the menu since it is an island. However as Sardinians historically associated the sea as a source of invaders they turned their backs on fishing and instead turned to farming. Meat is particularly popular – roast lamb, pork, suckling pig and goats cheese feature heavily in dishes. Pane Carasau originates here, a crisp flatbread enjoyed with cheese and sauces that was initially designed for shepards who work away from home for long periods of time.
This post was contributed by Charlotte who also says:
If you do visit Italy and intend to travel around to sample the different regional delicacies be sure to take out an adequate travel insurance policy before you travel Whenever you go on holiday it is important to know you are adequately protected but even more so when you are travelling around a fair bit.
Mario Batali’s books always include tasty and easy to make Italian recipe’s. They make great gifts!