Italian food is characterized by quality, the richness of taste and simplicity in ingredients. Most traditional dishes from Italy dates back several hundreds of years, and they were once a regional favorite before gaining popularity countrywide.
Neapolitan pizza, also known as pizza Napoletana, is a type of pizza that originated from Naples. It is made of basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil.
Traditionally, this Naple-styled pizza emphasizes fresh tomatoes and mozzarella from specific regions of Italy. The stringent dough-making technique that was passed down from generation to generation also demands the use of high-quality wheat flour to be kneaded and formed by hand to no more than 3 millimeters thick.
Neapolitan pizza is a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) product in Europe. The art of making Neapolitan Pizza is included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal that is combined with milk, water, and butter to form a mash that can be served as a hot porridge, or solidify into a loaf for baking, fried, or grilled.
It is comfort food in Italy and relatively cheap since the main ingredient is yellow cornmeal. Polenta is commonly served as a side dish to complement meat dishes as well.
Finocchiona is a cured meat very much like salami, which is from the Tuscany, Florence region. Fennel seeds are the key ingredients to make a good Finocchiona.
As the name suggests, Finocchiona was taken from the Italian word for fennel, “Finocchio”. This came as a reference to the practice of substituting pepper with these seeds which are full of flavor.
To make Finocchiona, chopped pork meat from the cheeks, shoulders, or belly is mixed with salt, pepper, garlic and fennel seeds before leaving them to age for two to five months. Finocchiona is excellent on a slice of Tuscan bread, paired with white well-structured wines or young red wines.
Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham that is made from the hind leg of a pig. This thinly sliced cured ham is such a delicacy that many will pay a high price for good quality Prosciutto.
To make Prosciutto, the ham is rubbed with salt and a mix of spices before being left to age for about two months. During the aging process, the ham is pressed gradually to drain all blood left in the meat.
Once the aging process is done, the cured ham is cleaned thoroughly and hung in a dark and well-ventilated environment for drying. It will then take another 18 months before the ham is ready for consumption.
Tortellini originated from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy and it is a ring-shaped pasta that was inspired by the look of a feminine belly button.
Traditionally, Tortellini pasta dough is made of flour and eggs then flatten to a thin wrap. They are then filled with a mix of meat, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg, and nutmeg before being served in capon broth.
Lasagna is basically flat sheets of pasta that are commonly used in Italian dishes to create layers with alternating sauces and ingredients such as meats, tomato sauce, cheese (which may include ricotta and parmesan), and spices such as garlic, oregano, and basil.
The dish is then topped with grated cheese and baked in the oven. For each Lasagna, at least 5 sheets of the pasta dough are used to separate the layers of ingredients to create different texture when eaten.
In Bologna, where Lasagna originates, the pasta sheets are usually green because of the addition of spinach to the egg dough. This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to Italian food.
Mozzarella is a popular curd cheese that originates from the Southern part of Italy. Traditionally, Mozzarella is made from Italian buffalo milk. However, with fewer buffalos being herded in the region, most Mozzarella cheeses are now made from cow’s milk.
Mozzarella is usually rolled into a ball of 100 grams, or 1 kilogram and soaked in saltwater to prolong its shelf life. This beloved cheese from Italy is present in many Italian dishes and has even received a Traditional Specialities Guaranteed certification from the European Union in 1996.
Cannoli a sweet and savory Italian pastry with a tube-shaped shell that is made from fried dough. They are filled with creamy fillings such as ricotta cheese, custard or even ice cream!
This pastry originated from Sicily and it is so well received that these days Cannoli can be found in most cities in Italy. Cannoli should be eaten as quickly as possible after serving.
Ribollita is a Tuscan bread soup that is traditionally made from leftover bread, cannellini beans, cabbage, and cheap vegetables. Some examples of vegetables used are carrot, beans, chard, celery, potatoes, and onion.
What’s interesting is the fact that Ribollita was originally a peasant’s soup and during the Middle Ages. Poor Tuscans could only rely on cheap ingredients to create dishes that were filling.
Traditionally, Ribollita, which means “twice boiled”, is a thick stew-like soup that is made of leftover minestrone soup that was reheated with any vegetables that the peasants could find in their backyard.
Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread that has a slight crisp on the outside and softness on the inside. Because of the texture of Focaccia, it can be used to complement many different meals and it can be served as an antipasto, appetizer or table bread.
Focaccia is made of simple ingredients such as flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, and black pepper which are mixed in vegetable oil and water. Baking takes about 15 minutes and is then ready to be served.
Ossobuco is a rich Italian dish that consists of veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine, and broth. Traditionally, the cut used for this dish comes from the top of the shin which has more bones than meat.
This is why the dish is named Ossobucco, because it means ‘hollow bone’, referring to the marrow-filled shin bone that the dish is made from. There are different ways to serve Ossobuco. In some regions it is served with Risotto alla Milanese, for others, polenta is used to complement the dish.
Risotto is a Northern Italian rice dish made from short-grained rice called arborio rice and hot broth. To make a good Risotto, the cooking process involves pouring a small amount of hot broth into the rice, little by little so that the liquid and flavor can be absorbed evenly.
Traditional Risotto is creamy with rich flavor, but the grains are slightly al dente in texture. Ingredients such as butter, onion, white wine, and parmesan cheese are also commonly used to make this hearty rice dish.
The Fiorentina Steak, also known as Bistecca alla Fiorentina, is an Italian steak using cuts of the meat from the loin near the leg of a heifer (a cow that has not borne a calf).
This also means the meat is more tender, much tastier and more well-marbled. The steak is always cooked from room temperature over high heat, for three to five minutes on each side without condiments.
The outside of the steak is charred, but the inside is very rare and slightly warm. Only a dash of salt is sprinkled on the steak before serving.
Spaghetti alle vongole
Spaghetti alle Vongole is a very popular pasta dish throughout Italy, especially in the Campania region. The name of the dish means Spaghetti with tiny baby clams in the shell. Spaghetti alle Vongole it is cooked with white wine, garlic sauce, and parsley.
Traditionally, live clams are cooked in hot olive oil first so that the shells will open to release the juices within. These juices also serve as the primary flavoring before the rest of the ingredients are added.
Carbonara is a simple pasta dish from Rome that is made with egg, cheese, guanciale, and black pepper. To prepare a good Carbonara, a mixture of raw eggs, cheese, and ground black pepper are combined with cooked pasta (usually Spaghetti).
Fried guanciale is then added to the pasta and tossed together with the rest of the ingredients. It is good to note that traditional Carbonara does not use cream, this ingredient is likely to have been added to the recipe in modern times for the convenience of cooking.
More about Italian food
The food culture in Italy runs deep into society and Italian food is more than simply still your hunger, it’s almost a way of life. The Italian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity and depth of flavors.
Many traditional dishes from Italy simply consists of two to four main ingredients, which might be surprising considering how famous Italian cuisine is worldwide. What is most important is the quality of the ingredients.
Italian chefs only use the best products that often are locally produced. Italian cuisine differs throughout the country although some dishes have been famous nationwide, such as Pizza, Risotto, Lasagna, although they often come with regional differences as well.
What is your favorite food from Italy? Leave a comment below!