There is no such thing as Italian food
The funny thing about Italian food is that it doesn’t really exist. Instead, its culinary reputation is built on a mountain of dishes from 20 individual regions: each with a collection of unique recipes, ingredients and local produce. Funnily enough, they also all claim to be the best at representing its nations cuisine. There is such immense diversity, especially between the north and the south. So, if you think only pizza and pasta are on offer, then you are hugely mistaken.
TEXT: PAOLA MAGGIULLI | PHOTO © PEXELS
The fact is, Italy has only been unified for about 150 years. For centuries before, different groups from across the globe came and conquered specific parts of the country. During their occupation, they left their mark, including their culinary influences.
The Arabs introduced many spices, vegetables and fruits to the southern hemisphere; the Spanish introduced the tomato to Naples; the Etruscans and Greeks had a hand in inventing dry pasta; and the Normans, Germans and Austrians heavily influenced the north. The list goes on!
Now, let’s bring it back to the 21st century, and Italy owns a wealth of delicious regional dishes. So much so, it would be difficult to enjoy them all in one lifetime. I’ve been trying, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. However, to understand its full culinary diversity, here are the key differences.
– The north lends to richer cookery, better known for creamy sauces, meat dishes and tending to favour risotto over pasta. Popular dishes include Milanese risotto, Bolognese ragu, Ligurian basil pesto.
-Southern cooking is dominated by fresh organic vegetables, olive oil and seafood. Popular dishes include seafood linguine, Neapolitan pizza, aubergine parmigiana.
Left to right: Neapolitan pizza | Parmesan cheese
So, next time you travel to Italy, why not try a local recipe rather than sticking to what you know. It will definitely enrich your Italian foodie experience.
Paola Maggiulli, a British foodie and passionate cook with Italian roots, has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all Italian food; pasta, pizza, gelato, you name it. On her blog, The Tiny Italian, she shares her delicious recipes with the world.