Is there anyone in the world who has been to Italy and not fallen in love with it! Or its food and wines!! Italy has so much to offer in terms of cuisine. These Italian dishes, rooted in tradition, are passed down from generation to generation. The ideal thing is of course to try the offerings of local home chefs, who are excited to share their culinary culture with you, but there is no dearth, all over Italy of small and large cafes and bistros serving a mouth watering array of food. One feels sorry that the number of meals one can eat is limited, and the space in ones stomach, finite! A lifetime is probably not enough to sample all the wonderful food that Italy has to offer, and here we haven’t even mentioned dessert and drinks. Here is a list of 5 must- eat foods.
PIZZA There is no dish that defines Italy as the humble pizza, and it has long been a common snack or meal. Besides being cheap, it is filling and available almost everywhere. There are essentially two types of pizza – the Neapolitan-style pizza and the Roman- style, though there is a happy blend of the two in most places. The Neapolitan pizza has a thick, fluffy crust. Smaller in diameter, it is good and filling. Larger in diameter, but definitely lighter, the Roman-style pizza has a delicious paper-thin crust and a slight crunch.
As far as toppings go, less is more. Be wary of pizzerias that pile up the crust with huge toppings. Fewer toppings mean, the eatery is confident of the quality of its ingredients. Also, eat Neapolitan-style in Naples and Roman-style in Rome. You can be assured of getting the genuine thing.
Originally a poor man’s food from the Emilia-Romagna region, it is now a rich meal of flat pasta noodle baked in layers with béchamel sauce, cheese, usually mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano or a combination of both. Add to this ragù, a heavenly meat sauce, and you have a wonderfully wholesome and satisfying dish. Traditionally lasagna was not made with tomatoes. Today, only a tiny bit is used in a traditional ragù. So please do not be disappointed if you do not get an American -style lasagna floating in a tomato gravy. Do try the genuine thing. In the Emilia-Romagna region, in north-central Italy, comprising the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Forli, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio nell’Emilia and Rimini, you are sure to get lasagna made with homemade noodles and fresh ragù served to you with Italian pride.
A speciality of the Lombard cuisine, this is cross-cut veal pieces with vegetables, white wine and a broth of meat stock. Traditionally, accompanied by lemon zest, garlic and parsley (called gremolata) but quite optional. This is cooked slowly on low heat and can take two to three hours to cook. So, despite its popularity, it is not frequently seen on restaurant menus. But if you find it in a restaurant or are lucky to be invited to eat at a home, do not lose the opportunity. This is usually accompanied by polenta or risotto.
One of Italy’s most iconic dishes, the velvety, creamy risotto is made with Arborio and Carneroli varieties of rice grown in the paddy fields of northern Italy. The rice, cooked in a stock till it reaches a smooth soupy consistency, is perfectly suited to enhance the flavour of anything cooked with it. The most famous, is the saffron infused risotto, believed to have been invented by workmen who were building the Cathedral at Milan. The saffron that they were using, to dye the stained glass windows, was chucked into the rice as an experiment. Other versions of the risotto are the Risotto Al Nero di Sepia ( with cuttlefish and squid ink) and Risi e Bisi ( with pancetta and peas), both native to Venice.
Vegetarians, here’s what you should try in your Italian holiday! This is a delicious dish made with rice, and baked with tomato and cheese. Originally from the south of Italy, it can be found in all parts of the country. For those who are not fond of eggplant, this can also be made with zucchini. This is one of the most popular vegetarian Italian dishes.
Truffles are the most expensive and coveted foods in the world. This is basically a fungus and is always found in the wild. Dogs and pigs are trained to smell them underground, in forests and mountains. Italy is one of the few countries where truffles are found in abundance, especially in Umbria, Tuscany and the Piedmont region. The fresh truffle can be had during the autumn months but you will only get the tinned variety at other times of the year.
The smell is supposed to be very unique, not particularly liked by those who aren’t used to it, but those who know, claim truffles to be the all- time favourite autumn food.
Italian truffles are of two varieties, the rare white aromatic truffle and the less aromatic, more common black truffle. For first time enthusiasts, try a pasta garnished with thin truffle shavings. They can also be sprinkled over risotto, omelettes, or used in sauces for steaks or other meat dishes.
A quick mention of the enormous variety of bread, fried rice balls called suppli and arancino, the best coffee in the world, gelato which is like an ice cream, except with less fat content, Tiramisu, Italys most preferred after- dinner dessert, and Digestivo, a class of drinks that are drunk after a meal to settle the stomach, popular ones being limoncello, grappa, amaro, cynar, amaretto and the potent sambuca. Several post dinner drinks are made with fruits and herbs…so, go ahead and make your choice.
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