Southern Europe. Apennine peninsula in the form of boot. Here you can find a precious pearl of European tourism – Italy. An extraordinarily, beautiful and interesting country with unique architectural monuments and fascinating places is famous all over the world. Each year it attracts millions of tourists.
Recently, the food tourism is gaining popularity among travelers, and, of course, Italy is a great destination of such tourism. After all, Italian cuisine - it is not just food, it's an art that characterizes the atmosphere of the country, its traditions and the spirit of national character. The recipes of its tasty dishes, which are create thousands years ago, show us Italian feelings and emotions. Moreover, everyone certainly heard about such world-famous culinary legends such as Pizza Margherita, pasta, risotto, carpaccio, ciabatta, lasagne, panna cotta, tiramisu and many others Italian masterpieces. And if you are going to visit this country - forget about diets! Most of Italian dishes are high in calories due to a large amount of dough, cheese, sauces and sausages. It will be pity if you don’t try an impressive gastronomic variety of tastes, because through the food you can learn about Italian history, their style of life and even about their nature!
Once you have the opportunity to go to Italy, be sure to treat yourself with unforgettable experience, have a tasty journey through its culinary masterpieces!
Temperamental and impulsive Italians have one golden rule: they love to eat, sincerely sitting at the table, and do it slowly, with pleasure. The visit to the restaurant looks like the whole ritual: it is necessary to gather a great company of friends and relatives. Moreover, it can take a lot of time to choose the meal, to discuss and share eating habits. Italian people love gesticulating and it only highlights their emotions.
The Italians don’t sprinkle the seafood pasta with parmesan. They don’t use a spoon while eating spaghetti. You have to be very skillful to eat spaghetti only with fork and don’t splashing yourself and people who are sitting next to. Don’t eat the sauce from the plate after you have eaten the spaghetti!
Italy is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers to the world market of olive oil. About 400 species of olive tree are grown here. There are some regions where the olives do not grow due to improper climate (Piedmont and Lombardy). Olives are added to pates, meat products and sausages, salads, cheese, breads, pastries. Olive oil is an important part of Italian cuisine. It makes dishes tasty and unique. In addition, olive oil is a healing product, and therefore many Italians start their day with a bread and the oil.
It takes a long period of time (50 years) to make a balsamic vinegar. Always it is stored in barrels, and passes a complicated cycle through many heating and cooling, due to natural conditions. During this period, it is fermented to a thick syrup, gaining an incredible bouquet of aromas.
Fish and seafood
Italy has a very long coastline. All year-round the population of the country can enjoy a delicious and freshest fish and seafood. In the local restaurants, you can find a huge variety of fish dishes: anchovies, swordfish, sardines, flounder, bream, trout, cod, mullet, lobster, squid, scallops, mussels, shrimp, crab, oysters, octopus
Cheese belongs to the category of dishes that are worth trying! Italy produces about 500 types of cheese. Here are the most famous of them.
Gorgonzola - is a blue musty cheese. The product has the name in honor of the town which is located in the province of Milan. It was here, where it was produced for the first time. The cheese is made from cow's milk, and then the mold is added in it. There are two types of gorgonzola: fresh creamy and piquant hard one. It is good with sweet and dry wines.
Mozzarella - comes from the Campania region. Without this cheese, there would be no pizza at all. The cheese is made from buffalo milk. The name comes from the word mozzare - "tear" because each cheese ball is torn by hands of the whole cheese piece. Ready-to-eat, even without any maturation.
Parmesan - is a hard, brittle cheese. The period of readiness is from 18 to 24 months. It is a barrel up to 35 kg. The longer the period of readiness, the easier it crumbles, the dryer the cheese. But it doesn’t lose its quality. The thinnest slices with pears and walnuts - just a masterpiece of taste! Parmesan usually is added to pasta, risotto, omelets.
Ricotta - is a cottage cheese which is made from the whey. Tortellini di ricotta, pasta sauces, Sicilian cannoli pastries and fruit cakes - these are some examples of food masterpieces in which the cheese is added.
Mascarpone - is the main ingredient of the world most famous Italian dessert – tiramisu. Mascarpone is prepared by the addition of citric acid in the cream, which are removed from the milk during the production of parmesan. After this, the cream is heated over medium heat until they thicken.
It should be noted that the Italians are hot fans of all kinds of vegetables. And first place among them is occupied by tomato - the king of Italian cuisine. It is not used almost in everything: in snacks, baked goods, salads, pizza, sauces. All types of tomatoes are used - fresh fruits and sun-dried. Another option is to use dried tomatoes – is to add them to spices, garlic and olive oil.
In Italy, there are lots of nut trees as olive ones. Nuts are added to salads, sauces, and also used as a snack.
The greens are fragrant spices, hot red pepper - peperoncini, garlic.
Italy is considered to be a mountainous country, so it is rich in herbs. Italian spices have a delicate aroma and a perfect taste. The Italian cuisine abounds in herbs!
The first place among the greenery in Italian cuisine is taken by basil, which is great friends with tomato, fruit, sauces, pizza, pasta, some salads.
Oregano with a delicate aroma and spicy flavor, from the Greek - "the joy of the mountains" is known since the Roman times. It goes well with poultry, cheese, mushrooms.
Rosemary – its bushes grow near the sea. It is used in dried form. Its unusual flavor goes well with meat.
Bakery products are served to the table in a huge variety in big baskets. You may be offered:
- Grissini - long and thin crispy sticks, in a pencil form. At first, they were made in the XIX century for the royal family, when the son of Her Majesty suffering from eating disorder. Soon, the bakers began to compete with each other in cooking.
- Focaccia - is a leavened griddle-cake with the olive oil and it is baked in the preheated stone in oven.
- Ciabatta - the translation of this word means "carpet slippers". There are lots of holes in ciabatta crumb, and, moreover, it crispy from above.
We have to say that Italians just love fried toasted grain bread with sliced tomatoes, garlic and basil, as well as pasta with olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese.
Sauces plays a huge role in Italian cuisine. They bring a special flavor to the dishes. While cooking the same dishes each time they have a unique and different taste. The basis for the sauce can be tomato (both fresh and cured), herbs, spices, nutmeg, garlic, olives, mushrooms, cheese, olive oil, capers, balsamic vinegar.
Carbonara – this is a modern sauce. It is spicy and smooth. Carbonara includes the following ingredients: eggs, cream, olive oil, garlic, parmesan and pancetta (ham).
Pesto - is one of the best Italian classic sauces. It is smooth, with the addition of pine nuts or pistachios, it has a deep green color, because of the olive oil and basil. All the ingredients are usually crushed in a stone mortar.
Exotic dark blue or black sauce is called - Seppia. It is made from cuttlefish ink with the addition of tomato puree, roasted in olive oil garlic, white wine and parsley.
Salsa – this word conjures up incendiary dance. But the dance it is not related to the sauce, of course! This sauce has a green color and made of capers, anchovies, garlic, mustard, parsley and olive oil. It perfectly suits meat, fish and the vegetables, a ciabatta. In Italy, this sauce was brought from the East by the Romans, two thousand years ago.
Marinara –without this sauce we can’t imagine the Italian table with dishes. It was invented more than two hundred years ago, thanks to the emergence of tomato in Europe. And the first who added a tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano into a pasta, were sailors. The sauce goes well with pizza and pasta, rice and seafood.
Bolognese – this sauce was born in the Italian city of Bologna. It is a wonderful meat sauce made from a mixture of beef and pork meat, bacon, tomato, dry red wine, parsley and basil, garlic, olive oil. It takes about four hours to cook the sauce. The feature of this sauce is careful chopped ingredients that gives the sauce smoothness. It serves as a first course with lasagne, pasta, vegetables.
Amatriciana Sauce - the main components of this sauce are steel pork jowl, cheese and tomatoes.
We must note that talking about Italian cooking, we should say about wine. Food and wine are always together in Italian cuisine. Always you can see a jar with wine on a table. Wine is a favorite drink of Italian people not only during holidays and celebrations. Moreover, it is also used in cooking. Before the meal as an aperitif it is preferable to choose sparkling wine. Wine is considered to be the main highlight of gastronomic tourism in Italy. Here grows a huge number of different grape species.
The word "breakfast" conjures up sausages, fried eggs, butter, fish, bacon, etc. But Italian breakfast is not so nourishing – it is just a fruit juice, a cup of coffee and a bagel or bread with jam. By the way, in Italian culture cappuccino drinks in the first half of the day. From 13.00 to 16.00 Italian life stops - the country is immersed in a cloud of tasty aromas from pizzerias, restaurants, taverns. It is time for lunch and siesta! Siesta is the most important meal for Italian people. It is a sacred action, according to tradition, begins with an aperitif, when everyone gathers around the dinner table, people may drink alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Snacks - Antipasto
Snacks are divided into meat: ham, sausages, salami, Parma ham, combined with melon and figs, or vegetable: they are marinated with herbs in olive oil, artichokes, mushrooms, onion, sun-dried tomatoes. And they are always served with fresh bread. These snacks are usually served in a big round plate.
- Prosciutto is a jerked ham, which is cut into thin and small slices, in order to enjoy the great taste;
- Carpaccio is the most popular and favorite snack of Italians. It is a jerked beef fillet, thinly sliced pieces with thickness of only 2.5 mm with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. The name of the dish applies to the name of the painter who used the red shades in his paintings;
- Bruschetta ("bruscare" - to fry / bake on coals) is another Italian aperitif, which is based on a toasted grilled ciabatta bread with crisp, grated garlic crust. It always serves with olive oil which Romans eat with sliced baked bread. According to another legend, bruschetta is the poor man's bread, which peasants snacked during field work. And in order to give it a softness after the heat, peasants dipped it in oil. And tomatoes, herbs, mozzarella and other components were added to the bread much later. And if youask this dish in a plural - "bruschette", you’ll certainly get the whole plate of snacks, and a variety of fillings;
- The starter "Caprese" got its name in honor of the island of Capri, which is located in the south of Italy. The dish with olive oil, tomato, mozzarella, basil reminds the Italian flag (green, white, red). The sliced components are laid out around the dish, seasoned with salt, black pepper and olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
First courses - Primi piatti
Every Italian is accompanied with pasta. Pasta is the name for all Italian national pasta dishes. Yes, pasta in Italy is considered to be the first dish like soup for example. We can tell you a lot about pasta, because the Italians love it, eat it every day and the really prefer big portions.
The word pasta means "flour, mixed with sauce" in Greek. As a separate dish, it appeared in the XIV century. By the XV century pasta because of its long-term storage became popular among travelers and sailors. There are many methods of cooking pasta - every time they are improved. It can be baked, boiled. Moreover, there are several shapes of this product such as tubes, nests, thin spagehetti, corkscrew-shaped pasta and so on. There are lots of varieties.
Attention! Do not get confused, with the name of pasta and how it is should be cooked. We offer you a short list of pastas which actually consists of 350 types. Here are some of them:
- Bucatini - A thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. It is perfectly combined with tomato, vegetable or cheese sauces;
- Fettuccine - Ribbon of pasta approximately 6.5 millimeters wide. It is often served with mascarpone, as well as tomato sauces or fish-based sauce;
- Farfalle - Bow tie or butterfly shaped. Can be cooked with colorful vegetable sauce;
- Penne - Medium length tubes with ridges, cut diagonally at both ends. This pasta is good for casseroles and salads;
- Capelletti - Square of dough, filled with minced meat, and closed to form a triangle. Can be served with parmesan cheese;
- Capellini - with its diameter between 0.85 mm and 0.92 mm is a very thin variety of Italian pasta. Its name means hair (Italian). Always served with smooth sauces;
- Cannelloni - Large stuffable cylindrical (tube) pasta, generally served baked with a filling and covered by a sauce. It is good for stuffing and baking;
- Gnocchi - Lobed shells. Not to be confused with the kind of dumplings also called gnocchi.
- Gnocchi also is miniature dumplings made from potato dough, served with melted butter or tomato sauce;
- Lasagne is a casserole of broad strips of dough with meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese, tomato sauce and bechamel and bolognese, resembles a layered cake;
- Ravioli – little dumplings, fillings in them are not raw, it can be even chocolate.
There is a huge variety of pasta not only in forms, but also in colors. There can be colors of Italian national flag of black color of pasta which is cooks with the adding of squid ink. We told you about some pastas, but there are much more left. Pasta can be an ingredient for soup, it can be baked with cheese. Classic Italian pasta is made from durum wheat and water. Do not overboiled it. It has to be "al dente".
But the cooking of sauces for pasta is generally a science! The diversity of them is in a thousand times bigger than the diversity of pasta. And it should be noted that they are the adding to the pasta, its stuffing, its soul.
It is believed that if the Italian woman knows fifteen recipes of pasta, she will get married.
And if you think that the Italians eat only pasta, you're wrong! We have a proof. Minestrone is the most popular soup in the country. It includes 7 components: meat, seasonal vegetables (only those that can be bought on the market) and spices, always with the addition of pasta, beans or rice. As long as the Italian enjoys their meal, as slowly as minestrone cooked. The ingredients are stewed for about three hours in a small amount of vegetable broth or meat broth. "Minestrone" means “soup” in Italian and it is good when a spoon can stand in it. Initially, this first course was popular in Italian countryside.
Risotto - this dish is cooked with three types of rice: Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano. Firstly, the rice is pre-fried in olive oil as long as it becomes transparent, and then it should be poured with wine. Only in the end of cooking one adds the broth. Then the rice has to be cooked until it has creamy texture. As the filling is added to the rice seafood, meat, vegetables. The final stage is the adding of Parmesan cheese and chopped greenery.
The Second Courses
The role of the second course usually performs by meat, fish, seafood with vegetables. Italians preferer beef, veal, pork, lamb, and sometimes wildfowl. There are several methods of preparation: cooking, stewing, roasting on coals.
Seafood and vegetables are usually baked in foil, stewed in white wine, fried in deep fat.
Please note that the meat is served with no garnish in restaurants. And if you want to order vegetables pay attention to the heading "Contorni" in the menu.
Here, it is a common practice to drink a cup of coffee after lunch. In Italy, in the tiny coffee cup ones put 2 tablespoons of coffee and add a little amount of water. It allows you to enjoy the aroma of good coffee. In average, Italian meal consists five dishes and several types of beverage.
There is no difference between the menu for Italian lunch and the menu for Italian dinner. It contains of the first courses like soups, pasta, rice dishes, and in general, they are the same as ones for lunch. Also, there are cold dishes such as salads, tomatoes, cheese. Sometimes, snacks and the first course may be eliminated from the evening menu. It depends on time. Most often, the dinner in Italy starts around 20:00.
Desert & Beverage
During each meal, be sure to eat a fruit as a dessert. Between the main meals, you can eat snacks - ice cream, cakes, fruits, yogurt. Italians have a sweet tooth. They invented a truly food masterpiece - tiramisu and hundred types of ice cream, which one must to try! There are even garlic ice cream, an ice-cream with Parmesan cheese, herbs and even ice cream sprinkled with salt.
Well, after the dessert it is time to drink coffee! You can drink "espresso", which the Italians called "cafe" (the stress falls on the last syllable), liqueurs "Limoncello" or "Campari".
Pizza is a famous Italian meal and of course you can find it in any café or restaurant in Italia. But remember, in restaurants, pizza is more expensive than in pizzerias. Not all Osters offers pizza, but you will find the most delicious in the taverns and trattorias. And it is perfect, if pizza is cooked in a wood oven, because the dry heat would give it crust and amazing taste. Pizza for dinner is the best one, because the oven has to be preheated to a certain temperature.
One big pizza, which is suits for two persons, usually is served for one in Italy. If you think that it is so nourishing and you can overeat, just ask a waiter to divide it for two. You can eat your pizza with hands. But Italians usually don’t drink wine with pizza.
If you see the word “primo” just near the pizza you’ve chosen, be sure not to order additional food, and sweets because, you’ll have to eat a large plate of food.
The pizza consists only those ingredients which are listed in the menu. Eat it with a knife and a fork. To try the best pizza, go to Naples! Here you’ll find the tastiest pizza in Italy. The history of this dish started in 1889, when Queen Margherita arrived in this city, and tried a tortilla with cheese, tomato and basil. The queen liked the dish so much and since then the cook is considered to be the parent of pizza and, moreover, the first pizza was named in honor of the queen - Margherita.
There are the many types of pizza. Interesting ones are calzone - an Italian oven-baked folded pizza that originated in Naples, or "Four Seasons", which consists of four parts, each of which is filled with different adding.
We have to note that in various regions of Italy you will find different tastes of the same dish. There are 20 counties in Italy and every district of the country has different national recipes. Sometimes, you will not find a particular dish in the neighboring areas.
The region of Lazio, Rome
Here you will try delicious pasta Carbonara, veal schnitzel Saltimbocca, lamb with rosemary in a sauce of white wine - “abbacchio”, "cannelonni" with liver, spinach, eggs and cheese.
The region of Lombardia, Milan
If you want to sample the best Italian meat dishes and excellent cow cheese, you can join the group of tourists and go to Lombardy’s cheese tour. There you’ll see beautiful groomed cows grazing herds in the alpine meadows. Stew usually served with polenta - corn flour porridge. Another popular dishes are risotto with saffron, soup "Pavia" with croutons, fried egg, filled with meat broth and sprinkled with cheese and a chop "Kotoletta a la Milanese". We advise you to sample as much salami and sausages as you can. And if you want to try something exoticall and unusual, be ready to sample the brain, liver and kidneys.
Naples is a homeland for pizza, tastiest mozzarella and for liqueur limoncello. Moreover, here were created dozens of types of pasta and an incredible number of different sauces. Try the tastiest Sart - a rice casserole with meatballs, mozzarella, mushrooms and green peas. The famous Neapolitan meat dishes are - Genoa meat, pork rolls, stewed rabbit. The main symbol of Naples is a Pastiera - Easter cake, which is made of pearl barley.
The region of Piedmont, Turin
This region abounds with perhaps the most exquisite cuisine. Exactly here you will find amazing dishes and delicacies such as truffles, frog legs, an incredible abundance of cheese. It is because Turin has close ties with France. Among the everyday dishes of Piedmont there are sauces and wines, popular risotto with duck, beans, snails and Gorgonzola. For dessert, you will be treated with the famous delicacy – “Panna cotta” - butter cream combined with fruit, berries and nuts.
An average lunch in a cheap Italian restaurant for two costs 40-55 EUR (including wine).
If you want to have a cup of espresso at the bar, it will make you 1-1,5 EUR, but if you decide to do it, sitting at a table, 2.5-3 EUR.
Don’t forget to buy souvenirs for your friends and relatives. Also, it is good to buy a small gift for yourself to remember the incredible Italian trip. You could buy pasta (the price for a pack - 3-4 EUR), the sauce (3-5 EUR), a bottle of good wine (3-5 EUR) or grappa (15-18 EUR), sun-dried tomatoes (6-10 EUR), canned truffles (about 6 EUR), olive oil (the price for 1 liter starts from 3-12 EUR), cheese (the price starts from 20 EUR per kg), coffee (3 EUR), anchovies (3-9 EUR) and so on. Now you can imagine some Italian dishes and beverages. Are you interested in this information? Let’s find out more information about authentic Italian Gastronomic Culture!