While some of the most popular dishes associated with the Italian culture include a tempting slice of pizza and a heaping plate of pasta, there is much more to the world of Italian cooking. Throughout the many regions in Italy, the distinctive cuisine of the Italians shines through in a wide-range of eating habits, styles of cooking, and selection of local ingredients. The changing of the times has also influenced Italian food, as the meals served in the pre-Roman era possess both similarities and differences in the cuisine of today.
The culinary history of Italy established a reputation more than 2,000 years ago, which includes an illustrious movement during the Roman Empire. Culturally, food preparation was quite important in the past where flashes of significance have been captured in the only surviving cookbook (Apicius), which dates back to the first century BC.
The spread of Italian food diversity began after the fall of the Roman Empire when individual city states began to uphold separate identities and traditions. Each region began to display its own unique way of cooking, right down to the formation of a meatball to the characteristic cheeses and wine produced in a locale. The north developed Tuscan beef, while black truffles were very popular in Marches. Provolone and mozzarella cheeses developed in the south, as well as a host of interesting citrus fruits.
Diverse types of bread, variations in pasta, and varying food preparation techniques also differed according to region. The southern regions of Italy embrace hard-boiled spaghetti, while the north often prefers a soft egg noodle. Milan is known for their risotto, while Bologna has a deep history regarding tortellini, and Naples is famous for their pizzas.
Over the years, Italian cuisine has greatly evolved in part because of a wealth of outside influences that have added to its characteristic flavor and appeal. In the beginning, ancient Greek cookery became an integrated part of Italian cuisine. Eventually, a wealth of imports found their way into the kitchens of early Italians, who sent Roman ships to collect a variety of important foods, including wheat, wine, exotic ingredients, and fine spices from around the world. Some ships even traveled to faraway locations, such as China, to bring back edible resources that catapulted the depth and variety of Italian cooking styles.
Coastal regions are known for their developments in delicious fish and seafood dishes. For example, the island of Sardinia supplies a more traditional and simple style of cuisine, which often incorporated delicacies, associated with the sea. Swordfish, lobster, anchovies, sardines, and other Mediterranean treats represent Italian cooking of the area. In Sicily (another island region), a great deal of the cooking drew heavily from North African influences. An Arab influence also affected cuisine on the island and within the rest of the south, especially with the introduction of various spices and sweets, such as the Sicilian ice cream cake called cassata.
As for one of the most popular Italian dishes, while the history books often state that pasta was a product of the Chinese brought back by Venetian merchant, Marco Polo, it was actually a rediscovery of a food item eaten during Etruscan and Roman times. It is believed that the first pasta in Italy was made similar to the noodles of today - from the same durum wheat - which was cooked in ovens instead of boiled in water.
Today, the differences in Italian cooking still show through in the distinctions between the north and the south. Each region still carries their own traditions in cooking that reflects deep history and culture with a never ending supply of main courses, appetizers, and desserts that continuously tempts the taste buds.
About the author:
For more interesting food facts and great meal ideas and a free menu planning report visit http://www.MenuPlanningCentral.com- Watch for a great meal planning offer and let me - The Menu Mom - help you take care of dinner tonight!
Also known as De re coquinaria, the name Apicius had long been associated with excessively refined love of food.
The Apicius is a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century BC.
The name does not refer to the author of the book, but is based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words "API CAE". Per association it came to be known as Apicius, apparently from the gourmet reputation of an eponymous bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius, who is sometimes mistaken as the author of the book.
YourGuidetoItaly.com 2005-2013 © All Rights Reserved.
Photos of the YourGuidetoItaly.com banner (from left to right): red boat landscape © mmac72/Istockphoto; Wine © RCphotografia/Istockphoto; Vitruvian man © Jodie Coston; Italian food © photovideostock/Istockphoto; Fiat 500 by tizianoj
A Cultural History
(Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) [Hardcover]
Alberto Capatti (Author),
Massimo Montanari (Author),
Aine O'Healy (Translator)
Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food (Hardcover)
Delizia examines the culinary history of gourmet Italy from antiquity to today in the light of centuries of religious, political and sociological events. Each of the chronologically ordered chapters is set in a particular place at a particular time, resulting in a series of stories that bring out key moments in Italian food history.
Da Vinci's Kitchen:
A Secret History of Italian Cuisine
by Dave Dewitt