Italian cuisine (as it is cooked in Italy) combines the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (see further) with a wide choice of seasonal ingredients and regional flavors. See traditional Italian cookbooks

It relies on fresh ingredients cooked on the spot and a combination of vegetables, grains, fruits, and tasty seafood, fish, meat and olive oil.
Italian Cuisine Essentials
antipasto (usually a selection of cold or hot appetizers)

primo, which is usually the main source of carbohydrates of the meal. Usually this will be a plate of pasta prepared with a sauce, be it can also be a risotto, gnocchi, polenta or soup, depending on the region and the type of restaurant. See also: types of pasta.

secondo, the main dish, consists of fish, seafood or meat. If you wish you can ask for a contorno (a salad, vegetables, or potatoes) to be served together with or following your secondo, as the meat or fish of the main dish are usually served without accompanying vegetables or potatoes (except of course for those included in the recipe).

dolce or dessert.

caffe. See: types of coffee served in Italy and how to prepare a real Italian coffee.

digestivi (liquors). Nearly every region has it's own liquor (limoncello, grappa, amaro) that is served after the meal and, as the name indicates, is supposed to facilitate digestion.



Carbohydrates come in the form of pasta, rice (risotto), polenta, and pizza.

Italian Cuisine per Region
Note that there is no such thing as Italian cuisine with a unique nation-wide tradition of preparing food. Italy was only unified in 1861 and the Italian cuisine still reflects the strong regional traditions. As a consequence, Italian cuisine is extremely varied with each region having its own (often locally grown) ingredients, traditional recipes and local specialities.
Culinary specialties of Northwest and Northeast Italy: Piedmont and Aoste Valley, Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna.

Culinary Specialties of Central Italy: Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Lazio.

Culinary specialties of Southern Italy, Sicilian cuisine and Sardinian cuisine.
Difference between Italian cuisine and French cuisine

The main difference between Italian cuisine and traditional French cuisine is that products are usually prepared in such a manner as to preserve their ingredients' natural qualities, appearance, and taste. Cooking techniques are usually simple and preparation time relatively short (an exception to this are the braised dishes, such as ossobuco and risotto).
Traditional French cuisine has many stewed dishes, which are not as commun in Italian cuisine.

French cuisine is butter-based, while Italian cuisine is almost exclusively prepared with olive oil. Ironically, Italians find French cuisine 'heavier' because of the butter and cream used in French cuisine, while French find Italian cusine heavier because of the olive oil used and the many fried appetizers. So, much also depends on what type of cuisine you are used to to be able to appreciate Italian (or any other type of Mediterranean) cuisine.

Health benefits of Italian Cuisine

Some of our visitors may wonder why a diet that is apparently based only on pasta and pizza may be healthy. The answer to this paradox is that Italians do not eat these products in the same proportion as we do. Nor do they have the same eating habits.

The first important point is that Italians usually take the time to eat and enjoy their meal. A meal is more of a social or family event than just some kind of 'pit stop' to restore oneself in a rush. Studies have shown that enjoying your meal while masticating slowly contributes to a lower satiation level, in other words, you will feel you have eaten your fill  sooner, before you have absorbed too much additional food (above your healthy satiation level). People who eat too fast do not leave enough time to the brain to send the signal of satiation back to the stomach and therfore eat more than they would have if they had eaten the same amount of food slowlier. The texture of the Italien food ingredients also promotes thorough mastication, as the food ingredients are usually consumed fresh and unrefined or cooked al dente (not just the pasta), rarely stewed or baked through.

Secondly, the Italian diet is plant-based in nature, with a heavy emphasis on vegetables (such as tomatoes, zucchini and eggplants), grains, seeds, beans and olive oil. Olive oil contains a very high level of monounsaturated fats, most notably oleic acid. Studies suggests that a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in the diet is linked to a reduction in coronary heart disease risk. Eggs, dairy, and meat are consumed regularly, but the portions are smaller than typically consumed in a Western diet. White meat, poultry and fish are proportionally more consumed than red meat. Red meat makes only an occasional appearance, and it is usually grilled instead of baked in an additional fat source. Studies have linked the consumption of red meat, more specifically meat from ruminating animals, to several health risks such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. Fats other than olive oil are consumed rarely. 2005-2013 © All Rights Reserved.
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Italy > Italian cuisine
Italian Cuisine
(Eating habits, typical Italian menu and major Italian cookbooks)
Some major Italian cookbooks and culinary bibles:
First published in 1950 and revised over time, Italy's bestselling culinary "bible," Il Cucchiaio d'argento The Silver Spoon, is now available in English. The Silver Spoon boasts over 2,000 recipes and arrives in a handsome photo-illustrated edition.

The cookbook combines both traditional Italian recipes, and more contemporary Italian recipes influenced by other cuisines. It includes sauces and antipasti through cheese dishes and sweets, with many standout dishes like Genoese Pesto Minestrone, Eggplant and Ricotta Lasagna, Pork Shoulder with Prunes, and Chocolate and Pear Tart.
More information

The Silver Spoon
First published in 1891, Pellegrino Artusi's La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangier bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) has come to be recognized as the most significant Italian cookbook of modern times and a landmark work in Italian culture.

The novelty for that time was that Artusi wrote a cookbook not not for professional chefs, as was the 19th-century custom, but for middle-class family cooks.
Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well
Il Talismano (The Talisman Italian Cookbook) to Italians what Joy of Cooking is to Americans. Containing in simple and clear form the best recipes for all the foods that we associate with Italian cuisine, it covers all the regional variations of Italian cooking: Milanese, Bolognese, Venetian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Veronese, and Florentine.

Appetizers, soups, pasta, seafood and meat preparations range from the traditional authentic recipes, like tuscan minestrone, homemade ravioli and Ossobuco to the simply elegant or the sublime, like Lobster alla Diavolo and Wild Duck with Lentils.
Talisman Italian Cookbook by Ada Boni
Italian desserts are explored in full: Almond Macaroons, Ricotta Pie, Zeppole, and Zuppa Inglese. There is also a glossary (complete with pronunciation guide) to Italian cooking terms. More information >>

This English edition (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), first published by Marsilio Publishers in 1997) features a delightful introduction by Luigi Ballerini that traces the fascinating history of the book and explains its importance in the context of Italian history and politics. The illustrations are by the noted Italian artist Giuliano Della Casa. More information >>
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Regions of Italy
The Fine Art of Italian Cooking
Giuliano Bugialli is one of the foremost teachers of Italy's revered cooking techniques with more than 20 years of teaching and cooking experience. His incomparable cookbook includes:

- Over 300 recipes from Tuscany and other regions of Italy
- Suggested dinner menus and wine recommendations
- Chapters on pasta, breads, sauces, antipasti, meat and fish, poultry, risotto, vegetables, and desserts
- Notes on olive oil, Italian herbs, and cheeses
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The Silver Spoon
The Silver Spoon
Phaidon Press
Italy's best culinary "bible"
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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is a basic manual for cooks of every skill level. After introducing essential concepts od Italian cuisine, the author gives a very detailed tour of the most important ingredients in Italian cooking and presents recipes for some typical and traditional Italian dishes, such as polenta, risotto, squid braised with tomatoes and white wine, sautéed swiss chard with olive oil and garlic...

Includes a very large chapter on vegetables and separate chapters on Soups, Pasta, Risotto, Gnocchi, Crespelle (Italian for crepes), Polenta, Frittate, Fish and Shellfish, Fowl and Rabbit, Veal, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Variety Meats, Salads, Desserts, Breads, and typical Italian menus.

A whole chapter is dedicated to information about herbs, spices, and cheeses used in Italian kitchens.
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The structure of a typical Italian menu:

The structure of a traditional Italian menu is followed everywhere in Italy and consists of a(n):