There is no such thing as popular Italian foods that are common all over Italy. Italian cuisine is strongly influenced by local history and traditions, as well as by the local and seasonal availability of products. Some of Italy's most famous gourmet delicacies which have gained internal fame, such as white truffles, can be found only in certain regions of Italy.
This be said, the Italian menu is typically structured in much the same way all over Italy - with an antipasto, primo, secondo and dessert -, but each region of Italy has its own regional food specialties. More about Italian cuisine.
However, as this question often pops up, we will try to list some of the most popular Italian dishes in a nutshell.
Common Italian foods and dishes include all types of pasta, risotto and pizza, some soups (minestroni and zuppe) and delicious meat and fish dishes.
Pasta can be subdivided according to their composition, (only wheat flour and water or wheat flour, water and eggs), their shelf-life (fresh or dry pasta), their production method and their shape or cut.
See: types of pasta and 10 most famous pasta dishes of Italy.
A variety of thick soups made with vegetables, beans and pasta, rice or potatoes. Common ingredients include beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock, and tomatoes. It is served as a primo as an alternative to a pasta or risotto plate.
Zuppa di Pesce (Italian Fish Soup)
A fish stew prepared with fresh and local ingredients.
Many shapes are available, but Italians usually group the different shapes into short and long pasta, and plain or stuffed pasta. Each shape of pasta is matched with a different sauce depending on that shape's ability to hold that specific sauce. Some pasta types are found only in a particular region or change name according to the region.
Pizza is an oven-baked, flat, round-shaped bread covered with ingredients such as tomato sauce, cheese, olive oil and optionally other toppings. There are, broadly speaking, two types of pizza: the neapolitan one, which is relatively tick and ressembles a flat bread, and the roman one, which is much thinner and crustier. The neapolitan pizza is close to the type of pizza found in the US.
Italians also distinguish between red (with tomato sauce) and white pizza (also called foccacia, which has no tomato sauce, but can be topped with other ingredients). More about Italian pizza.
Italian cuisine does not include a large variety of spices, but the spices and herbs used are almost always used fresh adding a delicate flavor to the dishes. Read more about the typical spices and herbs used in Italian cuisine. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino), black olives, pine kernels are also used to flavor dishes (the latter one especially in some regional dishes). Olive oil is also the basic ingredient used for cooking. More about olive oils and vinegars.
Risotto is a rice dish typically served as a primo and which can be flavored in a hundred different ways. The rice is cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth may be meat-based or fish-based depending on what kind of ingredients the risotto will be flavored with. Nearly all risotto recipes include parmesan cheese (except those with seafood), butter (never cream!), and onion. Some of the most famous risotto recipes are alla Romana and alla Milanese. Other typical risotti include: risotto ai funghi, risotto al tartufo bianco (or with black truffle), risotto ai frutti di mare (sea-food), risotto alla milanese (with saffron).
Minestrone (vegetable and beans soup)
Typical Italian main dishes, depending on the region, include: bistecca alla Fiorentina, brasato, costolette d'agnello arrosto or fritte, scaloppina alla Milanese, bollito, ossobuco, parmigiana di melanzane and saltimbocca alla Romana.
Along the coast and further southwards one will typically find more fish and seafood dishes.
Seafood is also served as antipasto, such as in antipasto di mare misto or zuppe di cozze.
Zuppa di Cozze
Unlike the name suggests not really a soup, but a classic way of cooking and serving mussels, in white with a tasty sauce of white wine, garlic and italian parsley. Similarly, you also have Zuppa di Vongole (clams) or a 'misto Cozze e Vongole'.
Other typical antipasti misti include salumi (cold meats), vegetali (vegetables) and formaggi (cheeses).
Depending on their type, Italian cheeses can be served as antipasto, added as topping on primi or used for the preparation of secondi, contorni or desserts. Famous Italian cheeses include Parmigiano, Pecorino and, of course, mozzarella di bufala.
Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano)
Meat and Fish dishes (and other secondi)
In Italy (and the rest of Europe) the name Parmesan is a protected designation of origin for the hard, granular cheese from Parma. The generic name for this type of cheese from other parts of Italy is grana.
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Italy > Popular Foods of Italy
(Types of Italian Food, Common Italian Dishes,
traditional Italian Food)
Famous Italian desserts include: Tiramisù, cassata siciliana and pastiera napoletana.
Other sweet foods
Last, but not least, there is also the famous Italian gelato and the delicious pasterelle (sfogliatelle, maritozzi, aragoste) and pasticini (pastries).
Shin of veal with marrow bone in a tomato and wine sauce.
Breaded veal scallops sauteed in olive oil. This dish can have hundreds of interpretations, with lemon, capers, marsala, etc. The most famous one being 'alla Milanese'. See the video below for the recipe.
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