The Art of Italian Gastronomy and Cuisine
Italy’s food culture is as rich and varied as its ancient heritage, a cuisine that reflects each region’s bounty.
With warm weather, abundant sunshine and almost 8,000 kilometres of coastline, Italy is blessed with all the elements of la dolce vita. Central to that is the country’s foodie culture, which existed long before the term was coined. The celebrated Mediterranean diet consists of in-season local produce, fresh seafood, pastas of all shapes and sizes – prepared with plenty of heart-healthy olive oil and accompanied by a good vino rosso. Safeguarding this remarkable culinary tradition is the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin) label, a symbol of the utmost authenticity and quality among regionally produced foods.
The cuisine of northern Italy
The cuisine of Italy is shaped by its geography. The valleys below the Alps produce an abundance of cheese, butter, rice, maize and meat. Some of the must-try dishes in Lombardy are creamy risotto, veal alla Milanese and osso bucco with polenta. Finish the meal with a flavourful Gorgonzola or another of the area’s famous cheeses.
South of Lombardy is Liguria, which gives us pesto Genovese. Next door lies Emilia-Romagna, the birthplace of the king of cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano. It also produces prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar of Modena and the much-loved Bolognese sauce. Although other regions may disagree, many consider Emilia-Romagna to be the country’s culinary heart.
The cuisine of central Italy
Tuscany grows some of the world’s best olives. Bread is a must, and the local preference is a no-salt variety, as that pairs best with strongly flavoured dishes. It’s little wonder that olive oil and leftover pane toscano, along with an abundance of ripe tomatoes, form the foundation of this region’s favourite dishes: pappa al pomodoro, a thick soup bursting with flavour, and panzanella, a bread salad that makes the most of summertime herbs.
To the south of Tuscany is Lazio and its capital, Rome, renowned for transcendent pasta-and-pork dishes like spaghetti carbonara, bucatini all’Amatriciana and pasta alla Gricia. Ease into these primi piatti (first courses) with an Italian cocktail, such as a spritz or an amaretto sour.
The cuisine of southern Italy
It seems as if the entire globe has embraced Italian cuisine, and at the pinnacle of that favourites list is pizza. Campania is the home of buffalo mozzarella. This soft white cheese, along with ripe red tomatoes and basil’s brilliant greenness, tops the famous pie – which just happens to sport the colours of the Italian flag. Neapolitan emigrants brought this street food to New York, and from there the popularity of pizza skyrocketed.
Sicily is favoured with rich volcanic soil and warm sunshine, making it an ideal place for growing vegetables and fruit – especially citruses – and raising livestock. The silky texture of aubergine is found in many of the island’s famous dishes, such as caponata, a vinegary relish often served as an antipasto, and pasta alla Norma. Buon appetito!
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