Italian food is by far one of the most popular types of cuisine in the world, loved by people all over the world and served in restaurants in pretty much every town and city in the UK.
But real authentic Italian food is a little bit different to what you’ll find at your typical chain restaurants, or in a jar of sauce from the supermarket. While those who are not Italian themselves often think of pizza and spaghetti when identifying Italian food, and some people are of the opinion that most Italian food is all pretty similar, you may be surprised at just how much variation there is region by region if you travel through Italy.
We thought we’d put together a little bit of a piece on the basics of Italian food so that you can learn a little bit more for yourself.
In Italy, people will commonly buy produce from local markets rather than supermarkets, and the fruit and vegetables will be full of far more flavour because they haven’t been picked before they are fully ripe. Vegetables bought fresh will be seasonally appropriate rather than imported, so Italians tend to cook different foods at different times of the year.
In the summertime, you will find a lot of radishes, aubergine, beetroot, courgettes, beans, peas, and tomatoes in dishes, whereas in the winter you are likely to be served more artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, fennel, cabbage, spinach and turnips.
Due to the fresh produce used in Italian cooking, you will also find that different parts of the country will have access to different produce. Historically, the country was split into different kingdoms and states that did not have too much to do with one another, meaning there are plenty of regional specialities.
The Margherita pizza was conceived in Naples, with legend having it that it was created especially for Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889, with the traditional toppings of tomatoes, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves being intended to resemble the colours of the Italian flag.
Lasagne hails from Bologna, where food tends to be very rich. It is filled with ground meat (either pork or beef) bolognese, handmade noodles, bechamel sauce and topped with white wine, carrot, tomato, butter, and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
In Tuscany, they are lucky enough to have the ideal growing conditions for white truffles, which are very rare, as well as the rare black variety. As a result, you’ll find them used in Tuscan fare.
Antipasto is a classic appetiser in Tuscany, a simple mixed plate of bread, pate, cheese and cured meat. In Tuscany, they tend to favour food that is rich and simple.
Siciliy is a little bit different to the mainland, as they have been influenced by Arabs and Normans and other cultures throughout history, so you will find a few unique dishes on this island. Cannoli and arancini are a few such examples!
Funnily enough, the foods that are often marketed as ‘Italian’ or ‘Italian-style’ in supermarkets and on menus in restaurants will be nothing like real Italian food, and the word ‘authentic’ does not guarantee that it truly is.
Unless you are planning a trip to Italy yourself soon, you may be wondering how you can find a true taste of Italy for yourself. You are best off heading to a restaurant where the chef is actually from Italy themselves, as you will get the most authentic experience from somebody who really knows what they are doing when it comes to Italian flavours.
Our chef here at Bella Cosa is originally from Brindisi in southern Italy and has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to cooking delicious Italian dishes that are true to their roots. Why not join us for a meal and see for yourself?
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