Influenced by ancient Greek and Roman, Italian cuisine is as old as 4th century. It is one of the most popular cuisines in the world with the rich variety in taste and diverse flavors. The main quality of this cuisine is its simplicity. The dishes in Italian style are made only with four to eight ingredients and all the cooks concentrate on the ingredients instead of the presentation of the dishes. Italian food also varies according to regions and there are a lot of regional dishes which are now a part of the whole country’s menu. The Italian food was mentioned in the texts for the first time in 4th century by Archestratus. He said that Italians do not mask the flavors of their food with any species or herbs which is the unique, simple and best quality of the food in Italy.
Italian cuisine includes a lot of ingredients from vegetables to fruits, variety of sauces, meat, etc. The main ingredients in North Italy food are fish, potato, corn, rice, pork, sausages, and cheese. These items are common in all the dishes mostly. They have a variety of pasta which is even more popular. Equally popular ingredients are risotto and polenta. Nuts and olive oils are also a main part of most of the dishes. In the varieties of pasta, we have diversity in the length, width and shapes of the noodles to make pasta. As per the shape and size, pasta are named differently such as penne, maccheroni, linguine, lasagne (thin sheets), spaghetti (thin and slim rod), linguine, fusilli (swriled), gnocchi (made from potatoes), rigatoni (tube or cylinder-like) etc. The pasta are usually served with variety of sauces and cooked by boiling usually. There are two main types of pasta: dry and fresh. Dy pasta can be stored for 2 years because they are made without using any eggs and using durum wheat flour or semolina (having a very light yellow colored tinge). Fresh pasta, on the other hand, will be useful only until a few days and that too only after you store them in refrigerator. Fresh pasta includes eggs with refined wheat flour. The taste and ingredients of the Italian food will vary according to the regions and seasons. They are sometimes influenced by the neighboring countries that share the border with Italy like France and Austria.
Meals of Italians have three to four courses usually. Italians call their breakfast as Colazione. It contains caffé e latte with bread or rolls, jam and butter. In cookies, Italians have Fette Biscottate which is a hard bread resembling a cookie, and biscotti. Breakfast in a bar usually has cappuccino or espresso with a pastry. Yogurts are increasingly becoming a part of the breakfast in Italian culture.
Lunch of Italy is the most important meal and is called Pranzo. Italian lunches are usually lengthy affairs and involve appetizer or aperitif as starters. The Italian lunch is composed of cheese, cold cuts, bruschetta, sandwiches, and olives along with sauce dips. After this, they have a first course which usually contains pasta, risotto, soup, ravioli, etc. after the first course they have a second course which is the main course. They usually serve meat and fish in the main course with some vegetable garnish. Then they round up the meal with some dessert or any fresh fruit.
Italians have a mi-afternoon snack which is taken around 4 to 5 p.m. It can be anything that you like it to be. The available options are fruits, yogurts, ice-cream, cookies, biscuits, cakes, nuts or brioches, raisins or mousses, etc. this meal is not taken by all but is surely a part of Italian Cuisine.
We now come to the dinner. Italians have a lavish and lengthy and lavish dinner just like the lunch. But when compared to lunch, the dinner is light. There is an Italian salad to start the dinner, followed by a soup, risotto, etc. which is again followed by the main course. They call their dinner cena and start their dinner anywhere between 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Drinks of Italian cuisine include alcoholic beverages mostly. The largest amount of wine in the world is produced in Italy. Apart from producing, it is the largest consumer and exporter of wine. Beer is also available in large variety but it is not as popular as wine. Other beverages are Limocello (lemon liqueur), Amaro Sicilianos, Grappa, etc. An addition to the Italian drinks is coffee. The very popular flavor of coffee, called Espresso, is the Italian style of making coffee made by blending coffee beans grown in Brazil. The coffee beans are roasted first and this removes most of the caffeine from it and as opposed to the misconception, it has a less amount of caffeine than the other coffees.
Every region has a holiday special cuisine and special dishes for special occasions. In Italy, the major holiday feast is on La Festa Di San Giuseppe, also called St. Joseph’d Day. Fava bean is eaten on this day as it is believed that beans saved the entire population from starving to death. Other dishes of this festival are Zeppole, which are Sicilian pastries. Another festival meal is Easter meal where Italians serve ‘lamb’, Easter cakes (usually Colomba Pasquale), pizza and wine.