Italian food has come a long way from its origins as peasant cooking to now it is readily available internationally. Not just famous for pasta and sauces, Italian food varies greatly from city to city and region to region, each having its own unique flavor, ingredients and style. One thing you can be sure of is that you have to search hard to find a bad meal while vacationing in Italy.
Starting in the northern part of Italy, Tuscany is one of the more famous areas of Italy when it comes to eating. What makes Tuscany a delight for eating out is the way the food is cooked. Tuscan cuisine is traditionally very simplistic in the preparation and cooking of each meal. There aren‚Äôt many complex seasonings, complicated reductions or fancy sauces, just simple, elegant cooking.
Traditional ingredients include beans, fresh local vegetables, potatoes and plenty of fish and meats. The Tuscan diet isn‚Äôt as heavily centered on pasta as much as other regions, although you are sure to find some delectable pasta dishes. Butter and olive oil are traditionally served as condiments and not included in the cooking process. Due to an imposed salt tax in the early days of Tuscan life, salt is absent from a lot of dishes, including breads. You can expect bread to be baked fresh that day as bread without salt won‚Äôt last as long.
Heading a bit further south in our gastronomic gallivant, we arrive in Rome to sample the storied cuisine. Roman cooking has an interesting history based on the make up of Roman society. What, where and with whom you ate said a lot about your rank in society. Peasants ate like peasants while the wealthy nobles ate like wealthy nobles. That isn‚Äôt the case any more but it has influenced the cooking style that is evident today. The wealthy nobles had Greek slaves which explain the Greek influence in Roman cooking as well as other influences that came from the giant Roman Empire that expanded through a large part of Europe.
Typical Roman cuisine features lots of meats, nuts, wild fruits, fresh vegetables, onions, cabbage, artichokes and plenty of pasta. Popular pastas that you are sure to see on a menu will be rigatoni, bucatini and spaghetti. Rome was also one of the first civilizations to utilize pepper which was imported from the Orient. They were able to take advantage of this spice as it was a very wealthy Empire that could afford such luxuries. Rome cuisine was also an innovator in creating dishes that featured sweet, sour and savory flavorings all in the same dish. This technique was quickly adopted throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
Our palate pleasing passage finally concludes in the southern part of Italy in the region of Sicily. Another region of Italy famous for its dining decadence, Sicily has a unique cooking style that has taken influence from a multiple of places throughout the years. Having been ruled at one point in history by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and the Spanish, Sicilian cooking evolved into what it is today with the help of these different cultures.
The Greeks introduced grapes and olives as well as the process for making wine and olive oil, explaining why Sicily is the 3rd largest producer of olive oil in Italy. The Romans introduced beans, chick peas, lentils and grain production during the rule of the area. The Arabs brought almonds, artichokes, cinnamon and sugarcane to the area, which led Sicilians to become master pastry chefs. The Spanish can claim responsible for bringing tomatoes, chili and sweet peppers and potatoes which are all staples of the Sicilian diet.
Whether you are in Pisa, Venice, Palermo or any where in between, you are guaranteed a great meal that is prepared fresh and with care. Italians take great pride in their cooking and it certainly shows. Take a trip to Italy and experience authentic Italian cuisine at its finest.