“Eat well! Eat Italian”
“La buona fortuna e gode”
Most of us will have eaten and enjoyed Italian Food at some stage either cooked professionally or provided in the home.
In Italian cuisine, there is a high priority placed on the use of fresh, seasonal produce and menus vary region to region.
For example, Roman Italian food uses a lot of pecorino (ewe’s milk cheese) and offal.
Tuscan Italian food features white beans, meat, and unsalted bread, whilst pizzas vary across the country.
Sicily is the home of gelato (ice cream) and Emilia-Romagna is know for lasagne and tortellini (stuffed pasta).
Northern Italian food versus Southern Italian food
Traditional Italian food is very regional and does not follow strict North-South patterns. The main differences are primarily the north uses more butter and creams whilst the south uses more tomato.
Generally there is a marked difference between regional use of cooking fat and traditional style of pasta.
Inland northern and north-eastern regions tend to favour:
· More butter
· Grana padano and parmigiano cheeses
· Risotto and fresh egg pasta.
Coastal northern Italian food and central Italian food regions often use tortellini, ravioli and are know for prosciutto.
The southern Italian food regions are traditionally known for:
· Cacciacavallo and pecorino cheeses
· Olive oil
· Dried pasta
Southern Italian food also makes far greater use of the ubiquitous tomato.
Italian food cannot be separated from Italian Wine. Most Italian wines of great renown are produced in three main Italian regions. In fact they are:
· Piemonte (Barolo)
· Veneto (Amarone, Pinot Grigio, etc)
Other great wine producing regions such as Puglie (Primitivo) and Sicily (Planeta) also produce some highly respected wines.
TRADITIONAL ITALIAN FOOD MENU STRUCTURE
Most of us will have eaten Italian food at some stage. However, how many of us have eaten a full Italian meal from a traditional menu? In fact there are 7 key elements to a traditional Italian food menu structure:
A traditional Italian food menu consists of:
1. Antipasto – hot or cold appetizers.
2. Primo (“First Course”), usually consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta or soup. There are usually abundant vegetarian options.
3. Secondo (“Second Course”), the main dish, usually fish or meat. Traditionally veal is the most commonly used meat, at least in the North, though beef has become more popular since World War II and wild game is very popular, particularly in Tuscany. (Pasta is never the main course of a meal).
4. Contorno (“Side Dish”) may consist of a salad or vegetables. A traditional menu features salad after the main course.
5. Dolce (“Dessert”)
6. Caffe (“Coffee”) Expresso
7. Liquors/Liqueurs (grappa, amaro, limoncello).
These are sometimes referred to as ammazzacaffe (Coffee killer”)
A notable and often surprising aspect of an Italian food meal is that the first course, is usually the more filling dish, providing most of the meal’s carbohydrates and this will consist of either risotto or pasta.
The secondo, which in French or British cuisine really is the main course, is often scant in comparision. The exception to this tends to be in Tuscany, where a traditional menu would see soup served as a primo and a hefty meat dish as the second