Italy’s strong regional identity is reflected in its cuisine with many regions specializing in certain dishes. The difference in climate and soils between the northern and southern parts of the country has resulted in huge variations of agricultural produce that has been farmed, and this has had a huge influence in the varieties of regional cuisine. Calabria is in the southern-most part of the country has been influenced in its cuisine by its coastal location, the climate and the fact that it was once governed by the French. Desserts in the region are call “gato” after the French term gateau.
Seafood is really popular in the area where sea urchin, swordfish, lobster and shrimp are regularly eaten. Vast amounts of olive oil is produced locally and this is often used to preserve both meat and vegetables with the eggplant being produced in this area more than in any other Italian region. The Lombardy region is in central-northern Italy and relies on ingredients such as maize, rice, beef, pork and lard. The dish “risotto alla Milanese” is served with many main dishes in the area. With the regoion including parts of the Alps there are certain dishes that have been created for the colder winter months.
A specialty is “cassoeula” which is mainly cabbage and pork, and is a hot casserole dish that also can include carrots, onions and celery. Another favorite is “Mantuas tortelli di Zucca” which is a ravioli with a pumpkin filling. Italians love cooking game and nowhere is this illustrated more than on the Island of Sardinia. Suckling pig and wild boar are either roasted on the spit or boiled in meat stews. These stews are often accompanied by the Islands favorite bread which is “Pane Carasau” which is a flat bread famed for its crunchiness.
Italian deserts are renowned around the world with gelato being found in every country. Gelato is Italian ice cream and contains butterfat. Generally contains less fat than any other type of ice cream. In 1686 the first gelato making machine was produced by a Sicilian fisherman, and today there are over 5,000 parlors in the country employing 15,000 people. The “Pannetone” is a type of sweet bread loaf that originated from Milan and is generally eaten over Christmas. It is a tall cake and contains many dried fruits in its ingredients. The preparation involves the curing of the dough and this leaves a unique light, but slightly dry, taste. More modern variations of the recipe have included the addition of chocolate and sweet wine.
The “Panna Cota” originates from Piedmont and is sweetened cream that is thickened with gelatin. It is often flavored with rum or vanilla and is served alongside sauces such as strawberry and chocolate varieties. Italy is home to some of the oldest wine making regions in the world. Nowhere in the world produces more wine than Italy does, and the country produces about a third of all global production. Every region produces a wine and production goes back as far as Roman times.
The wines are divided between the biancos, which are the white wines, and the rossos, which are the red wines. They have produced some of the most famous world wines such as Chiantis, Barolos and Gattinaras and the country prides itself on the quality of each year’s new crop. Drinking coffee in Italy is a major part of the Italian culture. It is frowned to include any milk in the coffee in the morning and coffee houses are found all around the world. The largest chain in the UK is Costa Coffee which was founded by Italian immigrants Bruno and Sergio Costa back in 1971. The Italians even have produced world famous biscuits to go with their coffee such as the “Catuccini”. The Italian cuisine is found all around the world in many different areas and it is hard to identify a nation that has had more of an impact on the world’s cuisine than Italy.