Think of Italy and you’ll quickly start to imagine yourself sitting in a café, the cobbled floor beneath your feet, enthusiastic chattering in Italian all around and a delicious bowl of food on the table in front of you.
That’s where you need to pause. Unlike some cultures, the Italians are passionate about food and there are many traditional Italian food options worth considering.
No visit to Italy is complete without finding the time to taste all the Italian delicacies. The problem is, that each traditional Italian food is full of flavor, a delight to the tastebuds. It can make it very difficult to choose just one.
The good news is that Italy’s traditional food can be consumed as part of a varied and healthy diet. In fact, they use olive oil in most dishes and this has been shown to offer an array of benefits, including better heart health.
Eating Italian Food: Understanding The Traditions
Italians are surprisingly strict about their food. It’s best to be aware of the Italian food traditions before you choose a dining spot.
Firstly, Italians are surprisingly strict about meal times. Lunch is served at 1 pm and dinner is served at 8 pm. You’ll struggle to find a restaurant serving before these times.
A traditional Italian meal begins with antipasto, that’s the starter. It’s followed by the “primo” which is often pasta or risotto. You’ll then get the “secondo” which is meat or fish, accompanied by a “contorno”, that’s vegetables and salad. These dishes can arrive together but tradition states the food isn’t mixed.
Finally, you’ll get the “dolce”, which is dessert, and there are likely to be several delicious options. It’s common for fruit and cheese to be served after the main course and salads are always side dishes.
Italy: Famous Food Worth Trying
Grab any menu or even visit a cooking class and you’ll find some authentic Italian food worth trying. The following are all staples which can be consumed without worrying about the effects on your diet:
There are many different Italian cheeses to choose from. You’ll usually be offered one made in the locality and it will arrive between the main course and the dessert. The most popular Italian cheeses are Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Pecorino. Seasoned cheese, such as cheese Frollini, is also a popular option. Of course, you can’t have an Italian pizza without some mozzarella.
Italians insist on fresh pasta and you’ll notice the difference. It’s hard to go back to packaged pasta afterwards. Of course, there are many varieties of pasta, but tagliatelle remains one of the most popular. The truth is all pasta tastes fantastic, especially when coupled with an Italian sauce.
Perhaps the greatest example of freshly made pasta and sauce is a traditional Italian lasagna. Beef and vegetables are layered between sheets of pasta with bechamel sauce and a cheese topping.
Pesto is made with crushed garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil leaves and a hard cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano is a popular choice. It’s generally served with pasta or warm potatoes and has been a part of Italian cuisine for centuries.
These are effectively rice balls, coated in breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. These rice balls were originally created to use up leftover risotto. There are many different types of Arancini, as each region created its own fillings. You’ll want to try as many as possible.
Much of the Italian cuisine you know so well originated hundreds of years ago when people were poor and struggling to survive. Each dish is surprisingly simple and uses local ingredients. It’s the careful blend of those ingredients which ensures the food is nutritious, healthy and still tastes delicious today.