Traditional Italian Food
The hardest thing about eating in Italy is that you can't taste everything. Every day he has a limited number of meals and a limited amount of space in his stomach, while there seems to be an infinite number of Italian dishes and Italian food that is "absolutely necessary to try."
From regional specialties to the best seasonal delicacies, it would take several lifetimes to taste the best Italian food, and that's before you even consider desserts and drinks.
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We have created a small list of Italian dishes for you to try on your trip. This is not the best of, and is certainly not exhaustive;
On the one hand, we have avoided the topic of cold cuts and cheeses because they are worlds in themselves, but in it are the dishes that we think everyone should at least try. once when they visit Italy.
Together, they summarize the heart and soul of the various culinary traditions that exist throughout the country. If we missed your favorite dish and we are sure there are some, please let us know in the comments.
1.- Pizza the Italian Dish for Excellence
Although a piece of flatbread served with oil and spices existed long before the unification of Italy, perhaps there is no dish that is as common or as representative of the country as the humble pizza.
Easy, cheap and filling pizza has long been a common snack or meal in Italian food, especially in Naples where tomato sauce was first added.
When Italian Queen Margherita passed through the bustling city on a tour of her kingdom in 1889, she asked to try this dish that she saw many of her subjects eat.
A local businessman served him the now legendary tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil combination, creating (or more likely, branding) the Margherita pizza. Whether by coincidence or design, the Margherita also displays the colors of the Italian flag.
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Best Italian Dishes
Today, there are essentially two types of pizza to choose from in Italy: Neapolitan-style pizza or Roman-style pizza (although to be honest, there are plenty of delivery places that are a middle ground between the two).
Neapolitan-style pizza has a thick, fluffy crust. It tends to be slightly smaller in diameter because the dough has not spread as much and is more abundant.
Roman-style pizza has a paper-thin base and just barely crunchy (you don't want it soggy!). It has a larger diameter but is generally lighter and less like a gluten bomb.
History of Pizza in Italian Gastronomy
Due to Naples' history with Queen Margherita, the city claims to be the birthplace of modern pizza, although the point is debated throughout Italy.
Whatever the case, the general rule of thumb for ordering pizza in Italy is to look for fewer ingredients. You must also be skeptical of pizzerias that load a lot of ingredients; This can often be a tactic used to cover up the use of poor ingredients.
Fewer coverages are a sign of confidence in the product because each coverage has to be exemplary.
Whichever pizza you prefer, the other rule of thumb is: When in Rome, do what the Romans do, that is, eat Roman-style pizza. When in Naples, naturally, do what the Neapolitans do.
2.- Lasagna a delicacy in Italian cuisine
Lasagna is a wide, flat pasta noodle, usually baked in layers in the oven.
Like most Italian dishes, its origins are highly controversial, but at least we can say that its stronghold is in the Emilia-Romagna region, where it was transformed from the food of a poor person into a rich meal filled with ragout or sauce. of meat.
Although you can find lasagna all over Italy, there's nothing like trying the hearty plate at Emilia Romagna with homemade noodles, fresh ragout, and a generous helping of regional pride.
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Traditionally, lasagna was not made with tomatoes (remember, those came from the New World in the XNUMXth century); just ragout, bechamel sauce and cheese, usually mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano or a combination of the two.
Even today, only a little tomato or tomato sauce is used in a traditional ragout, unlike most Italian-American dishes, which are basically swimming in tomato sauce.
This concentrates the flavor of the meat, but is sometimes a bit jarring for American palates which can be appreciated more when it is on the Italian food menu.
3.- Bottarga: Italian Cuisine in its Totality
Smoked eggs of the sea rat. What? Don't be put off by this rough description of an Italian delicacy because the other way to describe bottarga is "Sicilian caviar."
In August and September, southern Italians take the roe from the gray mullet, salt it, press it, and then air dry it for six months.
The result is a solid chunk of eggs the color of amber and blood oranges that, when sliced and eaten or grated over pasta, bloom into a gloriously flavorful, smoky, briny bouquet.
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Although essentially a poor man's answer to preserving seafood in the days before refrigeration, it is now considered one of Italy's most sought-after and luxurious food products, alongside truffles (more on that later).
We recommend grating it over pasta, or simply slicing it thinly and drizzling it with lemon juice and olive oil.
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4.- Ribollita: Do not miss this Italian Food
While we're on the subject of Tuscany, I'd be remiss if we didn't mention this hearty soup that has become so popular that Campbells makes a (unsurprising) version.
With roots in the peasant cuisine of the region and typical in Italian food, this vegetable soup is thickened with bread instead of meat, because that is what was cheaper and more available for hundreds of years in the desperately poor Italian countryside. .
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In Tuscany, the dish is considered a special treat in the fall, when the flavor of the vegetables from the harvest is most vibrant and the soup explodes with intense flavor despite the absence of meat (at least in traditional versions).
Often eaten as a starter rather than pasta in Florence's trattorie, this is a hearty stew that showcases the immense and often untapped power of great produce.
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5.- Polenta: An Italian Delicacy
Although we tend to associate pasta with all of Italy, the truth is that until relatively recently, the basic starch that was consumed in the northern part of the boot was polenta.
This corn porridge, which is almost identical to the semolina eaten in the southern states of America (the variations are due to the roughness or fineness with which the corn kernels are ground), was originally made with whatever starch that was kept on hand, including acorns and buckwheat. .
However, the introduction of corn to Europe in the XNUMXth century made it the dominant ingredient in polenta.
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Although it lacks the diversity of shapes and textures that pasta has.
Polenta is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of meats, especially stewed meats, and is arguably one of the most comforting foods to eat when temperatures drop in cities like Milan. , Turin and Venice.
Look for it as a porridge, or packed and fried in wobbly fritters. Nor should you get lost in the next dish ...
6.- Original Ossobuco of Italian Gastronomy
The world famous ossobuco alla milanese is a bone-in thigh of veal, simmered and simmered until melted in a broth of beef broth, white wine, and vegetables.
Traditionally, it is accompanied by a gremolata (lemon zest, garlic and parsley), but that is optional.
Although Milanese like to claim this meaty masterpiece, there are as many versions as nonnas in Lombardy, which is known for its hearty, often rustic dishes that are good for topping the ribs and warding off the winter chill.
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Despite the popularity of ossobuco (which literally means "hollow bone"), it is not always common to see it on restaurant menus because it requires about three hours of cooking time.
If you have the opportunity to eat it in a restaurant or at home, or even cook it yourself, you should take the opportunity. It is usually accompanied by polenta or the next item on our list.
7.- Fiorentina Steak in Italian Food
A bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine ribeye, covers all the characteristics of the best dishes in Italy: a specific cut of meat from a specific cow prepared in a very specific way, all within the limits of a specific region.
In the case of the huge bistecca fiorentina, it is a ribeye cut thick (at least 5 centimeters) from the back of a Chianina cow raised in Tuscany. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, until the outside is cooked and the inside is very rare.
There is no point ordering a medium well done steak here, the meat is too thick to even think about!
Despite all the dogma, there are some variations on the Florentine steak. For one thing, meat doesn't always come from a Chianina cow these days.
Many Florentines agree with the addition of new breeds, but others swear that the Chianina's sheer size and musculature make the T-shaped bones the best. When in doubt, just ask.
Also, Florentines tend to prefer higher cuts, closer to the rib cage, which contain the steak known as bistecca nella costola, while beyond Florence, in Tuscany, you are likely to get a filetto de bistecca nel, an undercut that tends to be smooth. and more melted in your mouth.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean it's better. Florentines argue that the bistecca nella costola comes from a more used muscle, which means it is tastier.
Whatever cut you get, this is a dish to be eaten exclusively in Tuscany, whether in Florence or in the countryside.
It is also meant to be shared! When ordering, remember that the bistecca alla fiorentina is priced by weight; For two people, it typically weighs 1 to 2 kg (or almost 2 to 4 pounds).
8.- Risoto: Tradition of Italian Cuisine
Completing the holy trinity of Italian starches is rice, which is often eaten as the creamy, luxurious risotto. Ironically, Italians are not big consumers of rice, with all the pasta and polenta, but they are the biggest rice producers in Europe.
While southern Italy is often called the country's bread basket, northern Italy, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, are its rice bowl.
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It is fitting, then, that the Arborio and Carneroli varieties grown in the vast rice fields of these regions become one of the most iconic Italian dishes when mixed with broth and stirred into a velvety semi-soup that perfectly conveys the flavors of any thing. cooked with it.
The most famous type of risotto is probably the saffron-infused risotto alla milanese, which was invented, according to Italian cuisine legend, by the Milan Cathedral construction workers who used saffron to stain stained glass windows and thought that They would also throw it on their walls. rice.
Other classic versions of the dish include risotto al nero di sepia (with cuttlefish and ink) and risi e bisi (with pancetta and peas), both from Venice.
9.- Pasta Carbonara a delight of Italian food
It is possible to go to Italy and eat nothing but pasta. We know because we have done it. But if there's one bucket-list pasta everyone should try at least once, our vote goes to carbonara (we know this is controversial, feel free to leave your desert island pasta in the comments).
This dish is deceptively simple: spaghetti, eggs, pecorino cheese, cured guanciale and black pepper, but it takes a lifetime to master and a good version will change your life.
There are many knockoffs, that is, the ones that thicken their sauces with cream or use bacon instead of guanciale, but they don't accept substitutes because the difference in flavor is huge.
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This is a Roman specialty, but even in the capital there are still many Italian food restaurants that can and do go wrong. The best way to ensure an exemplary version is served to you is to get a recommendation from a local.