Italian food is some of the most popular in the world. It’s nutritious, simple, and cheap. However, Italian food is much more than just plates of pasta and takeaway pizzas.
You should be aware of all the Italian recipes that have helped make Italian food so popular and learn more about the products and ingredients used in each dish.
In this article, Superprof is going to take you on a culinary journey to Italy. By the end of reading this, you should have a much better understanding of what makes Italian food so special and why so many people love the Mediterranean diet.
Italian Cuisine Around the World
Italian cuisine has almost conquered every corner of the globe and with good reason.
It’s impressive how widespread it is. For one, 14 billion pasta dishes are consumed every year! Pasta carbonara is the most popular dish in the world.
However, the authentic Italian recipe doesn’t call for any cream. In fact, Italians hate it when you add cream to a good carbonara. The original recipe only calls for pasta, bacon, parmesan, and eggs.
The success of Italian food has been helped by various waves of immigration from Italy to other parts of the world:
- Between 1860 and 1930, many Italians left Italy for the Americas.
- From the 1950s, there was another wave of European immigration to the Americas.
That’s why you can find Italian cuisine in North and South America as well as all over Europe.
There are plenty of Italian restaurants outside of Italy and it’s not just the Italians who enjoy the food. Italian is the most popular type of food for a lot of Brits.
What about the rest of Europe, though? It’s the same story:
- According to TripAdvisor, Italian cuisine is the most popular type of food.
- The UK, France, Belgium, and Germany are home to the most Italian restaurants (outside of Italy, of course).
- The Spritz cocktail was hugely popular during the summer of 2016, too.
As we mentioned before, the Italians didn’t just stay in Europe and neither did their food. Across the United States and Canada there are a lot of Italian neighbourhoods.
They brought their traditions, including cucina della mamma (traditional Italian home cooking), with them to local businesses and neighbourhoods.
Even some of the most typically American dishes have a taste of Italy in them. Take pizzas, for example, that even have particular styles depending on which city you’re in.
From Naples (where the Neapolitan pizza was born) to New York, the humble pizza has put in the mileage.
Tourists from all over the world can find themselves in some of the most famous Italian neighbourhoods:
- New York’s Little Italy
- Petite Italie in Montréal
- The Hill in Saint Louis
- Little Italy in Toronto
These are the neighbourhoods where you can find plenty of trattorias, Italian restaurants, and Italian grocery stores... sometimes even the architecture will remind you of Italy.
In South America, Argentina could almost apply for dual nationality given how many Italians are there.
In the capital, Buenos Aires, while there’s no Italian neighbourhood, the Italian influence can be felt in almost every street. Especially when it comes to the food.
Did you know that it's traditional for people in Argentina to eat gnocchi at the end of every month before payday?
In fact, in a lot of traditional Argentine restaurants, you can find dishes such as:
- Veal Milanese
If you’re interested in cooking Italian dishes, you should look for Italian cooking tutorials, ideally from authentic Italian chefs.
Italian Cuisine that Isn’t Pizza or Pasta
Saying that Italian food is just pizza and pasta is a bit like saying that the United Kingdom is just London (however, you can get Italian cooking lessons London!).
Italian food is sometimes subject to unhelpful stereotypes. Fortunately, there are plenty of skilled Italian chefs breaking these stereotypes.
Itchefs is a group for Italian chefs working outside of Italy. Their goal is to promote Italian cuisine around the world.
They organised the International Day of Italian Cuisines on 17th January to show off a few of the most popular Italian dishes:
- Arancini di riso, fried balls of rice and cheese
- Aubergine rolls with ricotta or mozzarella
- Beef carbaccio with parmesan, which was invented in a Venetian bar
- Squid ink or porcini mushroom risotto
- Buffalo mozzarella with a dash of olive oil
- Bruschetta, slices of grilled bread with cherry tomatoes, cured ham, etc.
- Panettone, a sweet bread baked with dried fruit and usually eaten during the holidays
- Panna cotta, an Italian dessert as popular as tiramisu
You should pair some of the amazing Italian wine with these delicious dishes, too. Italy is one of Europe’s biggest wine producers and in 2015, it produced more wine than any other country in the world.
Their popular wines include sparkling white wines like Prosecco and sparkling reds like Lambrusco.
Trebianno d’Abruzzo is one of the best Italian wines. If you like white wine, you’ll love this one!
Learn more about the different kinds of Italian food.
The Top 20 Italian Recipes
The Italians have got cooking down to an art.
Before you cook any of our top 20 Italian dishes, you should know that in Italy, cooking focuses on eating at home with the family as much as it does in restaurants.
Dishes and recipes are often passed from generation to generation.
If you want to cook a pizza, you could make a margherita, the traditional pizza with tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella, or a Neapolitan pizza with oregano and parmigiano reggiano, you’re going to have to master making the dough.
- Gluten-rich flour
- Salt and bakers yeast
- And a lot of patience because it can take a long time.
Whether it’s for pizza, pasta, or risotto, the ingredients used in Italian cooking are very important.
Before you make any Italian dishes, you’re going to need to stock up your fridge and cupboards with some typically Italian ingredients. Here are the first few things you should get and always keep stocked up:
- Classic Italian cheeses like parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta.
- Tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, in particular.
- Vegetables like aubergines and courgettes.
- Italian charcuterie like cured ham, pancetta, prosciutto, and bresaola
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Herbs including basil, oregano, and coriander
- Meats like veal and beef
These ingredients are some of the most commonly used in Italian dishes and are a must for anyone hoping to master Italian cooking.
While you can find them in most supermarkets, you should also check out Italian grocers if you can as they tend to get better artisanal products than the bigger supermarkets.
Once you’ve got them, you’ll be able to make pasta (fusili, penne, spaghetti, or stuffed ravioli) with carbonara, bolognaise, or pesto.
You can also make risotto, ossobucco, and plenty of Italian starters (known as antipasti in traditional Italian meals) like crostini and arancini.
Find more delicious Italian recipes.
Italian Cuisine around Italy
While we probably often think of Italy as a country, you should keep in mind that it wasn’t until quite recently that Italy was a single country.
In fact, Italian unification only occurred in 1871.
This is partly why Italians have both a national and regional identity according to the part of Italy they’re from as well as plenty of regional specialities when it comes to food.
- Pizza originated in the south of Italy, in Naples, the capital of the Lombardy region.
- The wheat used for making pasta is usually grown in the Apulia region.
- Gnocchi alla romana was born in Rome, in the Lazio region.
- Tuscan cuisine includes truffle, saffron, and olive oil.
- Parmigiano regiano, bolognese, and lasagna are from the Emilia-Romagna region.
- Campania produces the San Marzano tomato, Italy’s finest.
- Polenta and cured ham are produced in the Aosta Valley.
So next time you find yourself in an Italian restaurant, you’ll quickly see the regional diversity available on each menu.
With so many Italian regional specialities, there’s something for everyone when it comes to Italian cooking.
That’s not all, though! There’s also an Italian food theme park that opened in 2017.
In the mean time, get to your ovens! If you feel like learning more about Italian cooking, why not enlist the help of a private tutor?