Italian Food 101
Italian food is popular all around the world – and people mainly think of pizza when it comes to Italian food. However, there is a bit more to pizza when it comes to the plates on the tables of Italian families and restaurants. It is also wrong to believe that the people in the South have the same kind of dishes like the people in the North. When it comes to local Italian food, there are some regional differences because Italian still often make their food from scratch, and what they can do very much depends on what is available in any given season. However, there are a few dishes that are seen as typical Italian, and we will introduce some of them here.
Breakfast in Italy is often eaten in a cafe and not as big an affair as in English speaking countries (though many hotels in Italy offer a full English breakfast for their guests). Italians usually have a milky coffee (cappuccino or cafe latte) with either bread or a roll and jam. Often cookies, biscuits, and a type of hard bread are also eaten. Cereals and fruit are also on the rise as breakfast foods in Italy.
Rigatoni alla Carbonara
Also called Spaghetti Carbonara in English speaking countries, this is a popular pasta dish. The spaghetti are served with a sauce that is based on bacon, eggs, cheese, and black pepper. The sauce and spaghetti are mixed together and served in bowls, often topped with an additional sprinkling of cheese like Parmesan.
This is a very popular dish all over the world – and easier to prepare than one might think. The basic version consists of layers of pasta sheets, white sauce, and a pasta sauce mixed with minced meat (usually beef). These layers are then topped with a layer of grated cheese. The whole thing is then baked in an oven until the pasta sheets are soft and the cheese is golden brown. There are also vegetarian versions, and versions that use eggplant in addition to the pasta sheets. Many people these days also add mixed vegetables into the lasagna mix. This is a great dish to prepare in advance as you can then just put it in the oven 45 minutes or so before you need to serve the meal.
This is very popular with kids, and a comfort food for many. Simple spaghetti served with a pasta sauce mixed with minced beef, topped with some sprinkles of Parmesan. It is easy to prepare and goes well with a glass of red wine.
What a pizza is does not take much explanation, but maybe you would be interested in learning a bit more: The Italians make a difference between a red and a white pizza, i.e. a pizza with the typical red, tomato paste, and a pizza with a white sauce (commonly also called Foccaccia in Italy). The foccaccia was actually the first pizza and then later on, different toppings were added, and people then also thought that a tomato based sauce would also work well. It is commonly agreed that pizza originates in Italy though people all over Europe had been baking different types of bread for thousands of years.
Risotto is a yummy rice based dish that can be prepared in as many different ways as your creativity allows. The base is usually rice with some sort of broth. What kind of broth you use depends very much on what else you would like to put into the risotto. There are chicken risottos, mushroom risottos, beef risottos and also curry-type risottos (but that is not that Italian anymore then). Getting Risotto right needs a bit of practice, and getting the right consistency of the rice can be a little challenging for the beginner – the results are definitely worth it though.
The Minestrone is a lovely, thick vegetable based soup. It can be prepared with either rice, pasta, or potatoes as a base. However, some people often also put in all three when they have leftovers. Beans, onions, carrots, garlic, and tomatoes are also common ingredients.
Tiramisu is most likely the best known Italian dessert (apart from Italian ice cream, aka gelato). It is a creamy dessert made with layers of spongy cake, mascarpone cream cheese, fine chocolate powder, and coffee flavor.