Here’s our look at some of the top Italian eats and treats.
This one’s a bit of a given. Italy is renowned for pasta. It has been a staple of the nation’s cuisine for centuries and is typically made of durum wheat flour and water/eggs. A huge variety of shapes are produced from this dough including spaghetti, lasagne, fusilli and penne. Typically the different shapes form part of particular dishes or are served with specific sauces. Pasta can be cooked either fresh or dried and both types are widely available.
Nutella (pronounced new-tell-uh) is a hugely popular Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread. It was first created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, patissier and founder of the Ferrero Company. Ferrero devised the spread in the 1940’s when cocoa supplies were scarce due to World War II rationing. As hazelnuts were plentiful in northwest Italy Ferrero blended the two ingredients together with skimmed milk and a legend was born. Nutella is now sold worldwide and is advertised as forming a tasty part of a nutritious breakfast.
The dictionary definition of Parmesan is ‘of or pertaining to the city of Parma in Italy’. The term is generically used to name any hard, sharp-flavoured, dry Italian cheese but the delicacy that is actually produced in a defined region of northern Italy is Parmigiano-Reggiano. This Italian classic is made out of cow’s milk and aged for an average of two years before being individually inspected by the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Italy is famed for its gelato – a soft, un-aerated ice cream commonly flavoured with nut purees or fresh fruit. It has a history which stretches back to the frozen desserts (made of ice and snow) served in ancient Rome and Egypt. Modern gelato is said to have been invented in 1565 by Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti. In the early 20th century gelato carts became wildly popular and there are now a fabulous variety of gelato shops all across Italy.
America might be the biggest pizza consuming nation in the world but it all started in the Mediterranean. Some believe that the world pizza derived from the Latin word pinsa, meaning flatbread. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Italian pizza we know today was developed. The traditional Neapolitan style Margherita pizza had a thin base and was simply topped with tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil – in diehard Italian pizzerias you’ll still be hard pushed to get much else!
Although just how rice made its way to Italy is a bit of a contentious issue no one can argue with the fact that risotto is one of the nation’s best known and most widely loved dishes. Risotto alla Milanese was the first variety of risotto. The core ingredients of the dish are rice, stock (often chicken stock), white wine, onions, butter, parmesan and saffron but in contemporary cooking hundreds of types of risotto have come into existence which capitalise on a whole host of flavour and texture combinations.
Arancini are a tasty rice-based Italian snack. They are thought to have originated in Sicily but there are a huge amount of regional variations on the recipe. Typically arancini are balls of rice filled with a meaty tomato sauce and mozzarella, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried until crispy. They are sold from food stalls and in restaurants across Italy.
The word ‘Ossobuco’ means ‘hollow-bone’ and is the name of a famous Milanese dish. The core of this hearty, slow-cooked stew is cross-cut veal shanks. Other ingredients included in the rich dish include broth, white wine and vegetables. The original version was flavoured with bay leaf and cinnamon but in the modern version tomatoes are a key ingredient.