When people think of Italian cuisine, most think of pastas and pizzas. However, there are many more dishes and influences that inspire those dishes. The history of the Italian people, as well as the geographical location of Italy, contribute to the types of food. Italian culture is shown through its cuisine.
There are about 20 regions in Italy and in each one you can find different types of food. A long time ago, it was difficult for Italians to travel to other regions of Italy. This resulted in different styles and ways of preparing food in each region, as few people were exposed to other types of cuisine. So even though Italy doesn’t seem to be a very large nation geographically, it still has a wide range of flavors.
The north and south of Italy have a very different climate. The south has a very warm climate while in the north the climate is cold. Dry pasta, like spaghetti and rigatoni, is found more in southern areas because it is easier to dry in hot climates. As it was more difficult to prepare dry pasta in the north, pasta such as tajarin, pappardelle, and tagliatelle were more popular. Other popular types of pasta in the north were stuffed pasta such as ravioli.
The climate also affected the types of food and plants that could grow in Italy. Some plants, such as olive oil, grew better in warm climates, so olive oil was widely used in southern Italy. The olive trees did not grow well in the northern areas where it was cold. Butter and lard were used instead of olive oil.
Tomatoes are another type of plant that grows best in hot climates. In southern Italy, tomatoes for cooking are widely used in conjunction with red sauces. Broccoli raab and eggplants are two other types of plants that grow well in hot climates. Vegetables that thrive in colder climates such as northern areas are kale, chicory, thistles, and cabbage.
Along with the climate, the economy plays a role in Italian cuisine. Another staple in Italy older than pasta and pizza is polenta. It is commonly used today, but long ago it was popular with the poor in Italy. Polenta was easy to make and prepare in Italy.
Countries bordering Italy such as France and Austria also have an influence on Italian cuisine. Other foreign influences include Spain, England, and the Arab countries. These countries occupied specific areas of Italy throughout history.
With all the different types of Italian food, it is important in Italian culture to savor and enjoy the different flavors. Meals are an important way for Italian families to bond by sitting down to a ten-course meal that could last around three hours. Since getting the flavors is important and because there are so many dishes, the size of each dish is much smaller.