Every time I think of Italy, I immediately see pictures of different kinds of pasta, with melted, gooey cheese, topped with the freshest of tomatoes and a smattering of parsley. Truly! The thought of Italian food always makes me hungry!
Italian cuisine is as rich as the country’s culture and history. Most Italian food are closely associated with a historic place or event in Italy, with an authentic recipe that has been passed on through different generations. Indulge yourself in reading about the mouthwatering Italian dishes.
Italian dishes you must try at least once in your life
What could be more Italian than Pizza from Naples! Naples was the birthplace of pizza. I can say that Pizza was born out of necessity. Poor peasants from Naples were forced to improvise as they do not have much to eat. They topped their flatbreads with tomatoes, a fruit brought by trading explorers coming back from Peru. The dish gained popularity and became the prototype of today’s Pizza.
There are officially three different kinds of Neapolitan Pizza:
- Pizza Margherita, With toppings of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pizza Margherita Extra, with the same ingredients as the Pizza Margherita, the extra being the buffalo in the mozzarella (this is my favourite!).
- Pizza Marinara, with toppings of tomato, oregano, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
Pizza Margherita was created by the baker Raffaele Esposito who was then working at a pizzeria in Naples. He made it in 1889, in honour of Queen Margherita of Savoy who was visiting with her husband King Umberto I. Coincidentally, the colours in the pizza reflects those in the Italian flag; (tomatoes), green (basil leaves) and white (mozzarella).
Pizza Marinara, is so named in allusion to “la marinara”, the wife of the seaman who prepares the dish for him when he comes home from fishing trips in the Bay.
You can actually make your own Neapolitan Pizza! To make it authentic, you have to follow the following guidelines:
- The dough should be made with water, salt, fresh brewer’s yeast and Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour that is a highly refined.
- You must use your hand to knead the dough. You may also use a low-speed mixer if you like, but do not use a rolling pin.
- Top the dough with a puree of raw Italian San Marzano tomatoes.
- Add the fior di latte to the toppings. Fior di latte is mozzarella cheese from cow’s milk. You may substitute this with mozzarella di bufala.
- Sprinkle basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Use only fresh and all-natural ingredients.
- Bake the pizza for 60-90 seconds. Make sure that it does not exceed 90 seconds in a stone oven fired by wood with a temperature of about 800 F.
It’s that easy! These guidelines were set by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), the association who gives certification to pizzerias that employ the use of the authentic, traditional and proper way of making Neapolitan pizza.
Melanzane alla parmigiana
Melanzane alla parmigiana, also known by its shortened term Parmi is a popular restaurant dish that is made with layers of cheese and tomato sauce stuffed with shallow, deep-fried eggplant filling. There are other variations of the dish in terms of each filling, but the most authentic is the one with aubergine.
The process of making Melanzane alla parmigiana is simple. You just slice the eggplants, pan fry them, then arrange the layers of cheese, eggplant and tomato, then put it in the oven to bake. You may also try dipping the eggplant in beaten eggs and flour before frying it. It is also good to experiment with different kinds of cheese.
The direct translation of Ribollita in English is “reboiled”, since its early versions were actually unfinished food collected by the servants from their masters’ dining table. They reboil these bread and vegetables for their own meal. This is why in earlier years, Ribollita was regarded as “cucina povera” or poor man’s food. Little did the servants know that they had created what would be one of the most important dish in Tuscany.
Frittelle di San Guiseppe
Frittelle di San Guiseppe, also called St. Joseph’s Day Fritters are usually eaten during Fathers’ Day. They are deep fried rings filled with different kinds of mixtures like pastry cream, butter, custard, jelly and honey, and sprinkled with sugar on top. Some regions like it to be bread-like or pasta-like inconsistency while other regions prefer it light and puffy.
The Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro perfected this dish that is said to have been created by a convent of monks in the 19th century.
Cacciucco is a seafood stew originating from Livorno. This spicy and zesty stew was created by fishmongers of the early days who did not want their unsold catch to be put to waste. The dish has fish, sometimes shellfish, squid, octopus and monkfish, It has a rich broth with a tomato and chili base. Sage and garlic provide additional flavors to the stew. This is usually served with crusty bread.
Polenta Con i Funghi
Polenta with mushrooms is a tasty dish made by soaking dried mushrooms in water until they are soft enough to mash. They are then fried, boiled and flavored with wine. After that, the mixture is stirred until it becomes slurry. Milk, butter and cheese are also some of the components of this hearty soup.
Did you enjoy reading about Italian food? Do you have a favourite Italian dish?