Italy features one of the most popular cuisines in the entire world.
Nevertheless, people still ask the innocent that typical question: "You only eat only pizza and pasta in Italy, right?”
So, as Italians, we smile and answer by asking another question back, "Does Japanese cuisine only consist of raw fish? Of course, not!"
Pasta and pizza are definitely the most popular and exported dishes worldwide, but there’s a lot more to Italian cuisine than meets the eye!
Let’s discover the four secrets of Italian cooking.
1. A dish for every type of climate and season
Regional differences in our country make our cuisine rich and suitable for all places and temperatures.
Italy is not only surrounded by sea, but it is also home to the tallest mountains in Europe, the Mont Blanc that we share with our French friendenemies, the Dolomites, and the Austrian Alps.
2. Its origins and its struggle
Our gastronomy has ancient roots particularly showcasing Etruscan, Roman, and North African influences. Until 1800, we imported, loved, and cooked dishes from around the world. Since 1900, however, we have shut our doors to foreign food. We fought against the fast food culture, and at least in Italy, we can say we won. Certainly, Italian children would be happy to eat at a McDonald’s, but you can bet that the following day they will avoid eating any sort of junk food. And don’t forget about how Italian mothers can be, they’re not very lenient when it comes to deviating from eating homemade Italian food!
3. What's the main course?
In many types of cuisines, there is a single main course involved in a meal, and in Italy very few dishes – pizza is an exception – can be considered a single course.
However, in 99% of cases a typical Italian lunch consists of:
- Antipasti (cured meats or cheese)
- Entrée (Pasta/Rice)
- Main course (meat, fish, beans/peas, vegetables)
- Side dish (vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms)
- Dessert (sweets or fruit)
Can’t fathom the thought of such a big lunch? Don’t worry. Nowadays, we don’t necessarily go through all these courses in a single meal.
Reminder: There is no main course here. Never mix everything in a bowl, and appreciate the different dishes the way they were cooked: separately.
An Italian cook might have a heart attack if they witness a foreigner killing a recipe that has been passed down over centuries in a matter of seconds. Go easy on it!
4. Simple is always better
Italian cuisine is primordially characterized by its simplicity.
Just a few ingredients, very few, but of excellent quality, that's the secret. Do not add anything else, improve the choice of products, and that’s it.
Does a mere combination of pasta and sauce seem too simple of a dish?
The problem, perhaps, might be the quality of the tomatoes and not necessarily how simple the sauce is. Think about it.
The 10 most common mistakes in Italian cuisine.
1. Getting too creative in the kitchen, for an Italian, is a sin.
Why? We are known for following the rules when it comes to our cuisine. We can even seem quite German when cooking! Greetings to our German friends that we know for sure love our country, our food, and our culture. And even though we usually envy their accuracy, in the kitchen the tables turn as we are clearly more precise than they are.
Following a recipe? Stick to it! If consider yourself a top chef, then maybe you could play around with it. Well, usually we wouldn’t even dare do that, and neither would our world renowned chefs.
2. Ketchup on pasta.
If you've ever committed this sin, know that’s just as bad as any other crime. Never do it again.
As you can probably already guess, ketchup is not in any way, shape, or form part of our cuisine.
3. Adding oil to boiling water to cook your pasta.
The oil is uncalled for as it won’t improve the taste of your dish.
Yes, do add excellent olive oil to your pasta when it’s ready – to dress it!
Tip: Mix the pasta in a pan with the sauce while stirring over low heat. Don’t just pour the sauce onto your plate. You'll notice the difference!
4. Chicken and pasta.
Ironically, we are not violent people, but don’t push it.
Chicken is a main course! Pasta is an entrée. Do not mix them!
5. Fruit juice on the table.
As Italians, we must savor the dish, so there are only two drinks allowed on the table: water and wine.
Now, there’s one exception: Pairing pizza with beer. It may seem a bit unorthodox, but sometimes the rules are meant to be broken – only after a few centuries have gone by though!
6. Cappuccino after lunch
This is like asking for a fork in a Chinese restaurant. Sure, you may ask for it, but rest assured no local will.
7. How to prepare a good pasta or rice side dish?
Don’t even try it! Pasta and rice are never side dishes.
8. How to make Fettuccine Alfredo?
Beg your pardon? Who in the world is Fettuccine Alfredo?!
9. Putting together a Caesar salad
Excuse us? Did the Roman emperor Caesar come up with the recipe himself? Guess no one in Italy got the memo.
10. And, pineapple on pizza?
You must be having a laugh!