With thick, rich, creamy textures and crisp, light, bold flavors, Italian cuisine is undoubtedly one of the world’s favorite cuisines. A cuisine inspired by different parts of the world and a standing testament to artful cooking. It is but magic on a platter every time you taste it.
So let’s deep dive into what makes this cuisine so lovable and how the birth of this cuisine revolutionized culinary cultures across the world.
The nascent history of Italian cooking began about 13,000 years ago and strongly established itself when the Greeks and Romans moved into the Italian peninsula around 1000 BCE. Cooking became an integral part, post the movement.
Italian cuisine originally revolved around barley & wheat, cooked into a porridge that was enhanced with wild greens, root vegetables & fruits. An extremely fertile and rich valley surrounds the River Po, the biggest river in Italy. Vegetation thrives in this rich soil abundantly. Italy being surrounded by water on three sided benefits from a variety of seafood and coastal vegetation too. Quite a lot of experimentation was done using the native ingredients until the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize, which is now central to the cuisine. As time progressed a wide variety of spices found its way into Italian cooking. Spices like cumin, sesame, coriander, oregano & saffron slowly became central elements that added essence and flavor to the simple porridge like food.
Bread and meat more than once a day, became a part of everyday Italian food. As experimentation grew over the period, Italians brought us salads dressed with oil and vinegar; also teaching us that the course should always be escorted by good crusty artisan bread dipped in fruity virgin olive oil. Italian cooking began to rapidly change over time and was inspired by elements across Europe.
Technique, later became a game changer in Italian cooking. Combining classical & traditional methods gave birth to the modern Italian food, far away from the bland and mild tasting porridge. Practiced methods told us that vegetables should be simply oiled or broiled and often reheated with a little garlic, vinegar, hot peppers, salt & a liberal splash of ubiquitous virgin olive oil.
Here’s a quick look at some of the core modern cooking styles and methods used in Italian cooking:
· Alla Bolognese: This style emulates the cooks of the Bologna region where meat sauces are often cooked with vegetables and tomato bases.
· Alla Caprese: This term refers to cooking a dish in the style of Campania region where dishes typically include tomato, basil, olive oil and fresh mozzarella.
· Al Dente: This describes the cooking of pasta, to have just a bit of firmness when you bite into it. Al dente translates into “to the bite.”
· Battuto: This is a mix of ingredients, very finely chopped. These include salt fat, bacon or pancetta, onion and garlic.
· Crudo: The addition of finely chopped raw herbs and vegetable to cooked foods.
· Grilling: This technique involves cooking meats, vegetables and sometimes even pizza on a grate over hot coals or burning wood in an outdoor grill.
All the above clearly establishes that whether eating at home or in a restaurant, Italians take food seriously. Rich in history and flavor, an Italian dish leaves you longing for more the moment you taste it. Stay tuned for our upcoming edition on Italian eating culture, additional ingredients used, and much more.