Italy is rich not only in history and culture, but also in traditional Italian recipes. As a matter of fact, aside from the all-time authentic Italian recipes such as pasta dishes and pizza, which are cooked and served throughout the country, each region has its own special dishes as well.
Another factor you may encounter with regards to Italian cooking is that the same classic authentic Italian recipes may have different spellings or altogether different names in different locales. They may have the same main ingredients, cooking methods, presentations, and all. But don’t be too shocked if you encounter basically the same dish but with a different name when you’re in another town, commune, city, or region. Not only that, but even traditional Italian recipes handed down for several generations may vary from family to family, too!
To begin with, Italian cuisine has its roots way back in the ancient world, particularly in the 4th century BC. On top of that, there were significant influences indelibly left by several ancient civilizations, namely the following:
A civilization in ancient Italy that settled in the areas that are now Tuscany, northern Lazio, and western Umbria. What has been discovered about Etruscan cuisine did not come from ancient cookbooks but on domestic items and decorations discovered in their ancient cities. Based on historical findings, Etruscans were not fond of eating meat. They preferred cheese, garlic, legumes, and onion. They also liked soup. However, historians do believe they raised pigs.
An influential ancient civilization in the Mediterranean that played a huge part in the development of many European civilizations. Historians also believe they had a major role in the foundation of the modern Western culture, as we know it today. Its cuisine basically revolved around three major ingredients: wheat, wine, and olive oil. Other common foodstuff you could find in an ancient Greek household were bread, fruits and vegetables, eggs, and dairy products. Meat consumption depended on location and social status. Wild birds and hare were usually hunted in the countryside. In farms, it was usually domesticated fowls such as chickens and geese. Meanwhile, bigger domesticated animals such as pigs, goats, and sheep were common in the cities.
A politically powerful world power in ancient world history, it is also heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks. Among the major foodstuff in ancient Roman households were grains, legumes, leafy vegetables, some root crops, herbs, wild mushrooms, citrus and dried fruits, berries and nuts, olive oil, meat and dairy products, seasonings, and sweeteners. Grains were often made into breads and was a common fare for the military and people living in urban areas.
Aside from the major influences in the past, another determining factor in authentic Italian recipes is the location. The entire Italian peninsula has quite a diverse landscape and Italian cooking has always been about using good quality and fresh ingredients. So families or households simply use whatever food items that can be easily found in the market, according to location.
In coastal areas, you will often find various kinds of seafood in many of their traditional Italian recipes. For mountainous areas, usual fares will be ones with heavy meat dishes, as well as cured or preserved fish. Pasta ingredients may also have differences, since dried pasta made of semolina is typical in the south while soft fresh pasta made with egg is the usual in the north.
Other characteristics of classic Italian recipes are its simplicity and seasonal ingredients. In fact, many traditional dishes can be considered easy Italian recipes, from their ingredients to their method to their presentation.