Italian cuisine is food typical from Italy. It has developed through centuries of social and economic changes, with roots stretching to antiquity.
Significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World and the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, maize and sugar beet, this last introduced in quantity in the 18th century. Italian cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and the south of the Italian peninsula. It offers an abundance of taste, and is one of the most popular and copied in the world. It influenced several cuisines around the world chiefly that of the United States.
Italian cuisine is generally characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only two to four main ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional, have proliferated with variations throughout the country.
Pasta, vegetables, olive oil and fish are a major part of the Italian cuisine. Italian cuisine is probably the most important expression of the Mediterranean diet.
Italian cuisine has developed over the centuries. Although the country known as Italy did not unite until the 19th century, the cuisine can claim traceable roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Food and culture was very important at that time as we can see from the cookbook (Apicius) which dates back to first century BC.
Through the centuries, neighbouring regions, conquerors, high-profile chefs, political upheaval and the discovery of the New World have influenced its development. Italian food started to form after the fall of the Roman Empire, when different cities began to separate and form their own traditions. Many different types of bread and pasta were made, and there was a variation in cooking techniques and preparation. The country was split. Regional cuisine is represented by some of the major cities in Italy. For example, Milan (north of Italy) is known for its risottos, Bologna (the central/middle of the country) is known for its tortellini and Naples (the south) is famous for its pizzas and spaghettis.
Italian cuisine has a great variety of different ingredients which are commonly used, ranging from fruits, vegetables, sauces, meats, etc. In the North of Italy, fish (such as cod, or baccalà), potatoes, rice, corn (maize), sausages, pork, and different types of cheeses are the most common ingredients. Pasta dishes with use of tomato are spread in all Italy. Italians like their ingredients fresh and subtly seasoned and spiced.
One should not miss out on feasting on pasta and pizza, the two iconic traditional Italian dishes during their vacation.
Pasta types vary significantly depending where you go in Italy. Be sure to try the regional specialties in the cities that you are visiting. If you are exploring beautiful Rome, order a serving of the pasta alla carbonara, prepared with ingredients such as eggs, Pecorino cheese, guanciale (a type of Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks) and black pepper.