Italy is a food lover’s paradise. One of the main reasons why Italian food tastes so satisfying is because of its freshness. No matter which region you’re in, the food is freshly made from locally grown ingredients.
The Italian philosophy is that if you’ve got fresh, high-quality ingredients as a starting point, the flavours will shine through. There’s no need to over complicate food with rich, extravagant sauces, just let the ingredients do the talking.
Italians are also extremely passionate about their food. They obsess over food like us Brits obsess over the weather. And they put their heart and soul into their creations, which are more often than not handmade from scratch. Recipes get passed down through families for generations.
But what dishes and delicacies do they treasure the most? Of course, there’s the well-known pizza and pasta, but what other delights make it into their most celebrated dishes? We explore the best-loved Italian foods below.
Every Italian has pizza at least once a week, and it’s not surprising since pizza has been a part of Italian heritage since around the 16th century. Italian pizza is characterised by a thin but fluffy base that’s cooked in a wood-fired oven. Naples, which hosts the world pizza-making championships is perhaps the best place to go for the best Italian pizza.
Most pasta lovers will agree that it’s always better homemade, and the Italians couldn’t agree more. If you’ve ever tucked into a dish of freshly made pasta, you’ll know the difference. Each region in Italy tends to make their own type of pasta. For example, carbonara pasta is traditionally from Rome, in the Lazio region. Pappardelle pasta can be found all over Tuscany, and orecchiette and capunti are firm favourites in Puglia.
Another Italian treasure that’s very specific to different regions. Cheese is celebrated all over the country and used in a huge variety of dishes. Pecorino cheese is prominent throughout Tuscany, caciocavallo cheese can be sampled in Puglia and mozzarella is common in the Campagne region. Ricotta is used throughout the country in both sweet and savoury dishes, and Gorgonzola is consumed a lot in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions.
Focaccia is a type of bread that’s made with salt and herbs and topped with tomato, olive oil and olives. Though there are all sorts of different varieties. It’s said the best Foccacia can be found along the Italian Riviera.
A delightfully simple yet very satisfying salad. It’s an ideal accompaniment to a carb heavy meal and is often served as a starter. Caprese salad is basically fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with basil or a pesto sauce. It’s usually drizzled in a high-quality local olive oil.
Yes, Italy is infamous for its pasta, but you’ll also find the occasional risotto on Italian menus, especially in Northern Italy. Along the coast, seafood risotto is very popular and let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with a simple yet flavour some mushroom risotto. Risotto Alla Milanese, made with saffron is also worth a try.
This soup was traditionally made with all the leftover vegetables. It literally means ‘reboiled’. However, over the years the locals in Tuscany have perfected this simple soup recipe into a hearty dish that’s oh so satisfying. It’s always made with crusty, leftover bread and cannellini beans plus a selection of healthy veggies.