From the steep Alpine slopes of Sampeyre to the coastline of Napoli, all the way down the heel of the boot to Lecce, and everywhere in between, Italy’s cuisine is as varied as its landscape. All too often when we think of Italian food, our minds immediately might go to things like spaghetti bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, or even linguine alfredo (none of which are truly Italian!). But as you will soon discover, Italian cuisine is rich in regional tradition far from these “standards” of what many of us have come to know in Italian-American cuisine.
Italy was not even truly unified until the late 1800s. So its feudal roots remain well entrenched even still, as evidenced by the strong presence of the regional linguistic dialects. It’s still possible to find people (mostly the elder generation these days) who don’t even speak much Italian, but rather only their local dialect. The regional recipes are every bit as diverse as these dialects. Even from one hilltop to another within the same region, one can find variations on recipes; and people still argue, mostly amicably, over whose way is best!
The foundation of Italian food and cooking is most certainly (even today) based on the availability of local ingredients and most especially to those “native” to the regions. There is a rather simple logic to it—from the plentiful seafood and the seemingly endless coastlines and islands, to the heavier meats and cheeses in the mountains, along with fruits, nuts, vegetables all in season or in the locally preferred version of preservation. The old ways of preserving foods like pickling, salt curing, drying, and even the spices they use, all inform a great many dishes even in our modern days of refrigeration and easy transport. It is the foods that are raised, grown and produced in the regions, and have been for centuries; that truly make each locale unique from a culinary standpoint.
As we move through our 20 months of blogging the regions of Italy, we’ll focus on each region and their various wines, foods, cultural traditions and how to travel there. When it comes to food, we’ll be talking with chefs, nonne (grandmas), farmers, cheesemakers, salumi makers, etc. and digging deeper into regional foods and recipes and what makes them so special along with the food sources and products that are raised, grown and/or created in each region.
As an introduction, we invite you to a visual feast of Italian regional cuisine and a tiny taste of what’s to come. Enjoy! (Just click on the photos below for a gorgeous slideshow.)
We’d also love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite regional dishes in Italy? What are your favorite things about Italian food?