Italy is made up of twenty regions with distinct characteristics. Every town, every village, makes the same dish in vastly different ways, and every town and village have its proudest specialty. These cooking traditions define people’s identities just as much as their dialects and their traditional costumes. Local cooking preferences and customs are shaped by geographic, historical, and climactic differences. This article will provide you a brief introduction on regional cuisine from 4 different regions from north to a very south.
Located in northern Italy, Lombardy stretches up towards Lake Como and down to Milan. The region is home to many rich, regal dishes like golden risotto alla Milanese.
Risotto is considered one of the most typical first courses in Lombardy and in particular the Risotto alla Milanese. Saffron gives this dish its signature golden color and comes from the former practice of adding gold leaf to the rice. Throughout northern Italy, risotto is traditionally made with butter and other local ingredients like mushrooms, sausage, frogs and pumpkin. Rice is also used in soups and vegetable minestrone. Also, Polenta is considered as important an ingredient as rice, especially in the mountains parts of the region. It is served with cheese, small birds, and butter, of course. In Valtellina
Liguria is located along Italy’s northwestern coast. Steep hills covered with fragrant herbs and colorful vegetables lead down to the fish-filled waters.
The simple, natural flavors of region’s produce are known, and loved, throughout Italy. Genovese pesto is popular among all Italians and is made with one of the region’s most ubiquitous plants – basil. The basic recipe for pesto captures the flavors of both the land and the sea: olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, and sea salt
Tuscany is located in central Italy. The strong, yet simple flavors of Tuscan cuisine are a product of outstanding local ingredients.
The flavors of Tuscany are strong and straightforward. The regional recipes are based on outstanding, local ingredients. Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is the used in almost every recipe and really defines Tuscan cooking. Tuscans consume a lot of vegetables and legumes.
Tuscan meat, and especially beef from the Val di Chiana, is known for its excellent quality and simple preparations. The classic Florentine steak, or Fiorentina, for example, is grilled over juniper wood with aromatic herbs, while pork loin, or arista, is slow-roasted in the oven.
The vibrant flavors of Sicily reflect the island’s colored past. Citrus, swordfish, tuna, cappers, cuscus and cannoli are all Sicilian strong points.
Sicilian cuisine is a melting pot of all the different cultures that have occupied the island. Sicilian cuscus, is identical to its Middle Eastern cousin cuscus, however, you are much more likely to find it served with a rich fish stock in Sicily. Rice is used to make arancini, or stuffed, fried rice balls, that are also of Arab origin.
Swordfish and tuna are caught off the coast and used in many regional recipes that include tomatoes, olives, capers from Pantelleria, lemons, and other citrus.