Traditionally, Italian cuisine is based primarily on wheat products such as pasta and bread, combined with cheese, meat, fish, and fresh vegetables prepared in a way that preserves the natural quality, appearance, and taste of the ingredients.
Although best prepared by an authentic Italian mother in the kitchen of a villa in a gorgeous area like Tuscany, the true flavours of Italy can be enjoyed in any good Italian restaurant.
The Art of Italian Cooking
Italian food with its rich and textural ingredients is bold and satisfying yet light and packed with flavour.
According to the Italian chef Michael Chiarello, author of the cookbook ‘Bottega’, “enjoying Italian cuisine is more experiential than intellectual as it comes from an emotional place that is very evocative”.
Italian cuisine is so much more than pasta, pizza, and big plates of meatballs.
Italians rely on trusted staples like olive oil, prosciutto, dried porcinis, and balsamico.
American-Italian food was born when Italian immigrants found it hard to find their trusty ingredients and started using more sausages and other meats in their dishes with a healthy dose of garlic to improve the flavour.
However, it can never replace traditional, authentic Italian cuisine as it will leave your tastebuds with only half the story of authentic Italian cuisine.
The Italian Meal
Preparing Italian food is really a celebration of produce and nutrition comes as a second thought.
A typical meal will start with a large plate of antipasti – the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal – followed by a light dish of pasta and sauce.
The main dish is usually a deliciously prepared protein dish like meat, fish, or chicken accompanied by vegetables.
Antipasti can sometimes be more exciting than the main dish as it contains such a variety of fresh and cured foods.
A traditional antipasto includes a variety of cured meats, pepperoncini, olives, anchovies, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, vegetables in oil or vinegar, accompanied by cheese, olive oil, and bread.
A variation on this theme includes a seafood platter with calamari, smoked salmon, olives, tuna fish, and mussels.
An antipasti salad consists of an assortment of cheese and olives, peppers, salami, pepperoni, artichokes, lettuce and tomatoes dressed in a homemade Italian dressing.
Onion and garlic are the familiar go-to’s for most Italian dishes but intense green and vibrantly coloured vegetables feature prominently on the plate.
Tomatoes feature prominently in Italian cooking and large quantities are prepared for use in sauces and other dishes.
Olive oil, the cornerstone of all Italian cooking, is used to drizzle over everything or used to braise, fry, and preserve food.
Balsamic vinegar is another prime staple in Italian cooking and an important ingredient for dressing salads and for dipping fresh bread into along with olive oil as part of the antipasto dish.
Any respectable Italian kitchen will always have a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano within arm’s reach when cooking.
Other soft and hard cheeses are also popular but nothing compares to these two staples.
Fish is another staple in traditional Italian cuisine whether fresh from the sea or canned in oil like tuna or sardines.
- Preserved Food
Italians are great at preserving and curing, turning olives into olive oil, pickling vegetables in vinegar, turning meat into salami and sausage, fish into salt cod, and, of course, turning grapes into wonderful wine.
They firmly believe in taking the time to make the deliciousness of food last longer.
The flavours of their preserved foods are so intense that a little goes a long way.
Starches are used as a vehicle for wonderful sauces and only the best ingredients are used.
From home-made pasta like fettuccine, ziti, and tortellini to authentic Italian Arborio rice to make the creamiest risotto, starches are there to carry the flavours of Italy to the palate.
One of the most important things about every authentic Italian dish is that it has been built upon traditional products and fresh ingredients that are best when based on seasonality and location.
Italians meals seem to have a reverse crescendo, each dish becoming simpler as the meal progresses.
Quality ingredients are very important when preparing Italian food just like the Italians do.
At Osteria 20, we offer an authentic Italian dining experience with service that is second to none.
Conveniently located in Hawthorn, please come and visit us today at Osteria 20.