Italy is a country that is filled with wonder. And traditional Italian cuisine adds to the allure of this wonder.
Italy’s scenery is spectacular and its position on the edge of the Mediterranean allows holidaymakers to enjoy the legendary lifestyle that spawned such cinema classics as ‘La Dolce Vita’ – The Good Life.
Although the classic was a bittersweet tale directed by Federico Fellini the fact remains – the search for the good life remains a central part of Italian culture.
Nowhere is this truer than in the Italian approach to cuisine.
Traditional Italian cuisine is now a feature of the dining scene in most countries of the world.
Patrons of restaurants serving items from both the coastal areas of the Mediterranean still base their expectations on the use of the freshest ingredients.
These ingredients are lovingly combined in deceptively simple ways according to age-old recipes.
So if one had to visit Italy (or an authentic Italian restaurant) what would they expect when it comes to cuisine that truly represents the Italian love for a great dining experience?
Here are some of the meals that have made Italian cuisine so popular around the world.
1. Enjoying Pizza and Pasta
These two mainstays of traditional Italian cuisine vary wildly in their preparation depending on where in Italy one chooses to dine.
When it comes to pasta for instance when in Rome do as the Romans do.
Order ‘pasta alla carbonara’ which differs from western offerings in that the ingredients include cured pork cheeks (guanciale), eggs and Pecorino cheese, with the added addition of black pepper.
Alternatively immerse yourself in ‘Spaghetti alla Gricia’ lovingly prepared with bacon, cheese, pepper while boasting a chilli pepper kick.
When it comes to pizza the traditional version which had its origins in Naples is a symphony of taste made possible by using only the freshest of ingredients.
Expect to be presented with a thin crust, fantastic olive oil, fresh garlic and basil, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Simplicity becomes culinary magic in this dish.
2. Lasagna with Love
Who doesn’t like lasagna? This basically combines lasagne “noodles” layered with cheese, meat and bechamel sauce.
This amazing combination tantalises taste buds worldwide. However, once again, regional approaches vary.
3. Osso Buco alla Milanese
On a cold winters night, there can be no greater joy than tucking into this hearty dish.
Tender, melt in the mouth Veal which has spent hours simmering in white wine is to die for.
Served with a medley of locally grown vegetables and complimented by the addition of gremolata, a side dish combining lemon zest, garlic and parsley.
Much of the joy of the dish comes when the tender Veal shank has been picked clean.
After devouring this succulent dish, it is then time to soak up the sauce with some fresh bread and suck the marrow from the bones.
4. Perfect Prosciutto
Once again the deceptive simplicity of this meal doesn’t really provide an insight into the iconic nature of this dry-cured ham.
Served wrapped around a local cheese or providing a savoury/sweet combination when served with melon it is a delight to the senses.
In many regions of central and north Italy, it may also be served with pasta.
These dishes are only a taste (if you will pardon the pun) of the delights that await those who venture into an authentic Italian restaurant.
What is more important is the love and care that goes into the preparation of traditional Italian fare. This truly adds to the overall culinary experience.