Eat Your Way Through Italy!

There is a great debate that often occurs amongst family and friends that starts with a simple question: where should we eat?

Multiple suggestions are thrown out and almost always, Italian food is tossed into the mix. When thinking of Italian food at large, we often think of Italian-American staples like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parmesan. But true Italian cuisine is far more vast and complicated, and you will see variations according to the many Italian regions.

Did you know you can tell if you are in the north or south of Italy just based on the pizza crust size?

From hearty and thick ingredients in the north to lighter staples of the south, let’s take a quick food trip through the country.

 

Brief Geography Run Down

Italy and its islands of Sicily and Sardinia lie at the center of the Mediterranean. Mainland Italy borders
France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Without a doubt, Italy’s cuisine is unique, but there are subtle
infusions due to its surroundings. And the food preference of a nation is often influenced by the climate; which Italy has snowy mountain terrain as well as humid, seaside landscapes.

 

Moving Down the Boot

You will find that the food in the northern part of Italy tends to be thicker and heartier.
Stews, meat and potatoes, and stocky ingredients are common. The Swiss Alps fall into Italian territory, so dense quality foods are necessary for the colder climate.

A common dish that you will find throughout the north is Polenta. Polenta is a cornmeal that can be prepared in various ways, but you might be familiar with this food because it is also used on pizza. Have you ever felt a grainy consistency to the bottom of your pizza? It was probably polenta.

Polenta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, ends trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups instant Polenta
salt as desired

1) Put a stockpot over high heat and bring 12 cups of salted water to a boil.
2) Put a large sauté pan over a medium flame and heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook until well
browned, about 7-10 minutes. Turn off the flame and transfer the sausage to a plate with a
slotted spoon.
3) Drop the garlic cloves and the broccoli rabe into the water. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain the
broccoli rabe and set aside.
4) Turn the flame back on under the sauté pan to medium-high. Add the broccoli rabe and cook 1-2
minutes. Add the sausage back to the pan along with any juices that have collected at the
bottom of the plate. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
5) Cook the Polenta according to the package instructions. For 1 1/2 cups of Polenta bring 3 cups of
water to a boil. Stream in the Polenta slowly while stirring to prevent clumps. Stir until
thickened, about 3 minutes.
6) Remove from heat and stir in the broccoli rabe and sausage. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Recipe from: Cooking with Nonna


Lightening Up

As you move south, you will see the food load lighten. From Florence to Naples you will find your
standard spaghetti’s and wine and cheese pairings from the Tuscan vineyards. This area of the country
can get cold, at times, but it tends to keep an even temperature. There is also a lot of farmland that
allows for such gems like the truffle and grains like farro.

Lentils with Farro

1 pound Farro
1 pound dry lentils
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
4 bay Leaves
2 carrots, cubed
hot pepper
salt
extra virgin olive oil

1) Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the Farro. Cook it for about 30 mins. Drain the water
and set aside.
2) Wash the lentils and put them in a deep pot.
3) Cover the lentils with water with 1 1/2" of water above the lentils.
4) Add all the other ingredients except the EV Olive Oil.
5) Cover the pot and let all the content come to a boil. Let it boil for about 10 mins.
6) Uncover the pot and let it continue to cook. On the side boil some hot water and add it to the
pot if the lentils become too dry.
7) Cook for another 10 mins. Taste the lentils and stop cooking them when they reach your desired
tenderness.
8) Add the Farro to the pot and bring to a boil.
9) Serve with a drizzle of good EV Olive Oil.

Recipe from: Cooking with Nonna


Mediterranean Influence

Calabria and Sicily are the warmest places in Italy and in typical warm climate fashion, you will often find seafood and citrus in the dishes. The southern part of Italy was also a common stopping point for groups traveling from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. So, this part of the country is interesting because a lot of the foods are influenced by Greek, Arab and Northern African culture.

Pasta with Sardines

1/2 pound Bucatini pasta
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 medium-sized sardines (Remove head and bones)
4 fillets of anchovies in oil
1/2 pound fennel leaves
2 tablespoons pinoli (pine nuts)
2 tablespoons currants
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
parsley
fresh pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
extra virgin olive oil

1) Put the bucatini to cook in boiling water.
2) In a pot of water put to boil the fennel leaves cut in 3 parts.
3) In a saute` pan, saute` the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil.
4) As the garlic turns blonde add the sardines and the anchovies. Break up the sardines and the
anchovies with a wooden spoon in large chunks.
5) After 3 minutes add the currants and the pignoli.
6) Saute` for 1 minute and add the chopped tomatoes.
7) Add hot pepper to taste.
8) Remove the fennel leaves from the hot water, chop into small pieces and add into the saute`
pan.
9) In a pot with 2 cups of hot water add the saffron and let it melt. This water will be used to color
the bucatini.
10) Drain the bucatini and put back into the pot. Pour the saffron water and stir for a few seconds.
Drain the bucatini again and pour in a serving bowl.
11) Pour the sarde sauce over the bucatini. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Recipe from: Cooking with Nonna


Redefining the Cuisine

As you can see, there is a multitude of food options that change with the regions. A lot of what we
think as Italian food is influenced by our American culture.

True Italian food is rich, flavorful and specific to the motherland.

Take a trip through this ancient land to see all the wonderful foods it has to offer!