Pasta Is Also Unique From Place to Place

Pasta is also unique from place to place ( Fresh homemade pasta abounds throughout Italy and is often simply dressed, so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavor. Dried pasta is most popular in the South and can be adorned in countless inventive ways. Some say there are more pasta shapes in Italy than one person could conceivably eat in a lifetime. Italians have been known to squabble over the proper name and culinary use of a particular pasta shape. Some shapes have legends behind their creation, such as tortellini, from Emilia-Romagna. Legend has it that a lusty innkeeper in the city of Bologna invented this ring-shaped, stuffed pasta after peeping on the goddess Venus through a keyhole. With merely a glimpse of her bellybutton, he ran straight to the kitchen in a fit of passion to make this pasta in honor of her bewitching navel.

Local cooks will still argue for hours over the proper name, preparation, and origin of particular dishes. Italian food is always a matter of regional pride. But if one were to try and sum up this diverse cuisine, Italian cooking can best be described as a celebration of local flavors held together by a singular appreciation of high-quality, seasonal ingredients, presented in elegant simplicity. Across all regions, Italian dishes are straightforward preparations of a few choice ingredients, which are artfully combined.

Italy is unified by a national concept of classic meal structure

Italy is unified by a national concept of classic meal structure. Rather than serving up everything in one or two courses, Italian dinners traditionally include an array of many small plates enjoyed in succession, giving diners an extended time to savor food and company. Meals progress from antipasto (appetizer), to a first course of pasta or other starches, a main dish of meat or fish with a simple side of vegetables, followed by salad, cheese and fruit, coffee, and possibly a digestive (like grappa or sambuca liquor). Contemporary city dwellers, who have largely abandoned this meal structure for convenience sake, often still follow it on holidays, when the long feast still prevails. Yet these time-consuming meals arguably inform the Italian understanding of food as a sensory bliss beyond mere nourishment.

Dessert is sometimes served at the end of a special meal, but more often is enjoyed on its own as a midday snack. Characteristically, Italian dolci are restrained in terms of sweetness. Cookies, cakes, pastries, and tarts can be savored with coffee as a daytime energy boost.

The ever-popular tiramisu literally means “pick me up” and is composed of sweetened mascarpone and Marsala with espresso-soaked lady fingers. One theory asserts that Northern Italian women created this caffeinated dessert to stimulate and fortify troops during World War I. Some sweets are more specific to holiday seasons, such as panettone, a buttery egg bread laced with dried fruit and candied citrus, eaten around Christmas. This famous Milanese treat is quite laborious to make, traditionally taking up to a week to complete.


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