Italian Cuisine Overview

This entry is part 2 of 31 in the series My Italian Kitchen

italian-kitchen-bannerIf you base your knowledge of Italian cuisine on what American restaurants offer, you’ll have a very narrow view of Italian cooking. Slightly smaller than California, Italy consists of nineteen major regions which break down even further into various provinces and counties. The cuisine includes some general attributes which divide along Northern, Central and Southern lines. However, each region is known for its own specialties. You can see in the two maps below what I mean about the regions. Italy was unified into a single country in the 19th century.





Northern Italian Cuisine

In the North, farmers grow corn and rice, the main ingredients in polenta and risotto. Beef and milk products such as cream-based sauces, several varieties of cheese and butter feature frequently in northern dishes.

Central Italian Cuisine

Mushrooms, beans, white truffles, pork, and wild game define this area’s cookery. The most well-known wines come from this region: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Southern Italian Cuisine

The sunny south contributes a large quantity of fresh produce such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, olives and olive oil, garlic, artichokes, oranges,  zucchini, and capers so these vegetables figure heavily in southern dishes as does ricotta cheese, and all kinds of seafood.

Due to time constraints, I will be limiting the vastness that is Italian cuisine. Although I will cover some dishes that are specific to different regions, my main influence will be Southern cooking, primarily from Naples and Sicily since that is where my mother is from and where I grew up, respectively.

Traditional Italian cooking emphasizes flavor, texture and color, focusing on fresh, often locally-grown produce. Much of this country’s cuisine is simple peasant food, with few simple ingredients, using the best products – best because they were grown in the kitchen garden, or the local orchard, and picked at the peak of ripeness.

We will emulate this tradition by selecting only the best produce, making substitutes when needed. Come back tomorrow where we’ll be talking about all things pasta!




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About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

6 thoughts on “Italian Cuisine Overview

  1. You know, I guess I assumed there would be differences in regional cuisines in Italy just like there are in other countries but I never knew much about them! Thanks for the information!

  2. That is fascinating! It makes sense that there would be different regional dishes based on what was readily available. Looking forward to reading more.

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