Say the words ‘Italian food’ to someone, and you’ll no doubt have them thinking immediately about all those staples of Italian food that we all know and love. Pizza, pasta, gelato, these Italian inventions have taken the world by storm and are known all over the world.
But many people tend to lump Italian food in one big bracket. This couldn’t be further from how Italian food really is. Italian cuisines vary enormously from region to region, and this variation is what makes eating Italian food in Italy so spectacular.
Eating a risotto in, say, Milan, will taste so much better because once, Italian locals and chefs couldn’t source ingredients from too far afield, so they had to make do with what they could get locally. And make do they did. Over generations, those local ingredients have been crafted into regional specialities, each one being refined and perfected over generations.
To entice you with some Italian cooking holidays that will get you perfecting these recipes, let’s break down Italian food by region.
One of the most well-renowned regions in Italy when it comes to food, this land of rolling hills and stands of cypress trees has its reputation for a reason. In Tuscany, the cuisine stems from the tradition of cucina povera, or ‘poor cooking’. This means that like a lot of Italian cuisine, the focus is on simple dishes, done to a mind-bogglingly good standard.
You can expect thick pici pasta served with game such as wild boar, hares, or pheasants, incredible bread and olive oil, along with some of the world’s best wines from the legendary Chianti region.
The Italian tradition of cucina povera is evident in many dishes that you may never have heard of, such as panzanella. A type of salad that makes use of leftover bread, it’s a Tuscan staple that you can master yourself on one of our cooking holidays in Tuscany.
From the land, to the sea. Sicilian food is all about the Mediterranean, and it exploits the riches of the sea as well as any cuisine in the world. It only takes a walk through one of the local markets to see exactly what that means. Stalls piled high with an endless variety of other seafood offers more than a clue to what you might taste on a trip to Sicily.
Meaty swordfish and tuna are some of the most popular on the island, but you won’t have to look far to snack on crisp calamari or red prawns, or for something a bit less fishy, there’s always those incredible risotto balls, arancini.
Because despite its island status, Sicily’s cuisine extends beyond seafood thanks to a steady stream of invaders, immigrants, traders and influences from Greece, Arabia, France, Spain and Italy. In fact, one of Sicily’s most iconic dishes, pasta alla norma, has no seafood ingredients at all. Made with aubergine, basil tomatoes and ricotta salata cheese, it’s a simple dish that is enjoyed by Italians everywhere, but has its roots in Sicily.