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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Popular Italian Food

When people think of popular Italian food they most likely think of spaghetti, lasagna, or tortellini.  However, the popular Italian food in Italy is actually a little different and much more diverse.  

A very popular Italian dish is the minestrone soup.  This soup makes excellent use of one of the most popular ingredients in Italian food, beans.  Beans are widely used in Italian food and are the feature ingredient in many soups, not just the minestrone.  Along with beans are nuts as another popular ingredient.  The main nut preferred for Italian food is the pine nut. This nut is used to not only accent pasta dishes, but also as a main ingredient in popular desserts.  But, the most common and popular use of the nuts is in pesto sauce.  Nothing says Italian food like a good pesto sauce.

Another popular Italian food ingredient is rice.  By far the most popular use for this ingredient is in the signature Italian food dish of risotto.  Here rice is mixed with broth, vegetables and spices to make a very unique and flavorful dish.  Risotto is widely known as the most popular appetizer in Italian food and different regions take great pride in their individual risottos.  Rice is also used in many different soups and stews throughout Italy.  

The most ubiquitous of all popular Italian food ingredients is olive oil.  The best olive oil is known as extra virgin olive oil and many Italian food chefs rely strictly on extra virgin olive oil.  The difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil is the acidity.  In order to be classified as extra virgin the olive oil must not contain more than one percent acidity.  Virgin olive oil on the other hand cannot have more than two percent acidity.  Extra virgin olive oil is by far the most popular in Italian food where it is used not only to cook food in, but also as a dressing for salad and a dipping option for bread.  

When discussing popular Italian food it is essential to talk about the most popular breads and pastries.  Breads serve an important role in Italian food.  They can be used as appetizers, sides to a meal, and desserts.  The most popular breads are flavored with herbs, cheeses, and sun-dried tomatoes.  An excellent dessert bread in Italian food is the biscotti which means "twice baked".  This popular dessert is more like a biscuit or cookie and is often flavored with almonds and spices.  Fruit can be added to the biscotti and a popular choice is cherries.  Biscotti are very versatile in Italian food, being served for breakfast with coffee or as an after dinner treat.

There is much more to Italian food than just pasta and sauce.  Italian food is a cuisine of diversity.  When traveling in Italy it is often amusing to see the stark difference between what Italian food is popular in America and what Italian food is popular in Italy.  If you want to try some different Italian food you certainly can't go wrong with these time tested favorites.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Italian Food and your Italy vacation

Italian food will be very important to you during and after your Italy vacation. Most people are usually surprised by the diversity of food in Italy especially if they expect to eat pizza, pasta and spaghetti during their Italy vacation. You may get your fill of these classics while you are in Italy but you will also want to make sure you get your fair share of local delicacies too. Make sure the food you eat is made from locally grown ingredients and make sure you pair the food with some great wine and you will be experiencing Italy at its best.

Italian food is classed into 3 regional types. Northern, Central and Southern. While visiting Northern Italy during your Italy vacation, you will find that the food here is less "Italian" than you would expect. For example they use less olive oil and more butter. They also eat more rice and corn polenta here than pasta and tomato sauce is not used very often. Northern Italian food also includes a lot of use of wild game found in the countryside. These include wild fowl, rabbit and quail. Northern Italy also has some coastal towns and some towns and villages near streams and rivers. So if you visit Northern Italy during your Italy vacation you may eat a lot of seafood and fish.

What we know as "Italian food" comes from Central Italy. Olive oil, cheeses and rich tomato sauces all hail from central Italy. The coastal areas here are also well known for seafood. Italian cooking was said to have been born in Tuscany which is a region in Central Italy so to be sure to visit this area during your Italy vacation. Some of the best olive oil comes from Southern Italy. But very little of it is exported so make sure you sample the olive oil here during your Italy vacation. Naples, a city in this area is well known for its pizza and southern Italy as a whole grows a lot of citrus fruits and has many vineyards. Some of the best wines in the world come from Southern Italy.

You may eat at several local restaurants during your vacation in Italy. However one of the best ways to sample some of the different food that Italy has to offer during your vacation in Italy is to take a cooking class or make your vacation a culinary one. Many of these classes and culinary vacations include going on a winery tour or wine tasting events. Cooking classes can range from a few hours to half a day and they range in price from about $150 to $250. Many of these are hosted by families in homes or small inns and bed and breakfasts. Some of these classes are taught by excellent chefs many of whom have written Italian recipe books and manage restaurants. They will teach you which food goes with which wine to make for a delicious meal. During your Italy vacation you can learn how to make your own homemade spaghetti and authentic tomato sauce.