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.