- Food and Cooking»
- World Cuisines»
- Southern European Cuisine
10 Reasons Why I love Italian food
Desserts are Made of Heaven
From the sweet, fruity and soft delicate fluffiness that is the Panettone sweet bread to the divine custard creamy goodness of the panna cotta- these are just some of the traditional Italian food staples that fuel the dessert tray on every day and special holiday meals. I remember that the first thing I learned how to make on my own was Christmas biscuits made of licorice and it was absolutely scrumptious. You would eat them like giant candy bars and as children we would run around the house staining the carpets with crumbs from our licorice candy.
My favorite Italian dessert of all time would probably be the peach zabaglione. It’s a dessert that’s made of a rich mixture of peaches and eggs with a hint of delicious vin santo. We don’t normally have it all the time but it was something that my siblings and I would look forward to every time my grandmother would come to visit for the holidays. Growing up it was an excuse to enjoy dessert with wine, plus it was just absolutely delicious. I remember my grandmother would make me extra two servings of it because she knew just how much I adored eating it. Don’t consume too much though- you can get a hangover the next day depending on how much vino is put in it.
It’s Embedded in Family Tradition
Cooking Italian food is almost a family ritual that has been passed on from generation to generation. I don’t know any Italian family that doesn’t have their aged-old “legacy” recipe which is a compilation of great grandmother to grandmother to mother secret eats. If there is anything a traditional Italian family holds most precious, then the family cookbook will probably be on the top three. Many famous Italian restaurants started out using their family recipes and as we know it always turns out to be a huge hit. In my family I would probably feel bad if the family cookbook didn’t end up being willed to me by my mom.
My memories of great family time involve long talks in the dinner table and hours of fun conversation while enjoying what my mom slaved on cooking. It was a typical Italian household, and part of it was partaking in helping my mom prepare dinner while learning the ropes and recipes which she held dear. I don’t think I would have traded anything else for the experience because it taught me how to be a great cook and an appreciator of Italian tradition in every sense of the matter.
There is a Wine for Every Dish
You can't call yourself an Italian food connoisseur if you don’t know how to pair your Italian dishes with the right wine. Wine is another staple industry in Italy, in fact almost 40% of the livelihood in half of the Italian region produces wine and grape by-products in the form of balsamic vinegar. This has made Italy a great wine country and this is as expected when its all about pairing your food with the right vintage.
Suggesting a deep red wine to match with fish will probably get you some outrage and a no-invite to the next dinner in an Italian home. There are a lot of tradition that goes into picking the kind of wine and vintage that is used for specific dishes, especially when served on special occasions. On a general rule fish and seafood dominant dishes are served with stronger wines with great palette influence. White wine is never served at room temperature and is also used for making dessert and as marinade. Pork is also enjoyed with whites, although there are some reds with strong flavors that are preferred for pork. Now for meat, many Italians will prefer red wine with a mild sugary taste but with a lot of body and bouquet. Italians take their wine seriously so don’t get caught with the boxed kind in your cupboard lest you won’t be able to invite your friends back for your next dinner party.
The most versatile vinegar
Not many people know this but one of the most versatile exports of Italy is it’s traditional balsamic vinegar, which is probably the price of your entire grocery list for the month. Of course if you can't afford to pay five hundred dollars for a small bottle of authentic balsamic vinegar, that’s not a problem because there are many alternatives to this ambrosia of seasonings. A milder and lesser version, the ones you will probably use in a restaurant to season your salads is available everywhere and is yes, still produced by the regions of Italy.
Balsamic vinegar is almost considered a staple in Italian food because it is used for so many different functions. It comes from the reduction of a very specific kind of grape that is grown for the specific purpose of aging the almost syrupy type liquid to what we know as balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar in Italian cooking is used in meat, poultry, fish, as a dressing to salads and even for desserts and cocktails. No self-respecting stocked Italian cupboard will be out of it. Personally I enjoy splurging on balsamic vinegar, I don’t buy the five hundred dollar ones but I purchase the next best quality which cost about 1/10 of the traditional balsamic vinegar.
Enjoy cheeses a million and one ways
When it comes to Italian food, no one can say that cheese is amiss in most classic Italian dishes. Italy has made the use of cheese a revolutionary innovation in the world of cooking. With hundreds of years of experience in cheese making, Italians have perfected the making of different cheeses and ways to suit their flavor and character to many superb Italian food recipes. If your knowledge of dairy is restricted to your cheese plate then you would be surprised to find out that even that serving is predominantly influenced by Italian culture.
Italy has been one of the major producers of various gourmet cheeses worldwide since the early 14th century. It’s love affair with the creation of superb dairy products have been a long standing one, and a relationship that has shaped the way the world enjoys cheese. Cheese comes in many forms, flavors and consistency- most of which can be attributed to the crafting of cheese in old Italy. Cheese is a part of the Italian dining experience. Rarely is there a dish that won’t have some kind of cheese additive. Perhaps the most popular Italian food that makes the perfect marriage of cheese and other components would be the traditional risotto, which is normally prepared with mozzarella cheese.
Need I say Ham?
I guess aside from vegetarians, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good slice of ham- and boy do Italians know their ham. The art of curing meats is yet another gift that the Italian culture has bestowed upon the world. There are so many different gourmet ham, of course not entirely from Italy but with some of the most celebrated hams coming from there. Making ham requires the delicate process of curing and flavoring specific kinds and parts of meat and it’s the Italian process of ham making that has given birth to some of the world favorites.
Prosciutto for example is one of the most enjoyed hams but is made with such care and calculated measure it would blow your mind if you found out just how complicated it is to produce those scrumptious flavors exactly. Many hams are traditionally part of the dinner table staples, with many Italian families storing pounds of it and serving the cuts either cold or as a main course, basted or seasoned to perfection. A traditional way of preparing leg ham for example is using a balsamic glaze as to caramelize the ham while basting it precociously in the oven for several times over. This gives the ham that bright golden coating and makes the flavors of the ham stand out.
Italian Food is Revolutionary
I think that another reason why Italian food is so popular and is loved by so many worldwide is the innovation that goes into the evolution of food, thanks to Italian perseverance in food history. Many of what we enjoy now as restaurant staples are from Italian traditional dishes and have since made its way into the hearts of every foodie. Italian food has its charm in the use of flavorful ingredients and the mix of both traditional and non-traditional ingredients to make one delectable dish. Perhaps the perfect example of this would be the creation of pasta from scratch, which can now virtually be made from any flavor and shape.
The renaissance isn’t the only legacy that Italy has left the world- food has also been a milestone for many Italians as they continue to serve up best tasting dishes on a global scale. Many famous and well celebrated chefs are Italian and it is because of their traditional values in cooking that they have amassed recognition. Italian food is what you might consider ambrosia, it takes flavor into serious consideration without taking your health and tossing it out of the window. Many of the ingredients that are Italian cuisine staples provide a health benefit and promote well-being. The use of various herbs in the recipes does not only add natural flavor but it reduces the use of salt and increases the nutritional value of the dish.
It doesn’t take rocket science but requires a certain finesse
Another important thing to remember when examining Italian food is how most of it is prepared. Unlike many modern cuisines that have also gained a following, Italian cookery is both art and science. This means that despite the innovation that Italian food contributes to the gastronomic world, it took many specific and calculated measurements that follow in deep tradition before those new things were embedded in Italian cooking. A lot of Italian chefs are sticklers when it comes to following the recipe to the tee. There is a very specific reason for that.
Italian food has been in a state of evolution since the time of the renaissance, this means that the recipes handed to this generation are near close perfect already. Deviating from the culture of those recipes means food may not come out as delicious as anticipated. Many traditionalists will tell people who try to experiment with Italian cooking that before you attempt to tweak a recipe, think of the hundred thousand chefs that did it for you. In a way this rationale is quite logical, Italian cooking isn’t a new budding discovery, it’s embedded in deep tradition and hundreds of years of fine tuning by some of the world’s greatest artisans of food.
Pasta at it’s finest
Don’t even get me started on the important contribution which is pasta. Where would the world be without this delicious food? Pasta is probably one of the greatest gifts that Italy could give to the world. With the creation and distribution of pasta, we are able to enjoy some of the most memorable and delightful dishes, not to mention that its absolutely good for you and is a treat to the palate. With places like Abruzzo producing some of the best pasta in the world, its hard to imagine life without going through an amazing culinary experience of enjoying good pasta.
It’s absolutely delicious
I guess the bottom line of it all is that no matter how you look at it, Italian cuisine is absolutely delicious. There is something for everything, vegetarians, carnivores, dessert-aholics you can find something in Italian food that you will fall in love with.