The pleasures and love of Italian cuisine are known the world over. Italian cookery and recipes vary from region to region, and on the whole it is very healthy and nutritious, using natural ingredients that are in season. Most traditonal and 'speciality' dishes as we know today, are on the whole derived from simple peasant cookery, for example the Pizza, which could be found a couple of centuries ago on the streets of Naples being sold by street vendors to those that had no cooking facilities of their own at home.Although there are essential ingredients that every Italian kitchen should have, (including basil, garlic and olive oil!), the most important ingredients are passion and creativity.
Italians take great pride and pleasure in their food, and cooking and eating habits can vary from region to region, even from village to village. Each place has their own unique dishes and ingredients, and even the traditional dishes that are so popular all over Italy are cooked in different ways depending which region you go to. For example, if you eat a lasagne from Naples, it doesn't have the bechamel sauce as you would expect in the more traditional lasagne. It also has small meatballs (or polpette)as oppposed to mince, and also salami and eggs. The different regional cooking depends on a number of factors, not only as to what ingredients are most abundant each region, but also historical factors. Naples, for example, was founded by the Greeks, and this had some influence on the Neapolitan way of life. Not only in the language and music, but also in the cookery.
Some original and unique types of ingredients and cooking originated from the North; Balsamic vinegar (Modena), pesto (Liguria), and tortellini (Bologna) to name but a few! Other food characteristically eaten in the North is Polenta, that can be eaten in many different ways, e.g fried and even in a polenta cake. Dishes in the North tend to be a bit 'heavier' than that in the South, (think the ingredients used for Spaghetti Carbonara compared to the classic healthier and lighter tomato sauces of the South!)
Central Italy is very diverse, and such regions as Rome, Florence and have little in common. Some examples to be found all around central Italy are Porchetta (pig stuffed with rosemary and fennel), pork, lamb, black truffles and porcini mushrooms.
Cuisine in the South is characterized by the abundance use of fish, aubergines, peppers, olives, the spicy ingredient pepperoncino, and first and foremost the tomato, which has a huge industry in Naples. In the Naples and Campania regions, there is some Spanish and French influence to be found in the cookery. Pizza and pasta are especially popular and traditional, the Pizza Margherita having been born in Naples. In Apulia, they have a diet rich in fish (mussels and oysters being a speciality)and vegetables. The orecchiette (little ears)pasta is also from Apulia.
Although the cuisine varies greatly all over Italy, there is one thing you can be sure of, and that is enjoying your food! Buon Appetito!