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What are Some Examples of Italian Cuisine?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Italian food is loved throughout the world for its hearty flavors and filling combinations. Italy, situated in the verdant climate of the Mediterranean, has long been home to a variety of food and flavors, with an ancient emphasis on eating fresh and seasonal foods. Thanks to its rich historical tradition, many of the dishes beloved in Italian cuisine today have their roots in farming and cooking practices dating back more than a thousand years.

The first known Italian food writer was a Archestratus, a Greek Sicilian who lived in the 4th century BCE. Archestratus’ writings insist on the freshness and seasonality of food, noting that spices should not be used to mask a flavor but rather to enhance its natural properties. Although the popularity of this concept waxed and waned with the centuries, the idea of highlighting fresh flavors eventually became a cornerstone of Italian cuisine.

Fried calamari.
Fried calamari.

Many people instantly conjure up an image of a hearty pasta dish when thinking of Italian cooking. Some experts believe that pasta came to Italy during the 9th century, adapted from an Arabic recipe that combined flour and water to make long strings of a pasta-like substance. Today, Italy has perfected pasta in a variety of forms. In addition to stringy spaghetti, filled pastas like ravioli, and other noodles of various forms, Italian cuisine also includes gnocchi, dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes.

Oregano is often used in Italian cooking.
Oregano is often used in Italian cooking.

Gnocchi and other pastas are most often served in a sauce. One of the most common forms of pasta sauce, marinara, is made from a tomato base and often includes herbs such as basil and oregano as well as garlic and onions. Many classic Italian dishes simply add vegetables sautéed in olive oil or various meats and cheese to a basic pasta and sauce dish.

A frittata is an Italian egg-based baked dish.
A frittata is an Italian egg-based baked dish.

Italian cuisine is also noted for its use of seafood in many dishes. Calamari, from the Italian word calamaro is a famous squid preparation, deep-fried and garnished with parmesan cheese. This dish is a popular appetizer and has gained global fame. Fish dishes in Italian cuisine are often simple and reflect the seasonality of Italian food. Fish cooked with parsley, lemon juice and olive oil is a simple dish that offers a world of variations while keeping the integrity of the original flavors.

Pasta shells stuffed with cheese, sausage meat or vegetables is a popular Italian entree.
Pasta shells stuffed with cheese, sausage meat or vegetables is a popular Italian entree.

Italian desserts are a marvel in delicate pastry work. One of the most popular is tiramisu, a near-mythic concoction of espresso and marsala-wine flavored sponge cake layered with heavy custard and coated in cocoa powder. Italian cuisine also blesses the world with gelato, a dense frozen dessert similar to ice-cream but usually more rich and creamy.

Insalata caprese features basil, juicy tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella carefully arranged in layers.
Insalata caprese features basil, juicy tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella carefully arranged in layers.

Italian cuisine offers something for everyone, whatever your taste in food. While seafood lovers can find a host of choices among classic dishes, vegetarians are treated to a near endless combination of pastas, sauce and vegetable preparations. Added to traditional Italian cheeses such as pecorino or mozzarella, flavorful combinations of classic espresso, and enough desserts to inspire drooling, Italian cuisine surely ranks as one of the most popular and crowd-pleasing genres of food world-wide.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

My favorite Italian food is mozzarella cheese, fresh mozzarella specifically. It's so versatile and can make a great meal with some bread and pesto. It's my lunch most of the year. I make a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes.

I think that the simplest Italian recipes are the best, like bruchetta and caprese salad. I like these dishes with fresh simple ingredients. They're satisfying and also easy to digest.

stoneMason

Tomatoes have become such an essential ingredient for Italian dishes. It's surprising because tomatoes are originally from the Americas and were introduced to Europe fairly late. But now, we can't even imagine tomato based Italian recipes like spaghetti sauce and lasagna otherwise.

burcinc

Don't forget the amazing Italian meatballs and breads! And also cream puffs for dessert.

My roommate is Italian and she loves to cook. I'm very lucky because she has treated me to delicious Italian meals many times. She made a pesto and salami filled eggplant dish the other day. She also makes lasagna all the time and her favorite dessert of choice is cream puff pastries.

I like to return her kindness with traditional Polish dishes since my family is originally Polish. We sometimes have massive cooking days where we just cook and eat with friends.

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    • Fried calamari.
      Fried calamari.
    • Oregano is often used in Italian cooking.
      By: Taiga
      Oregano is often used in Italian cooking.
    • A frittata is an Italian egg-based baked dish.
      By: dreambigphotos
      A frittata is an Italian egg-based baked dish.
    • Pasta shells stuffed with cheese, sausage meat or vegetables is a popular Italian entree.
      By: MSPhotographic
      Pasta shells stuffed with cheese, sausage meat or vegetables is a popular Italian entree.
    • Insalata caprese features basil, juicy tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella carefully arranged in layers.
      By: hitdelight
      Insalata caprese features basil, juicy tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella carefully arranged in layers.
    • Tomatoes are used in a variety of Italian dishes.
      By: Giuseppe Porzani
      Tomatoes are used in a variety of Italian dishes.
    • Chicken cacciatore is a well-known Italian stew often served over pasta.
      By: Joe Gough
      Chicken cacciatore is a well-known Italian stew often served over pasta.
    • Garlicky pesto is made with liberal amounts of extra virgin olive oil.
      By: margo555
      Garlicky pesto is made with liberal amounts of extra virgin olive oil.
    • Chicken Marsala simmered with wine and mushrooms.
      By: annie1961
      Chicken Marsala simmered with wine and mushrooms.
    • Tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese is a classic Italian dessert.
      By: Viktor
      Tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese is a classic Italian dessert.
    • Classic Italian dishes include pizza, pasta, and salads.
      By: Marzia Giacobbe
      Classic Italian dishes include pizza, pasta, and salads.
    • Calamoro is made from squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      Calamoro is made from squid.
    • Ciabatta rolls.
      Ciabatta rolls.
    • Tiramisu is one of the most popular desserts in Italian cuisine.
      By: MarcoBagnoli Elflaco
      Tiramisu is one of the most popular desserts in Italian cuisine.
    • Gnocchi is served in a manner similar to pasta.
      By: Marco Mayer
      Gnocchi is served in a manner similar to pasta.
    • Today, Italian cuisine offers many types of pasta.
      By: isrgil
      Today, Italian cuisine offers many types of pasta.
    • Garlic is popular in Italian cuisine.
      By: Schlierner
      Garlic is popular in Italian cuisine.
    • Chicken piccata is a popular Italian dish.
      By: HLPhoto
      Chicken piccata is a popular Italian dish.
    • Pasta with pesto sauce, topped with pine nuts.
      By: Francesco83
      Pasta with pesto sauce, topped with pine nuts.
    • Fresh basil leaves are often used in Italian cuisine.
      By: Natika
      Fresh basil leaves are often used in Italian cuisine.
    • A bowl of bocconcini, small balls of fresh mozzarella.
      By: Viktor
      A bowl of bocconcini, small balls of fresh mozzarella.
    • Grated Parmesan cheese is often used in Italian cuisine.
      By: Bert Folsom
      Grated Parmesan cheese is often used in Italian cuisine.
    • Pasta with sausage and mushrooms.
      Pasta with sausage and mushrooms.
    • Chefs who specialize in Italian cuisine often use fresh, locally sourced ingredients in their dishes.
      By: goodluz
      Chefs who specialize in Italian cuisine often use fresh, locally sourced ingredients in their dishes.