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     >   National + Regional Cookbooks   >   Mediterranean   >   Italian


    How to Cook dishes from Italy


    The Pizza Therapy Pizza Book

    The Pizza Therapy Pizza Book

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    Italy has a well-established and deserved reputation for producing high-quality food and tasty cuisine. Best known for pizza and pasta, Italian food also includes many excellent meat and seafood dishes, as well as excellent cheeses, and fabulous desserts.

    It has often been noted that Italy is a country of great regional variations - and that is certainly true, indeed the country was only unified in 1861 - and this fact is reflected in the diversity of Italy's regional cuisine. It should also be noted that Italy has been invaded many times over the centuries, as well as trading with many other countries, and this too is reflected in the national cuisine.


    Some of the regional variations that you may encounter in Italian food include:
    • Northern Italy's native products include balsamic vinegar, bolognese sauce (ragu), lasagna, mortadella (a heat-cured pork sausage, served as a cold cut) parmigiano (parmesan cheese) polenta (a dish made from boiled cornmeal), prosciutto (dry cured ham) and tortellini (stuffed pasta). Rice is grown in both Lombardy and Piedmont (although different types in these two regions), which is used to make risotto.

    • Tuscan cuisine often features meat, white beans and unsalted bread.

    • Mozzarella and pizza, not to mention sfogliatelle (Italian filled pastries) originate from Naples.

      Authentic Neapolitan pizza served in Naples

    • Roman cuisine often uses pecorino (cheese made from sheep's milk) and offal. Rome is also known for its ultra-thin pizzas.

    • Calabria (the region corresponding to the "toe" of Italy) is known for its spicy variety of salami.

    • Sardinia is well-known for its lamb and pecorino (cheese made from sheep's milk).

    • Sicilian cuisine is noted for its Arab influences in its cooking (with the use of lemon and pistachio), as well as for its seafood (including tuna and swordfish). Sicily is also the home of gelato (ice cream) and granita (a delicious semi-frozen dessert made using sugar, water and flavorings).
    Some popular Italian recipes and dishes include:
    • Braciola - Thin slices of beef pan-fried with a little olive oil. It is often eaten as an appetizer with green salad or potatoes.

    • Bruschetta - Grilled bread rubbed with garlic, olive oil, pepper and salt. Additional toppings such as tomato, red pepper, vegetables beans, cheese or cured meat are also sometimes added.


    • Gnocchi - Dumplings or noodles made from potato, wheat flour, or semolina.

    • Minestrone - A thick soup made from stock with vegetables such as beans, carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes. Pasta or rice may sometimes be added, and the dish is not necessarily vegetarian: meat or meat stock is often used when making it.

    • Panna cotta - A dessert made by simmering milk, cream, and sugar, then mixing with gelatin. It is then allowed to cool and set. Panna cotta is often eaten with berries, chocolate sauce, or fruit coulis.

    • Pasta - There are many different types of pasta including farfalle and rotelle (complicated decorative shapes), fettuccine and linguine (both ribbon-shipped), lasagna (large sheets), manicotti, ravioli and tortellini (hollow shapes which are stuffed with fillings), penne (short tubes), and spaghetti and vermicelli (string like). Each type of pasta is most suitable for a particular type of sauce (Alfredo sauce, Tomato sauce, etc.), and thus a very wide range of different dishes can be prepared using each of these forms of pasta.

      Fettuccine alfredo with shrimp

    • Pizza - As already discussed, there are many different variations, including:
      • Lazio - A thick-base pizza, particularly associated with Rome, although available in other parts of the country too. There are quite a few different toppings that may be used, and this type of pizza is often made in long rectangular pans ("pizza al taglio" or "pizza rustica").
      • Neapolitan (Italian: pizza napoletana) - A pizza with a thin base made from Italian white flour. Marina, margherita, and margherita extra are the three official versions of the recipe.
      • Ripieno and calzone - A half-moon shaped pizza filled mozzarella, ricotta and salami. It may be baked or fried.
      • Sicilian (Italian: Sfincione) - A pizza with ingredients incorporated in the dough rather than used as toppings. Pecorino cheese is used instead of mozzarella, and these pizzas also usually include anchovies.

    • Polenta - A kind of porridge made from boiled cornmeal. It is a staple food in Northern Italy.

    • Risotto - A traditional Italian dish prepared from rice. The rice is first cooked in butter or olive oil, then white wine is added, and after this evaporates, hot stock is slowly added, stirring continuously. Diced butter or cheese is then mixed in, achieving a rich creamy texture. The basic recipe can be varied by using different kinds of wine or cheese, and by adding vegetables, meat, fish or seafood (cheese is usually omitted from the recipe if fish or seafood is used).

    • Tiramisu - A dessert made from lady fingers (small sponge cakes known in Italian as "savoiardi") dipped in expresso, and sometimes brandy or sugar. Mascarpone cream, a custard made from egg yolks (zabaglione), Marsala wine, and sugar are then added, and cocoa powder sprinkled on top.

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