Being just as diverse as the land itself, the cuisine of Italy is influenced by many parts of the world. From simple dishes to extravagant preparations for a grand feast, Italian food is noted for great diversity and taste.
Some dishes are known internationally yet have a special meaning for Italian locals. If you're craving Italian at home, bite into any one of these these five traditional Italian dishes.
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Bruschetta: Simple in taste and form, bruschetta is one of the most ordered antipasto to date. Take slices of fresh roasted bread, rub it with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The topping varies, but usually consists of tomato, onions, garlic and basil. The blend of herbs on toasted bread is heavenly, and truly Italian. In the Abruzzo region of Italy, one variation is made with salami and raw pork products, as an ancient way to save bread that was going stale.
Minestrone: Classically used at weddings or high profile events, this savory soup is a great way to warm up. It is made with vegetables, often with the addition of pasta or rice. Common ingredients include beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock, and tomatoes. The recipe dates back to pre-Roman times when local diets were vegetarian by necessity.
Pizza Margherita: Imagine stepping into a traditional Italian restaurant and staring at 500 types of pizza. In Italy, you'll never get pizza by the slice, so expect to devour your own personal pie. If you're overwhelmed, start with the traditional pizza made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. Most tourists don't know the Margherita was named after the Queen of Italy of the same name in 1889 when a pizza was served to her resembling the colors of the Italian flag. (Red=Tomatoes, White= Mozzarella, Green=Basil)
Sugo Alla Bolognese: As the name clearly states, Bolognese sauce originates from the city of Bologna. Dating from the 5th century, the recipe has been tweaked over the year, but consists of beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, red dry wine and milk. This hearty meat dish is famous worldwide, especially in the United States where sauces often resemble this style and is called meat sauce.
Tiramisù: A lovely name for a lovely dish, Tiramisù translates to a pick me up dessert. Simply made with lady fingers dipped in coffee with egg yolk, liquor and cocoa, it is the favorite dolci of tourists and locals. It's not easy to trace the history of this delicious desert; maybe the inventors were in a food coma while trying to record it. It either dates from the early 18th century or the mid 20th century; a long lapse of time since the desert does not appear in a cookbook until 1983. Nonetheless, it is a quintessential way to end a delicious Italian cuisine experience.
CC Flickr photo credit: savemejebus