We recently spent time in Italy, exploring many different regions and experiencing oh so much Italian cuisine! Our road trip through Italy was the perfect way to see this amazing country, from the big cities to the little sleepy towns. This was our first visit to Italy and the first time we used FlipKey to book our accommodations. It was the best way to experience real Italian living. We stayed mostly in B&Bs which were run by traditional Italian families. Staying in family homes meant we were able to experience Italy on a whole other level. I highly recommend this type of service if you prefer a more authentic stay, rather than impersonal hotel stays.
Italy is of course known for its amazing cuisine and you don’t have to be a world traveler to know what the most famous foods from Italy are. Most of you will probably eat at least one kind once a week. Italian cuisine has managed to be probably the single most widespread cuisine on the planet, and the beloved pizza and pasta dishes you’ll find on millions of restaurants menus the world over are go-to dishes for so many of us.
With that in mind, an article about Italian cuisine might not be the most enlightening in terms of new discoveries you’ll find, but instead it will be more a look into the old favorites, how they’re made in different parts of the country, and where you’ll find the best around.
I don’t know many people who don’t like pizza, and you will find some of the best in the world in Italy. I say ‘some’ of the best in the world because many people think that the pizza in New York, for example, cannot be rivaled – but those recipes definitely came from Italian roots, so they have to be given credit for this one!
Flat bread goes way back to the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, so it really is nothing new. Adding toppings to that bread and calling it ‘pizza’ was something that is thought to have started around 1,000 years ago, and mainly in Central and Southern Italy. The origins of adding tomato on to the top of bread to then form the base of your classic pizza came from Naples, so I guess if you were looking for the original version of this dish, you should definitely try Naples pizza. The classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil pizza that comes from Naples was developed throughout the 19th century, and this is the best pizza to eat in Italy if you really want to go back to its roots.
In truth, you can find incredible pizza all over Italy, not just in Naples. The heavily meaty or spicy version that you might be used to aren’t all that traditional to Italy, as they have been developed for an American or global audience. Cheese is a huge part of Italian cooking, so any pizza with a good smattering of local cheese is sure to be a hit, and an authentic one at that.
If you tried to count the number of variations of pasta and accompaniments in our world today, you would be counting until the day you die. This incredibly versatile dish is one of Italy’s finest creations, and you can find traditional and new age pasta combinations all over the globe.
Pasta goes all the way back to the 12th century in Sicily. Even though you can find dried pasta in almost every supermarket, if you’re going to have the real deal it really should be fresh pasta that you try. Having said that, there are regions, such as Abruzzo, which pride themselves on their dried pasta, so I’m fairly sure that any kind of pasta produced in Italy is going to be close to perfection.
A traditional Bolognese is probably the most common pasta dish that you’ll find around Italy, but if you go to regions such as Cinque Terre you should definitely try the pesto for which it is famous. Italian cuisine is extremely regional, so if you’re not sure what the best sauce to have with your pasta is, or even what shape your pasta should be in, always ask your waiter. Most of the time they will know exactly what to recommend based on the region you’re in at the time. If you’re in the best place for those plump, juicy tomatoes, for example, you should definitely have a tomato based sauce. The chances are it came from right around the corner, and that fresh tomato taste is unbeatable.
A trip to Italy would never be complete without eating an obscene amount of gelato, and you’ll definitely find the most delicious on the planet in Italy. That creamy, rich taste is very hard to replicate if you’re not taught by an Italian or have Italian heritage, and even though we’ve sampled plenty all over the world it seems that nothing tastes quite like the gelato in its country of birth.
The main thing that distinguishes Italian gelato from other ice cream is that it has very little air in it, with much more of an emphasis on the creamy side of the recipe. A lot of ice cream that you find in supermarkets has been fluffed up in various ways, but traditional Italy gelato is made with nothing but the richest (and fattiest…sigh!) ingredients.
Flavors vary depending of the individual gelato stores, as gelato makers like to experiment with their flavors as much as possible. You can find anything from the classic chocolate and vanilla, to berry mixes and cappuccino flavors, to bizarre types such as Red Bull or sausage. Most of these odd flavors are merely for touristic show, however, and I would definitely recommend simply sticking to the classics. If you can find a good pistachio, you’ll never want to eat any other flavor of ice cream again – pistachio gelato is unbeatable.
Tiramisu definitely needs to have an honorable mention in the desserts section of an article about Italian cuisine. This coffee-spiked dessert, which literally means ‘pick me up’ in English, is yet another Italian favorite that has made its way across the globe. Compared to other Italian dishes names above, tiramisu is a relatively modern creation, dating back to the 1960s, and various people claim to have been the creators. Whoever made it is nothing short of a genius, of course, and even though the origins are thought to be in the north, you can find great tiramisu all over Italy.
These are the main staple dishes that are classically Italian and must be tried during a visit. Even though they each have a million and one combinations, your best bet would be to have a think about the regional delicacies, and combine these with your staple dish. That way, you’re eating as locally as possible, with the freshest ingredients, and trying variation as you travel through the country. This will give you such a sense of place and identity with the different parts of Italy, as well as take you on a delicious tour as your journey through this beautiful country.
What is your favorite Italian Food?