They say in Asia every meal comes with rice, in Italy it’s with pasta, for lunch and dinner, every single day. But don’t despair in taste buds monotony; it’s just the starter or aside, because Italian food beyond pasta is awesome. However, its own international popularity disguises it so much to fit into whatever national likings that true Italian cuisine is hard to tell.
Among the weirdest things we do to Italian food, and that really shock Italians, is adding meat to pizza. Yes, even ham is weird. Obviously you can find any of these carnivore pizzas in Italy -there are tons of foreign tourists to feed- but traditionally locals don’t enjoy them. Pizza in Italy is a simple plate, based on the extra quality of ingredients and pizzaiolos’ skills rather than topping till saturation.
The perfect Italian pizza is a thin soft wheat base, just crusty on the borders, with homemade tomato sauce, Campania Buffalo mozzarella and basil. Needless to say, olive oil to top it must be extra-virgin. And yes, you guessed it; this is pizza margherita, the national pizza in Italy. Can you see the relation with the flag?
Pizza Margherita is present in every single Italian menu yet so often ignored. If you happen to live next to a good Italian place, do yourself a favor an order it as a starter.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a crowd teaser and simply delicious though if you order it in Italy, you won’t get pasta flirting with some random cream but dancing with traditional egg sauce.
All meat lovers should know this word by heart, ossobuco, ‘bone with a hole’. Though it may be a little shocking to be served a piece of meat with a chunk of bone in the middle, veal shanks are a butter-like meat experience you definitively need to try. Ossobuco is braised, what means it needs both moist and dry heating, and cooked with broth you must have done some hours in advance, so unless you are really into cooking like a pro, order it next time you go to this Luigi’s or that Mario’s.
Another Italian treat only allowed for masters is polenta. Forget it if you tried any cheap pre-processed powder version of this iconic cornmeal. The real deal is a hard-batting process, but the result is awesome. Spongy, yet creamy and a lovely different taste between sweet and salty.
Got these recipes right? Here come a couple of historical “facts” about Italian gastronomy we all know so well, don’t we?
Marco Polo didn’t bring pasta from China, it had been in Italy for several centuries, introduced by the Moors in Europe after they conquered Sicily in the 7th century.
The Ottoman invasion of Turkey was precisely the reason why Columbus couldn’t follow Polo’s footsteps and had to turn the world to reach Asian spices. Luckily for every Bolognese spaghetti lover, he arrived in America where he found tomatoes instead.
This was the 15th century but nobody had the idea of adding tomatoes to pasta until four hundred years later -with the exception of chocolate, most American edibles were considered ‘poisoning’ or just unappealing. Only because there was a huge famine in Italy in the 19th century, caused by the Year without Summer, 1816, people started cooking pasta with tomato sauce. Since then, fusion is an ongoing gastronomy trend and a great way to discover new flavors.
It doesn’t matter at all if you don’t remember this stuff because the most important thing about Italian food is to enjoy it. And don’t forget Italian ice-cream. The word gelato has come to our lives and we couldn’t be any happier. Thank you, Italian artisans. Thank you for creating tasty delicious softy fancy gowns for ice to wear and sharing them with the rest of us.