Cooking in Italy isn’t just a concept about food – far from it. Italian food is about fresh ingredients straight from nature. Food, for Italians, is about traditions, about community, about breaking bread and sharing life over a meal. Italian cuisine is about tradition. Food is cooked at home to ensure that ingredients are fresh and to ensure that the traditions of the family and the rich history of the region, are preserved from one generation to the next.
Mealtime is family time. It’s the time, when family, comes together, and share in each other’s lives. The family meal in Italy is typically 3-courses, including an anti-pasta plate with cheeses, meats, and vegetables – similar to a cheese board or charcuterie. The second course might be a pasta dish or fish, followed by a dessert course which could include a fruit-based dessert, or something sweeter like cannoli but more often includes cheese, espresso, and liquors. With three courses to polish off, it really is about family and togetherness – nourishing the soul as well as the body.
Italian food is central to life. Of course, food is fuel but much more than that, Italian food is dripping in culture and it is as important what ingredients are used in Italian dishes but also where they come from, and how fresh they are. Italian food is enriched by the availability of quality, whole foods of the Mediterranean which are known for their heart-healthy value, particularly olive oil and the anti-oxidant rich tomatoes, common in many Italian recipes.
Food in Italy nourishes life itself. In Italy, food is at the centre of the most important celebrations – often the highest of religious celebrations which are honoured with reverence but also a jubilant family time where food is a very indulgent part. Family and food go hand in hand and family is nourished by each other and the food – often specific dishes associated with a given festivity such as fiadone di formaggio, a cheese pie commonly eaten at Easter celebrations
Italian pasta, like other Italian food, is made fresh and cooked from fresh too. Pasta is surely the food for which Italy is best-known although there are so many other delightful Italian dishes that are at least equally good, if unsung and over-shadowed by pasta. With too many different varieties of Italian pasta to list, each with its own ideal meal or purpose, Italian pasta alone can be overwhelming. Italian pasta is typically made with durum wheat flour, made into an unleavened dough with egg and water, flattened into sheets and cut into various shapes and sizes. There are long, medium and short cut pasta, stretched pasta, soup pasta, pasta with filling and gnocchi. Pasta has different names in different regions. But perhaps some of the most common kinds of pasta are lasagna, spaghetti, cannelloni, macaroni, and ravioli just to name a few.
Whether you focus on Italian dishes like Italian pasta, or on a method of cooking, like boiling pasta from fresh, or on the natural and wholesome foods of Italy and the community building nature of food and cooking, there is no doubt that cooking in Italy isn’t just about food. Cooking in Italy is deeply embedded in Italian culture. Food is family. Food is history and traditions – perhaps you can’t have one without the others.