Italian food is one of the few global cuisines that Indians are obsessed with. It regularly features on the dining table in most urban Indian households, as we resort to pastas, pizzas and risotto to satisfy our cravings. There are so many varieties to choose from when it comes to pasta – penne, lasagne, spaghetti, macaroni, tagliatelle and ravioli among others – that you can toss them in numerous sauces, herbs, vegetables and meat and relish to your heart’s content. Home-made pizzas are also a favourite option for a quick meal during game nights or family get-togethers.
Pizza Napoletana (Naples)
There are so many fantastic traditional dishes in Italy, but perhaps no other sums up the very essence of Italian cooking better than Pizza Napoletana. History, simplicity, and fresh, high-quality ingredients – all come together to create what many consider the perfect and most authentic type of pizza.
Invented in Naples somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries, Neapolitan pizza is basically a flatbread topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. In reality, making a true Pizza Napoletana is an art and requires much more than just 3 or 4 simple ingredients.
The tomatoes must be grown in the volcanic soil of San Marzano sul Sarno, a small town near Naples, while the dough must be made with specific ingredients, formed by hand, and crowned only with D.O.C. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Furthermore, this type of pizza must be baked in a wood-fired oven that uses two types of wood at 900 degrees for 60-90 seconds. Nope, that’s not something you can order at 4 am at your door, during a Netflix session.
One of the world’s oldest pasta recipes, lasagna (or lasagne in Italian) is a traditional Italian comfort food made by alternating layers of pasta sheets, meat, sauce, and cheese.
Although there are countless ways to prepare Garfield’s favorite food, the most popular variation remains the classic Lasagne alla Bolognese, made with ragù (meat based Bolognese sauce), Béchamel sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Lasagne Napoletana, on the other hand, contains meatballs, sausage, as well as ricotta and mozzarella cheese instead of Béchamel sauce, and is usually served in Naples during the Carnivale.
Italians didn’t invent the ice cream, but they certainly perfected the process over the centuries. The history of Italian gelato dates back to the Renaissance period, but who exactly created the creamy frozen dessert no one knows.
Most stories on this topic relate that gelato was invented at the court of the Medici, in Florence, either by Florentine architect and designer Bernardo Buontalenti or by the court’s alchemist Cosimo Ruggieri.
Nowadays, there are around 37,000 gelaterie throughout Italy, but some of the best are said to be found in Rome (I Caruso), Florence (La Carraia), and Bologna (La Sorbetteria Castiglione).
Real gelato is made daily by artisans, and, unlike regular ice cream, it contains less fat, less air, and much more natural flavoring. If you want to learn more about the history, culture, and technology of this velvety treat, go visit the Gelato Museum Carpigiani in Anzola dell’Emilia, near Bologna.