Fustini's Oils and Vinegars

Take a Trip to Italy: Your Map to Italian Cuisine

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When you think of “Italian” food, what comes to mind? 

Perhaps it’s a classic thin-crust pizza topped with a homemade red sauce and lots of cheese. Maybe a bowl of long spaghetti noodles in a pesto cream sauce. Or a breaded chicken parmigiana with lots of seasoning. 

Among the many wonderful reasons to love Italian food is its versatility and range of flavors, dishes and ingredients. The cuisine even varies based on location in the country. As with other types of cuisines around the world, Italy 

While you may not be able to book a trip to Italy for a quick vacation, you can bring the fun, flavors and tradition of Italy into your own kitchen. Take a trip to places like Tuscany or Sicily by exploring their flavors and dishes, right in your own home. Grab your cooking utensils, sauté pans, bottles of olive oil and let’s get cooking. 

What Is Italian Cuisine? 

As its location would imply, Italian cuisine is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean diet. There is also a large focus on the ingredients themselves rather than complex and difficult cooking techniques.

There are certainly some ingredients that are commonly found in Italian dishes. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, rich sauces and meats, especially fish. Pasta is also a staple in Italian cuisine, as are tomatoes. Olive oil is an ingredient that often brings all cuisines together. Plates and bowls in Italy often prioritize the fresh and rich produce that can be found throughout the year. 

A typical menu might start off with an antipasti plate, which is an assortment of vegetables and cured meats. Then, dishes like pasta and protein follow. Afterward, dessert and coffee can be served to round out a full, delightful experience. Meal times in Italy are intended to be experiential - not rushed, but enjoyed and savored. 

This diversity in flavors also means that there’s much more to the cultural eats than twirling spaghetti noodles and flatbread with red sauce. And much of that diversity is based on where the food comes from. 

Regions of Italian Cuisine 

Like many other types of cuisine, Italian dishes are anchored in certain regions in the country. The dishes and flavors in the North of Italy may differ from those in Southern Italy. This diversity can make Italian cuisine even more exciting and enjoyable for chefs of all experience levels. While the country has 20 main regions geographically, there are six main areas where the cuisine is fairly distinct from its neighbors. 

Lombardy

This northern Italian region features stapes like rice and polenta rather than pasta. It incorporates a lot of meat components and opt for butter rather than olive oil. You’ll also find this place to be the source of cheeses like Gorgonzola and Provolone. 

Emilia-Romagna 

Located in the northeast region features lots of pasta and meat. You’ll also find this to be the home of the ever-popular Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This region also includes the city of Modena, where all of Fustini’s balsamic vinegar comes from! Vinegar described as true balsamic vinegar must come from this region of Italy. 

Tuscany 

Reminiscent of calm countrysides and ocean views, this western region of Italy keeps things simple and delicious. You’ll find a lot of olive oil usage here, in addition to cheese, meats and bread. Pici pasta is also enjoyed here, as well as various versions of fresh vegetables. 

Lazio

With the capital of Rome, this region in the southwest part of the country is really all into the pasta. Pasta dishes here can be served with different sauces and protein add-ins. Artichokes will also often make an appearance on the table here. 

Campania 

As considered a birthplace of the amazing pizza we enjoy, this southern region of Campania features bright and varied vegetables and fruits. Located right on the Gulf of Naples, this region also incorporates fish and seafood options. Add some popular pasta options and cheese like mozzarella and parmigiana and you’ve got a flavor explosion that can meet the preferences of many. 

Sicily 

An island located in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily offers a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables due to its great growing climate. Due to its location, this type of cuisine also brings in influences from Spanish, Greek and Arab cuisines.

No matter where you travel to in Italy, whether literally or through your recipes, you can find healthy, wholesome dishes that take you on a culinary journey. Not only do these dishes pack in flavor and intriguing ingredients, but they also highlight a heart-healthy and vegetable-based diet that can have you feeling your best. Especially with their extensive use of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in their dishes, you can enjoy Italian cuisine in a way that supports your overall health. 

Travel to Italy With These 15 Recipes 

Are you ready to take a trip to Italy? Even if your feet might have to stay where they are, you can still appreciate and explore the wonderful and tasty cuisine Italy has to offer. Pull out your pasta maker and grab your cutting board, and get started with these delicious Italian recipes. 

Pasta 

To no surprise, pasta is a foundational component to many dishes in Italian cuisine. Here we share just a few great options for pasta night. They’re easy to make - whether you have homemade pasta or from a box - and easily customizable based on what you prefer. 

Aglio e Olio - This simple recipe celebrates one of the staples of Italian cuisine, pasta. With just a splash of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese, you’re ready to take a trip to Naples. 

Artichoke Pasta Casserole - Often found in the region of Lazio, artichokes can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes. This pasta casserole brings in rich, creamy cheese and artichoke flavor with a spice blend and spread

Baked Pesto Fettuccini with Burst Tomatoes - Pesto is another sauce you can often find in Italian cuisine. This baked pasta recipe brings in that bright green flavor of the basil pesto with the bold red flavor of cherry tomatoes. 

Lasagna Bolognese - Named after the origin of Bologna, this family-favorite brings in a creamy and cheesy Béchamel sauce and long noodles. Sneak in some veggies in between the layers for an even better health benefit. 

Eggplant Lasagna - Looking to cut down on carbs? This veggie-take on an Italian favorite can be a great solution. Made with sliced eggplant rather than pasta, this dinnertime favorite might even fool your family into eating more vegetables. The Parmesan-Asiago spread added in may also help. 

Meats, Fish & Seafood 

Proteins are an important part of a well-balanced diet. While the actual type of meat, seafood or fish included in a dish may vary based on region, here are some typical Italian options to enjoy. 

Ossobuco - Fun to say, even more fun to make. This veal or beef dish is flavored with white wine and broth to bring a delicious bite. The add-ins of onion, tomato, orange and lemon also amp up the layered flavor of this traditional dish. 

Braciole - This common dish often just means thin slices of meat that are rolled up and covered in sauce. It’s also covered in bread crumbs and topped with cheese and a marinara. 

Pasta alla Chitarra - This crab recipe brings in fresh herbs, veggies and spices to create a versatile and delightful pasta dish. It’s easy to mix and match the veggie add-ins and try something new. 

Shrimp and Pancetta Risotto - Add some seafood into your risotto with this bright and flavor-rich recipe. 

Appetizers and Sides 

Whether you’re looking for a quick side dish to a bowl of homemade pasta or a snack to channel your inner Italian, these small plates can be a great way to explore different flavors and ingredients. 

Asparagus and Champagne Risotto - Bring together a creamy risotto and the bright color of fresh asparagus in this versatile side dish. A little splash of champagne adds just the right amount of sweetness to make you want to go back for another scoop. 

Antipasto Skewers - Make it easy for your guests or family to enjoy the different flavors of an antipasto salad with these fun skewers. An easy dressing made with Garlic olive oil and Sicilian Lemon balsamic brings the various components into a harmonious bite. 

Peaches with Prosciutto and Basil - Bring the sweet and salty together with this easy appetizer. The sweet peach slices balance out the salty cured meat. With a light drizzle of Cara Cara vanilla reduction, this snack is a sweet and flavorful Italian side.  

Arancini - These flavorful rice balls are stuffed with flavors and spices. Coated in breadcrumbs, they’re fried in a pan and often served with cheese or marinara sauce. 

Tiramisu - Perhaps one of the most well-known Italian desserts, tiramisu may sound complicated but it can actually be fairly easy and fun to make. It’s made with flavors like brandy, coffee and cocoa powder to make the perfect finish to a meal. 

Caprese Prosciutto Sandwich - Use homemade or fresh focaccia bread in this sandwich that just screams Italian. A drizzle of balsamic glaze helps to bring all the delightful flavors together. 

Explore the Regions of Italy From Your Own Kitchen 

While we may all love to scoop up a bowl of risotto in Lombardy or try an authentic pizza slice from Campania, you can still bring some of the joy and exploration into your own kitchen by trying out new recipes. Pick up a new ingredient like Gorgonzola or eggplant. Try making your own pasta. Swap out your frozen pizza and try your hand at a rolled-out Italian-inspired pizza. With such excitement in the diversity of dishes in Italy, you can discover a new flavor or dish that you and your family will love.

 

 

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