When many people think of Italian culture, they think of cuisine. Some of the most popular dishes are pizza and pasta. However, the world of Italian cooking is more than that, and the history of Italian cooking is very diverse. Different regions of Italy have developed their own styles of cooking centered around local ingredient, and other influences throughout history have influenced Italian food.
The history of Italian cooking actually goes back over two thousand years. It flourished during the Roman Empire. During that time, food preparation was very important, though much of the earlier art of cooking has since been lost. After the Roman Empire fell, Italian food started to become more diverse. The different city states throughout the area started to develop their own ways of cooking, as well as their own distinct flavors that came from the foods that grew in the area. Meats, cheese, and even the wine became distinct.
The diversity of the history of Italian cooking can be traced back to the different areas where it was conceived. The north utilized Tuscan beef, while in Marches the black truffles became popular. Many Italian cheeses, such as provolone and mozzarella, were developed in the south. Citrus fruits were used in the south as well. Breads and pasta differed from region to region as well.
The south used more pasta like the hard-boiled spaghetti, while in the north softer egg noodles were popular. Milan was known for its risotto. Naples, on the other hand, became known for its pizza. The coastal regions became known for their seafood dishes. Anchovies, lobster, sardines, and swordfish became incorporated into much of the history of Italian cooking.
Another factor of the history of Italian cooking was the influence of other cultures on the cuisine. Ancient Greek cooking was integrated as part of the dishes, but the Roman Empire also brought in other flavors, such as wheat wine, and fine spices. Ingredients for Italian cooking came as far as China, contributing to the wide variety of flavors and dishes. The island of Sardinian was influenced by the Mediterranean, while Sicily received many influences from North Africa. The southern parts of the country were also affected by influences from the Arabs, especially when it came to the sweets, such as the popular dessert cassata.
Some of the most popular dishes throughout the history of Italian cooking have seen a rebirth. For instance, some believe that pasta was actually brought to Italy from China during the time of Marco Polo. However, this was actually a rediscovery of a food that had been popular in Roman times. That early pasta is not much different than the ones enjoyed around the world today.
The history of Italian cooking continues to evolve, and today there are still distinct differences between the northern and southern regions of the country. The traditions reflect the deep culture and history that originally inspired them. So every time you cook an authentic Italian dish, you are cooking a piece of history.