Italian cuisine is one of the most beloved ethnic cuisines both in America and around the world. It is geographically diverse as the traditional dishes of each region are all unique in terms of ingredients, cooking methods and complexity.
Each area has its own culinary history and contributes a unique approach to Italian cuisine as a whole.
Regional Italian Cuisine
- The Aosta Valley takes its culinary inspiration from neighboring Switzerland and features soups, stews, sausages and Fonduta, a fondue made with Fontina cheese.
- Piedmont is home to some of the most-prized truffles in the world and is famous for a variety of risottos and Panna Cotta, an eggless dessert custard.
- Lombardy, also shares its border with Switzerland and is home to both the city of Milan which is known for its exquisite veal dishes and risottos and the village of Gorgonzola, renowned for its wonderful blue cheese.
- Bordering both Austria and Switzerland is Trentino. The regional cuisine there is similar to neighboring countries and features dishes like goulash and strudel as does the region of Friuli.
- Located in the Veneto region is the city of Venice, which is often said to serve some of the finest food in the world. Fish and seafood abound as does pasta and fabulous risottos.
- Emilia-Romagna is home to Bologna, Parma and Modena. Bologna is famous for its Bolognese sauce, Parma is the home of Prosciutto di Parma ham and Modena is the birthplace of balsamic vinegar.
- Liguria is a relatively small region best known for Pesto alla Genovese (basil pesto) and its fine fish and seafood dishes.
- Tuscany is the region in Italy best known for the finest wines and olive oil. Red meats and game are popular in this region and its cuisine favors pairing them with simple, hearty ingredients like beans, potatoes and pasta.
- Umbria is a landlocked region that features a traditionally rustic style of cooking with dishes that include locally sourced black and white truffles, lentils and sheep’s milk cheeses.
- Marche features two types of cuisine, one that uses the abundance of seafood from its Adriatic coastline and an interior region famous for Porchetta, a boneless pork roast flavored with fennel, garlic and other herbs.
- Like Marche, Abruzzo also has two differing cuisines. It’s the only saffron-growing region in Italy and popular dishes here include mussels with saffron from the coast and lamb ragu from the interior section.
- Molise is located just south of Abruzzo and shares much of their style.
- Lazio, is home to the city of Rome. Located on the western coast of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea, this region is known for two exceedingly popular pasta dishes, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Rigatoni all’Amatriciana.
- Campania, a region that has been historically invaded many times by Arabs, Greeks and Romans features a cuisine rich with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and seafood. Well known dishes from the region include Pizza Margherita, Spaghetti alla puttanesca and Caprese Salad.
- Basilicata is a mountainous region known for its fabulous olive oils, pepperoncino and Italian sausage.
- Apulia is the heel of Italy’s boot and has nearly 500 miles of coastline and fish and seafood are popular here, but the area also produces some famously delicious cheeses including Pecorino, Ricotta and Burrata.
- Calabria is the toe of the boot and typical dishes include pork, fish, vegetables, pasta and spicy sausages.
- Just off the toe of the boot is the island of Sicily. It has a diverse cuisine that been influenced by Arab and Greek cuisines. Gelato, Arancini and Cannoli all originated in Sicily.
- Further west and north in the Mediterranean is the island of Sardinia. In addition to seafood, lamb, vegetables and cheeses are the stars of Sardinian cuisine.
So what connects all these regions to create a national cuisine? An amazing passion for producing fine foods from the freshest ingredients available.
The world of Italian cooking is both thrilling and expansive, so if the only Italian food you’ve ever had is pizza or lasagna, take the time to explore the many regional cuisines Italy has to offer.