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Italian cuisine evolved over centuries, from the early Greek and Roman banquets to today's pizzerias.
The Renaissance, a time characterized by availability of a greater variety of foods and richness in the preparation of those foods, introduced the world to Italian cooking. Classic recipes which were passed down from generation-to-generation are now established as today's Italian cooking style.
Salamis and sausage links bring mouth-watering thoughts to mind. Prosciutto, or Parma ham, pancetta, mortadello, bocconcino, bresaola, and ferrara are all different types of meats that Italians love to eat. Through curing and adding spices, salt, and pepper, delicious salamis are both familiar and distinct.
Just as there are many varieties of salamis, so are there many types of Italian cheeses. There are hard grating cheeses such as Romano and Parmesian. There are also stretched, or kneaded, cheeses. Mozzarella, made from either buffalo or cow's milk, is a kneaded cheese. These cheeses are commonly used in baked dishes, such as lasagna, because while they can melt, these cheeses also retain their texture.
Pasta Types to Sauces
Flat shaped noodles such as tagliolini, fettuccine and linguine can be served with butter and cream sauce.
Thin, long pastas like linguine, thin spaghetti or vermicelli are best suited with seafood sauces.
Tube shaped such as rigatoni, macaroni and penne need a robust sauce with large pieces of vegetables or meat.
Semolina pasta, like cavatelli and orechiette, are very good with vegetable and seafood sauces.
A wealth of different regional dishes, cheeses, and wines are found throughout Italy. However, to most people in the world Italian food means pasta. Each region has its own type of pasta in Italy. There are literally hundreds of shapes and sizes. All are made with a simple mix of flour, water, and often, egg.
Pasta should be cooked until the center of each piece remains slightly hard and retains some bite. Italians refer to pasta being cooked "al dente," which means it has a feeling "on the tooth" when you bite into it.
A popular sauce is the meatless tomato sauce, called "marinara" sauce. Marina is Italian for the work "seaside" or "mariner." This classic Neopolitan sauce was named for those Neopolitan fishermen who often came back from their fishing hungry. At home, they would throw together quickly tomatoes and herbs, to create a sauce.
Both taste and technique make Italian cooking unique. Toasted peppers, aged provolone, plum tomatoes, or salty anchovies, all make up part of this uniqueness. Lots of garlic and fresh herbs also are used frequently in Italian cooking.
From simple to gourmet; from Italian trattorias to restaurants around the world; from Italian kitchens to your kitchen--Italian cooking means to all of us--Buon appetito!
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff