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Cooking Regions Of Italy

Regions of Italy

It’s difficult to capsulate all of Italian cuisine into a neat and tidy classification, given that there are 20 separate and distinct regioni (regions), each with its own unique flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques standardized long before Italy became a nation in 1861. Interestingly, the most iconic Italian cuisine, pasta, bread, garlic and tomato sauce, is most descriptive of Southern Italy. Yet, each region lends its own colorful characteristics to the gastronomy as a whole.  

Northern Italy

Eight of the 20 separate regions of Italy lend their terrain, tastes, history and influences to Northern culinary traditions. With the ample grazing areas and the widespread cattle breeding, lend to the wide use of beef, veal and pork in the dishes of the North. Dishes also rely more on the use of butter than olive oil and various cheeses. Rather than flat and extruded pasta, stuffed pasta is more common in the North. 

Among Northern sub-regions, the mountainous area of Val d’Aosta is the home of fontina cheese. Piedmont is also famous for its many cheeses and the white truffles that grown in abundance. Agnolotti and cannelloni are the preferred pasta types there. The cuisine of Lombardy has been widely influenced; from the tastes of France and Germany to Austria and Hungary. Popular dishes of this region are Cotoletta “meat” such as cotolette alla milanese and panettone. Venice (and the Veneto region) has eclectic tastes, including an appreciation for sweet and sour, a good example could be Herrings in “Saore”. 

Central Italy

More common Mediterranean staples, like olive oil, grains and seasonal produce, are at home in the six sub-regions that make up Central Italy. Simplicity in ingredients and preparation style best defines the cuisine. For generations, skilled artisans have produced quality pasta, cheeses, bread, cured meats, olive oil and wine. Pasta is part of the fabric of Central Italy. 

Cooks in Abruzzo and Molise commonly turn to maccheroni (macaroni) served with Ragù, which is prepared all over Italy, with few notable differences among each region: Ragù all’Abruzzese is made with a special smoked bacon, while Ragù alla Molisana is made with lamb, pork, veal, lard. In Lazio, the home of Rome, spaghetti, bucatini and rigatoni are most popular, as well as egg-based fettuccine. The regions of Umbria and Marche produce an abundance of dried pasta. Black truffles find a way into many dishes in Umbria, as five truffle varieties commonly grow in the region.

Southern Italy

Some of the more popular Italian dishes hale from the six sub-regions that make up Southern Italy. It is the home of Pizza, Lasagna with Ricotta and Eggplant Parmesan. The warm southern climate is prime for growing produce, especially tomatoes (used widely in red sauces) and eggplant in summer and broccoli raab and cauliflower in winter. Ricotta and mozzarella cheese are fundamental to the Southern diet, as is olive oil. It is also home of the durum wheat pastas, like spaghetti.

The islands of Sardinia and Sicily lend their culinary traditions to Southern Italy. Especially notable are sweets incorporating candied fruits, raisins, nuts, ricotta and honey, as well as flavored ice. Dried pasta also is fundamental to the area, where they prefer tubes and other short pasta, including macaroni, fusilli, penne and ziti.