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Italian Food 101: An Overview of the Cuisine of Italy
Undoubtedly, pasta is most often associated with Italian food. There are countless different shapes, sizes, and fillings of pasta available. From the typical like spaghetti, fettuccini, and macaroni to the more unique types of pasta, there are Italian dishes featuring anything and everything when it comes to pasta. Typically, Italian pasta is made using semolina flour, which gives the final result a dense feeling. Furthermore, Italians cook their pasta al dente, which literally means to the tooth. This method of cooking sees boiled pasta retaining its shape without being a soppy, droopy mess. Some types of pasta require no sauce at all, only a quick dash of olive oil. Typically filled pastas, including ravioli and tortellini have enough savory taste to be eaten alone or lightly toasted.
Pasta sauces feature everything under the sun in Italian cuisine. Some pasta sauces, including the meat-rich Bolognese, are specialties from certain cities in Italy. Other sauces are found in all parts of the country. One especially popular sauce is the carbonera, which features egg and bacon to create a light and delicious addition to pasta. Another sauce more appropriate for cold nights is alfredo, which features cream and cheese to create a comforting meal. A Roman favorite is olio e alio, literally oil and garlic. This poor man’s pasta is simple to make, but incredibly delicious. All pasta sauces do not have to contain tomatoes, although most do. A simple sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and oregano is often found on the menus of most Italian restaurants. For the more adventurous taste, the arrabiata sauce features hot peppers mixed in with tomatoes.
More Than Pasta
Although pasta is most often associated with Italian food, there are many more meal courses that feature ingredients other than pasta. Typically in true Italian restaurants, the pasta is a course featured before the meat course. Italian meats are flavorful and usually feature rich sauces or gravies. Many types of Italian meat dishes are grilled to sear in the juices of the meat. Chicken is frequently found as the meat of choice in Italian dishes, but other meats (including beef, pork, and fish) are found in many Italian restaurants as well. One especially popular dish is chicken marsala, which features chicken cooked with marsala wine and wild mushrooms.
Sweet Endings: Italian Desserts
By far, the most famous type of Italian dessert is tiramisu. This delicious treat is cool, refreshing, and considerably tasty. Furthermore, tiramisu is extremely easy to make, so you can enjoy this sweet treat in the comfort of your own home. Tiramisu is a layered dessert that includes small cookies (usually lady fingers) soaked in a combination of strong coffee and brandy or rum. Next is a layer of mousse that seems light enough to float away. The dessert is usually topped with a sprinkling of cocoa to add interest and extra taste. However, tiramisu is not the only Italian dessert. Gelato, a unique version of ice cream, is especially popular for all times of the day. This type of ice cream is soft, light, and delicious.