While there are many different flavors of Italy based on the region, the entire country does have some defining features in its cuisine that make it stand out. Here are some of the things you need to know before exploring Italian cuisine.
Many Types of Pasta
Pasta is a main feature of Italian food. Often, in Italy, you can find freshly made pastas in grocery stores, in contrast to the dried pastas you find in American stores. Gnocchi is one of the most distinctive types of Italian pasta; it is based on potato, egg, and flour with a unique and chewy texture. Another type of distinctive pasta is filled pasta, including ravioli and tortellini. These can be filled with anything from cured prosciutto to spinach.
Types of Cured Meat
Visiting an Italian supermarket, one of the first things that may surprise you is the enormous section dedicated to different types of cured meats. Pancetta, prosciutto crudo, and salami are only the beginning of the different pork and beef-based dried meats on offer. You'll find these cubed or sliced meats sprinkled in many Italian dishes; you may even find them stuffed inside pasta or sprinkled over your salad.
Courses of a Traditional Italian Meal
The courses for a traditional family meal in Italy differ somewhat from the American dinner. In an Italian meal, you'll likely start off with an entree, which could be meat or pasta. This is a smaller dish that is more similar to an American appetizer than to an American entree. After your Italian entree, you'll be offered a main course, which is often based on the meat of your choice. After the main course, you will follow up with a dessert and coffee. If you have a chance to visit an Italian restaurant, you can follow this same pattern to make your experience more authentic.
How to Experience it for Yourself
You may not have the money to travel to Italy for a traditional Italian meal, but you can experience many of the same traditions at a local Italian restaurant. Many Italian restaurants are great at simulating the environment, experience, and flavors of an authentic Italian restaurant. If you are looking for an authentic Italian experience, you may want to stay away from chains and go with an Italian-run or family establishment. Either way, experiencing the sumptuous flavors of Italian food can be a real treat for the whole family.