Ten Questions about Italian Food Habits

Tags:

Are you curious about our beautiful country, our “Bel Paese”? Do you want to know more about the country that everyone would like to visit? Last year Sasha, one of my closest friends, spent one week here; she wanted to go sightseeing around Italy. But in the end, one week was not enough. Every city and every region has their own typical features, so you need plenty of time to cover our whole peninsula. Every single village is worth a visit: from the sea to the mountains, from the hills to the romantic and rustic countryside. Where should you go? Everywhere of course! Take plenty of time and plan a long holiday. You won’t regret it.

  1. What is the most authentic Italian food?

Every region has its own typical dishes; a lot of them are not described in any guidebooks, but they are really delicious and unforgettable. Here are just a few favorites to make you drool: 

    • Tagliatelle with Ragù sauce and Lasagna
    • Cotoletta alla Milanese- a breadcrumb-coated chop
    • Neapolitan pizza 
    • Pasta Carbonara 
    • Spaghetti all’Amatriciana
    • Arancini (stuffed rice balls) and Sicilian cannoli 
    • Focaccia Ligure- Ligurian flatbread 
    • Tiramisù
    • Bistecca Fiorentina- Florentine steak
    • Ice cream and granita (italian ices)
    • Orecchiette with broccoli rabe 
    • Polenta and Spezzatino- Cornmeal porridge with beef stew 

They are tempting, aren’t they? In my blog you will find all the recipes that I cook in my own kitchen. With a few ingredients and simple methods, you will learn to make them yourself. 

For the most part, these dishes are not everyday dishes as we make them on special occasions and on holidays. We will venture into Italian women’s kitchens to learn their secrets of healthy eating and light food. 

2. Why is Italy so healthy?

It is quite a tricky question. I could quote plenty of scientific magazines which have clearly demonstrated that Mediterranean food is healthy and can prevent cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive impairment. Here I would like to offer you my own opinion. Even though we live well in Italy, don’t think it is “The Garden of Eden” because it has many problems. Italy is rich in history, ancient traditions, landscapes with a strong sense of family resulting in an authentic yet comfortable lifestyle. “Loving, passionate, and sometimes very noisy” are often words to describe us. 

Do you want to have a relaxing walk around the city center? Every town has as one where you can find a lot of shops. Do you feel like buying some fresh, deliciously-scented bread? There are a lot of bakeries. Do you want to have a talk with a friend of yours? There are plenty of bars that serve the most aromatic of espressos. Are you planning a weekend away, seaside or mountain? Set off, and in a couple of hours, you will get to your destination. Yes, you can eat well, but you can also see and experience plenty of beautiful locations. 

3. What do the Italians eat a lot of?

Italians eat almost everything because each region, village, and family has their own traditions. Normally Italians can’t do without bread; a dish of freshly cooked pasta sprinkled with grated  Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano or Pecorino cheeses; white meat or fish and delicious cold cuts; and plenty of fresh vegetables, often from the family garden. Red tomatoes, basil, aromatic herbs, and extra virgin olive oil are fundamental elements of our cooking; they are the ingredients of our everyday dishes. 

4. What is a genuine Italian dish?

I can think of a thousand, but a wood oven-baked Margherita pizza and a hearty plate of tagliatelle pasta with ragù sauce are the most representative Italian dishes abroad. We usually feel uncomfortable when we are asked about typical Italian food. Definitely, the best ones are those cooked by our moms.

5. How do Italians really eat?

We usually have three meals a day and 1 or 2 small snacks in between. We start our day with a small breakfast, depending on our personal habits: black espresso coffee, toast with jam, milk, fruit, and some hot drinks. We may have a snack, such as some fruit or crackers, in the middle of the morning and afternoon. We sit at the table for two main meals: lunch at about 12:30 pm and dinner, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Lunch is usually composed of pasta and/or grains and a small serving of meat or fish along with plenty of vegetables. For dinner, we might choose a dish of red or white meat, eggs, cold cuts or fresh cheese paired with bread and cooked vegetables. In the winter when it is cold, some vegetable soup is often very welcomed. 

bologna

6. How do the Italians serve meals?

It depends on who has prepared the meal. Moms and wives usually take the pot to the table and serve all eaters with a ladle or a serving spoon. After, they take the pot away from the table. I always do this with my husband so that I can control his portions. I hardly ever leave the pot on the table because it makes the table untidy, and we risk eating much more than we should. In my family we eat one course at a time: for lunch, pasta first, then meat and a side of vegetables. 

Overall, there is a formal meal structure that is followed especially during holidays. 

A formal meal structure looks like this:

  • Aperitivo: Similar to an appetizer, it’s the starter
  • Antipasto: This is a slightly heavier starter; it’s usually cold and heavier that the starter
  • Primo: This first course is usually the pasta dish, risotto, or soup
  • Secondi: This second course is where you are served meat, fish, or seafood
  • Contorno: This is a side dish consisting of vegetables, either hot or cold
  • Insalata: This is a salad with leafy greens
  • Formaggi e frutta: Cheese and fruit, typical of the region where you are located
  • Dolce: A dessert
  • Caffè: No meal is complete without a shot of espresso
  • Digestivo: Served after coffee, this drink, concludes the meal

A well-laid table also provides a reasonable serving of bread and a pitcher of freshwater. Every course has its own plate (thank heavens for dishwashers). I hate eating from the same plate where all the tastes get mixed and more fat is eaten because we then sop up the remaining food with bread. 

Sometimes Italian men help, but women are usually in charge of the kitchen. My husband is responsible for cutting bread, clearing the table after the meal, and loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes (he says I can’t do it properly).

dinner in Rome

 

7. Is pasta an appetizer in Italy?

Not at all. It is a dish which is served at the beginning of the meal; that’s why it is called the first course. It is neither an appetizer nor a side. Pasta comes from grain, and it should be eaten hot on its own. It is never combined with any other food as it is not considered a main course.

8. How do the Italians eat spaghetti?

It looks easy, but it isn’t. As an adult, you can’t slurp it or make noise when you eat it. Children are excepted. 

Thanks to some movies, there are a few mistakes that you should avoid when offered a good plate of spaghetti: 

    • Do not use your fingers to help you; they get dirty and you may risk licking them,… not good manners at all; 
    • Do not roll spaghetti with the help of a spoon (actually, I sometimes do it in the secret of my kitchen); 
    • Do not cut spaghetti (you might hear it scream in pain…ah, ah, ah).

Follow these suggestions: 

Twirl a small bit of spaghetti clockwise (2-4 strands) into a ball on your fork and pop it into your mouth. The fork must not be vertical to the plate but slightly angular. That’s the reason why you should eat spaghetti in a soup plate as it helps to make perfect balls. 

dinner in Rome

9. Is it rude to eat pizza with your hands in Italy? 

Galateo, the author of the guidebook of The Rules of Polite Behavior reports that there are plenty of ways to eat pizza. Round triangular slices of pizza should be cut with a fork and a knife. Only rectangular takeout slices can be eaten with your hands. To be honest, in Italy everyone does what they like; some fold it; others use their hands. 

I would like to share a few suggestions on how to enjoy pizza and how to avoid making a fool out of yourself when in Italy. They are as follows: 

-Do not make any weird cuts: pizza has to be cut into triangular slices in order to be easily eaten with a fork and a knife or into rectangles when eaten with your hands; 

-Do not eat cold pizza. Only very hot pizza gives off all its rich delicious taste; 

  • Eat pizza from the centre to the crust; bite the tip of the triangle and then, all the way down to the crust;
  • You can eat pizza with your hands if it has already been cut into rectangular slices; cutting it with a fork and a knife can be useful. What is most important is not to get your hands dirty; 
  • Eat the whole pizza including the crust. If the pizza dough is well done, this is the best part of the pizza, according to Italians. 
  • You can eat pizza by folding it. Take a slice, close the two parts of the crust together as you don’t want to lose any toppings. 

10. What do the Italians use to season their dishes?

This is important. Italians season their dishes with extra virgin olive oil, salt, vinegar, and sometimes lemon. We don’t usually use spices, sauces, cream, or other condiments. Nowadays, adding seeds and dried fruit to salads has become more and more popular; they provide more taste and healthy nutrients.

Don’t miss any recipe! Subscribe to Stefania’s Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *