Italian cuisine takes influences not only from past civilizations including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine and Jewish, but also from various countries around Europe that have had influence in Italy in the past, like Spain, France, Austria and England. Significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World with the introduction of items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize.
Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, richness of difference in taste, and is known to be one of the most popular in the world. Italian cuisine is recognized for its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients, is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce. Dishes and recipes are often the creation of grandmothers rather than of chefs, and this makes many recipes ideally suited for home cooking.
Italian cuisine is well known for its use of a diverse variety of pasta and for pizza. There are hundreds of different shapes of pasta with at least locally recognized names. Examples include spaghetti, rigatoni, fusilli, and lasagna. Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried and fresh. Dried pasta made without eggs can be stored for up to two years under ideal conditions, while fresh pasta will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. It is usually served with sauce, different kinds of meat, seafood and herbs.
Pizza originates from Naples and has since spread not only throughout Italy but to most of the world. Pizza Margherita is claimed to be the original pizza, it is very simple, made only of a good, thin base, good tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese and oregano. Since the original pizza, endless other types have evolved and today only the chef’s imaginations puts limits to what you can use as topping on a pizza, but remember if you add too much topping you will lose the real taste of the pizza.
Fruits, both fresh and dried, are eaten as snacks and desserts. Popular types of fruit include grapes, berries, citrus fruit such as oranges and lemons, figs, pears, cherries, apples and plums. Cheese is traditionally eaten regularly, but in moderation, throughout Italy. Some of the most popular types of cheese include Parmesan, mozzarella, Romano, gorgonzola and ricotta.