Cook book

The flavors of Italy

The tastes of Sicily are as bold as the colors of Sicily – the fiery reds of tomato undertones or the peperocini, the hot red pepper that Sicilians prefer to black peppercorns. Memories of the Moors still live in the air conjuring up golden raisins and pine nuts, in fact a seed harvested from the large cones. The yolks are bright saffron brought from ancient Greece, sour lemons dancing on your tongue, and melted honey, an ancient Roman sweetener. The colors and scents of Italy overwhelm the senses, but Italians are masters of culinary simplicity.

Each wave of conquest by the Romans shaped the Italian table The culinary traditions of Italy began with the Etruscans, and were later developed by the Greeks and Saracens or non-Arab Muslims who settled in the South and the Sicily, they treasured rice, citrus fruits and used dried fruits such as figs and dates to stuff pastries and they brought eggplant to Italy. History, climate and geography have shaped the region, northern Italy so close to the Austro-Hungarian Empire has completely different tastes to those in the south. Northern Italy has the richest diet in the country, in variety. The vast plains cultivate cereals, rice, maize, and they support the cattle that provide dairy products.

Whether north or south, all Italians love pasta, sometimes served with a simple homemade cheese and a fresh tomato sauce served with fresh herbs, basil or wild marjoram or oregano. In Piedmont, pasta sauces are richer, creamier and loaded with butter and cheese. Sicily is renowned for its olive groves, citrus fruits and vineyards. Sicily was ravaged by unemployment, foreign domination, corruption, huge feudal estates, piracy and casa nostra. The Greeks came with their olives, ricotta, wine and honey. Its lands were later settled by the Romans who needed large tracts of land for wheat, cereals and legumes. The monasteries developed tart biscuits and also sharp cheeses.

Ancient Rome gave Western civilizations the foundation for an elegant and sophisticated cuisine, which would take centuries to become known as gastronomy. The Roman Empire brought new products and recipes to Rome.

Other Mediterranean peoples, including the Etruscans, already knew the skill of milling, they made flour and turned it into fresh bread. They crushed olives to extract precious olive oil, the liquid gold of ancient Italy, they used grapes to make wine and vinegar and turned creamy whole milk into fresh cheeses.

Olive oil is fundamental for the Italians but the symbol of southern cuisine, curiously, came from four hundred years of Aragonese domination in Sicily, the Spanish conquerors brought tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and chocolate. The pomodoro has found a promised land alongside aubergine or aubergine, the melanzane that distinguishes the classic “parmigiana” from Campania.

Sicilian food is a tutti fruiti in its own right, in fact it should be totally overwhelmed, but it is vigorous and robust the basic tastes of the Mediterranean tomatoes, pasta, fish, fruit, bread and oil cooked with peppers, basil, almonds and pistachios, pine nuts, vinegar and golden raisins. Even the names of the dishes are exaggerated in Sicily Pasta chi sardi a ‘mmari, which translates to pasta served with fish still in the sea. chopped often served at New Years.

Whatever your choice of region, there is a sublime recipe and even the most jaded will appreciate Italian recipes.

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