Italian food has been a staple in western culture for many years. In the nineteenth century, many Italian immigrants came over from Italy and settled in America, with most docked on Ellis Island, and began their search for a new life for their families.
This immigration of Italians from all over the country is widely thought of as the birth of Italian cuisine in America. As immigrants, the Italians were determined to acclimate to their new lives while still holding tight to their culinary traditions and identities. This meant a beautiful marriage between new and old traditions and is to thank for the Italian dishes we know and love today.
When we think of Italian food, whether it’s the dishes at our favorite restaurant or the meals prepared by friends and family, there are often specific dishes that stand out in our minds. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at five popular dishes you’ll find in Italian cuisine and how they’re a part of our world today.
Lasagna is one of the most popular and widely-prepared dishes from Italy, and you’ll often find it on the menu at most restaurants. The preparation of lasagna involves using wide, flat pasta noodles which are layered in a baking dish — the in-between ingredients typically start with ricotta, mozzarella, or parmesan cheese and can range in ingredients from seasonal vegetables to lean meats.
This dish is often favored for its concentrated flavors and coating of delicious pomodoro sauce — or in some cases, a white béchamel sauce.
As you may have guessed, Neapolitan pizza is specific to the Naples region of Italy. It’s one of the most simplistic dishes in the region, consisting of basic pizza dough, fresh, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and olive oil.
Its thin crust is then cooked in a specific wooden pizza oven, where it will puff up around the edges, giving it an airy texture and taste. For a more in-depth into Italian pizza, Skip the Dishes offers a unique Culinary Encyclopedia with insights and resources to help you understand the details and nuances of this cuisine.
While Italian cuisine is typically associated with pizzas and pasta, there are many regions throughout the native country that prioritize other ingredients in their cooking — with polenta being one of the most popular.
Polenta is a popular ingredient often used in northern Italian regions. It consists of corn mush, similar in texture to grits, which are popular in southern American states. Polenta is often seen as a blank culinary canvas, as it can take on various accompanying flavors. Some cooks will use it as a base to accompany stewed meats, while others may pack and fry them into fritters.
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Similar to Polenta, Risotto is a popular dish found in the northern regions of the country. It’s also known as one of the most time-consuming and nuanced dishes to make. This is because this velvety rice dish requires constant stirring on the stovetop. While it takes time to prepare, when cooked with accompanying flavors like saffron or pancetta and peas, it’s a dish that is worth the wait.
While there are hundreds of unique pasta dishes throughout the many regions of Italy, pasta carbonara is one of the most popular items you’ll find on western menus. Known as a Roman specialty, it’s very simple to make — its ingredients include eggs, spaghetti, pecorino cheese, cured guanciale ( Italian meat), and black pepper.
In many ways, keeping ingredients and dishes simple is the key to authentic, delicious Italian cooking. Experiment with any of the above dishes for your next family dinner or potluck.