There are many different factors that merge to create the style of Italian food eaten in a particular region of Italy. A great example of this is the Lombardy region. The land here dictates what ingredients are used in the Italian food and hence what type of dishes will emerge.
The biggest feature of this region is the vast plains. These plains allow for an abundance of cattle and these cattle greatly affect the type of Italian food found in this area. For instance, while most people think of olive oil in conjunction with Italian food, in this region butter is much more popular. There is also a lot of cream used in the food here; again not something most people associate with Italian food. These distinct differences from the general ideas of Italian food are due to the abundance of cattle found in the region.
Cheese is a very important ingredient in the Italian food here. One important cheese is the robiola. This cheese is part of the Stracchino family and is a soft-ripened cheese that is distinctly Italian. It is made from a blend of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk. The proportions of the different milks are distinct to different areas of the region and so it is possible to taste several different samples of the cheese, each with its own distinct flavor. Grana padano is also a very important cheese to the region. This is a hard, grainy cheese made from cows milk and aged anywhere from eight to twenty-four months. This cheese is important in the history of Italian food. It was invented by monks who used ripened cheese as a method of preserving extra milk. By 1477 this cheese was one of the most famous cheeses in the world and it certainly hasn’t lost any luster with the passing years.
Another distinct feature of this area’s Italian food is the use of single pot dishes. These are dishes which take less work to create and are therefore more popular amongst the working class of the area. Polenta is very popular as is rice. There are many different risottos that are common in the area as well as rice based soups. A popular version of risotto here is flavored with saffron. Another dish that is immensely popular and has made the region famous is its traditional ravioli with pumpkin filling. While ravioli is popular with Italian food lovers most have never had it with pumpkin filling. It is also served with melted butter and is often followed by turkey traditionally stuffed with stewed meats or chicken. True to the picture of Italian food the area boasts yet another unique pasta dish, this one with a twist as well. It is a dish of buckwheat pasta with potatoes, Swiss chard, butter, and Bitto cheese.
Of course you can’t overlook the importance of desserts in the Italian food of Lombardy. The region boasts a few sweet dishes. They make a traditional Christmas bread made with yeast dough and dotted with candied citrus peel, raisins, and candied fruits. An even sweeter Italian food creation is torrone. This nougat confection is made from honey, sugar and egg white. It is then coated with crushed, toasted almonds. The last unique dish to the area is actually a condiment made of boiled fruits seasoned with mustard. This region really does expand a person’s view of Italian food.