Posts Tagged ‘Italy;’

Cheap Italian Food in Milan

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

One of the highlights of traveling to Italy is naturally the Italian food. Milan in particular is a fashion and food capital of the world. With so many choices for good quality Italian food it can be hard to decide where to eat at times. Travelers are also frequently overwhelmed with how much there is to do in Milan or may only be in the city for a few days. The food here can also be very expensive and not for the budget conscious traveler. However, there must be an alternative to the ever ubiquitous McDonald’s? Surely there is a way to eat cheap Italian food in Milan? Time and budget constraints often prevent tourists from enjoying good Italian food, but that need not be the case in Milan.

Milan is home to yet another Italian food innovation. It is quite simply known as Ciao. Ciao is a fast Italian food restaurant that serves up fresh Italian food made on the spot with a friendly price tag. Unlike American fast food chains, Ciao serves quality Italian food. For those a little leery of anyplace claiming to have quality Italian food fast, let me point out that there is not set menu at Ciao. The menu changes daily in order to provide the freshest Italian food that is in season. Ciao serves all manner of hot Italian foods along with snacks, alcohol, and espresso. It’s a self service restaurant so you just fill up your plate and then pay at the register. With the low price tag Ciao also presents tourists with an opportunity to try different Italian foods without worrying about the money should you not like it.

Another great feature of Ciao that endears it to American tourists is the fact that it is open all day. Ciao is one of the only options for Italian food after lunch and before dinner. In Italy many of the Italian food establishments close between meals leaving only the American fast food imports open. If you’re a tourist and visiting Milan for the first time, then it can be hard to fit everything into your schedule and get meal times in when most of the restaurants are open. Plus, many people don’t want to spend the time it takes to eat at a typical Italian food restaurant, choosing to instead see the sites. It’s a real shame that people save up for vacations to Italy and end up eating at McDonald’s because of lack of time or money.

Many people don’t know a place like Ciao exists before they leave home so take this opportunity to plan it into your Italian vacation now. In fact, you won’t even have to stop looking at the sites while eating quality Italian food at Ciao. Be sure to check out the Ciao outlet at Piazza Duomo. Get your food and head over to the third floor of the Duomo Center and grab a table. The view from this vantage point is simply amazing and will provide a nice backdrop to your meal. Italian food doesn’t have to be expensive when in Milan and you don’t have to carve large blocks of time out of your vacation in order to experience fresh Italian food, just go to the nearest Ciao and soon you will be dining on quality Italian food in the heart of Milan.

All About Risotto in Italian Food

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

There is really no definitive answer as to how rice arrived in Italy. However, as soon as it made its way to Italy in the fourteenth century, most likely from Spain, it became a hit in Italian food. Areas of the country outside of Milan have the perfect blend of flat land, water, and humidity to make rice cultivation a very successful endeavor. The intensive rice cultivation that began in the fourteenth century has continued and has made rice a staple in regional Italian food.

Perhaps the most popular example of rice in Italian food is in risotto. Although risotto is considered a very serious dish in Italian food, it actually started out as a joke. As the legend goes a young apprentice was staining the glass used in the Duomo di Milano, a magnificent gothic cathedral, in 1574. He was relentlessly teased because it looked as if he had added saffron to pigments in order to obtain more vibrant and brilliant colors. When it came time for his master’s wedding, he decided to play a little joke to show how tired he was of the teasing. So, he added saffron to the rice that was to be served at the wedding. The plan backfired and the rice was so popular amongst the wedding guests that it became the staple of Italian food that we know today.

There are four main components to the risotto we know in Italian food today. The first is the soffritto. Sometimes this can be special ingredients specific to the type of risotto being made. However, it is typically a mixture of vegetables, butter, oil, and onions. This mixture is sauted in the same skillet where the rice will later be cooked. The next component is the broth. The broth can be homemade or canned and can be beef, chicken, vegetable, or fish. The third component is the flavoring ingredient. This is the component that will give the risotto its specific flavor. This can range from vegetables to meat, truffles, or the ingredient that started it all, saffron. Now of course, the final component is Italian rice. The rice that is used in Italian food is made up of large grains with lots of starch. This rice is perfect for risotto because it can absorb large amounts of liquid and still remain firm.

Risotto is a very popular Italian food dish, but it is also one of the most botched Italian food dishes because of the precise way in which the rice is prepared. Some tips to making it successfully at home include not washing the rice. If you were to wash the rice beforehand it would eliminate much of the starch that is needed to make good Italian food. There are also different types of Italian food rice and you will want to pick the rice that is most appropriate for your recipe. All rice is not created equal so check your recipe and cookbooks to decide which rice is best to use. You’ll also want to use a double-bottom saut pan.

This will keep the heat uniform to make sure the rice cooks evenly. It is important to saut the rice until it is toasted before adding the broth. However, don’t cook it too long or it will harden. This is the most important part of making an authentic Italian food risotto, make sure the rice is toasted. After that it is all downhill. Just follow these tips and pretty soon you’ll be cooking like a professional Italian food chef.

Tuscan Italian Food

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Tuscany is one of the most well known regions in Italy. Many Italian food lovers find some of their favorite dishes in Tuscany. People love the simplicity of Tuscan Italian food and the region has its own very distinct style of cuisine.

One appeal of Tuscan Italian food is that it is generally healthy. This is due in large part to its use of olive oil. There are many different varieties of olives that are grown in the area and used extensively in the cooking. Beans are also widely used as are vegetables, seasonal fruits, and mushrooms. Of course the area also has the cheeses that are a signature of Italian food. In October and November the people are up for a real treat because this is when the famous white truffles of the area appear. Contrasting this lighter side of the Italian food is the extensive use of meat in Tuscany. High quality beef can be found in the region.

There is even a specific breed used for the famous t-bone steaks that are known as Florentine steak. Pork is also used a source of protein in the Tuscan Italian food. One of the reasons for their famed use of meat has historical roots. When the country started relying heavily on polenta and other corn products, many people began dying due to malnutrition. It was discovered that the thousands of deaths were tied to a lack of protein and other nutrients. Since that time the Italians have taken care to add more variety to their diet than just pasta.

Tuscany has perhaps more unique Italian food dishes than any other region. Some popular dishes include fresh vegetables either raw or slightly cooked and served with olive oil that is seasoned for dipping. Tuscany is also known for a reheated vegetable soup dish. The meat dishes that are most unique to the area include Tuscan-style veal shank and T-bone steak. The Italian food that features pork in the area includes creamed bacon and a complicated dish of pig’s liver stuffed into a pig’s stomach and then slowly baked with stock and red wine.

The real Italian food gem in Tuscany is not just the unique entrees, but the unique breads. There are specific breads for specific holidays and seasons in Tuscany. On Good Friday bread that is baked on a bed of chestnut leaves is served. They also have breads made from maize, fried in olive oil, made with sweet chestnut flour with rosemary leaves, breads made from a mixture of different flours; the list goes on and on. Usually Italian food makes one think of all the different forms of pasta, but in Tuscany the Italian food of variety is the bread. On Easter Sunday special bread that is made with raisins, saffron, and other spices is consecrated in church before being served. It has a high fat content and is served with eggs. There are also sweet rolls that are eaten on the St. Anthony feast day. Who knew that Italian food included so many different breads? Just as there are many different cheeses in Italian food, there are just as many Italian food breads to serve with them.

Tuscany is a treasure trove of Italian food. Try eating at a Tuscan inspired Italian food restaurant, or make sure to visit Tuscany while in Italy to try all the different unique Italian food dishes that they have to share.

Tiramisu – The Italian Food Dessert

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Today Tiramisu is the most popular of Italian food desserts. It graces the menu of nearly every Italian food restaurant. However, its rise to fame has been meteoric; it wasn’t even invented until the 1970’s in the Veneto region of Italy. It didn’t even gain widespread popularity until the early 1990’s. It is a unique blend of ingredients that separately seem to not go together at all. However, when correctly blended together they form one of the treasures of Italian food.

The first ingredient is Mascarpone cheese. This cheese has very deep roots in Italian food. It was made as far back as the 13th century in the region of Lombardy. This cheese is concentrated milk cream and has a very high fat content, getting up to seventy-five percent. It is a smooth and creamy cheese. Traditionally it has been considered to be more of a winter dish and therefore shows up in more of the seasonal Italian food dishes. This is mainly because of its high calories and the fact that when it was first produced there was no refrigeration and this delicate cheese does not keep well in hot temperatures. Like many other Italian foods, the best Mascarpone cheese comes directly from Italy. However, it you’re an Italian food lover making Tiramisu at home, there are plenty of makers of Mascarpone cheese in America.

The next ingredient is Zabaglione cream. This is a true classic Italian food dessert. It hails from the world renowned kitchens of Venice. When it originally became a popular Italian food dessert it was made with yolks, honey, and a sweet Cyprus wine. However, today the cream has taken on a new flavor. To begin with sugar is substituted for the original honey. The most stated difference in taste though, comes from the use of Marsala wine instead of the sweet Cyprus wine. This cream can be made from home and is easier to make than most Italian food chefs let on.

The third ingredient is the most distinctive factor of Tiramisu, espresso. This shot of caffeine is where the dessert gets its name, which means “pick me up”. This is a coffee that is true to Italian food and is much stronger than American coffee. Espresso is the most important coffee in Italian food and can be seen following many Italian meals.

The fourth and final ingredient is Ladyfingers. These popular cookies originated in Italy and have made numerous appearances in not only Italian food, but in many other national cuisines. These cookies are remarkably light due to the fact that the dough with which they are made is rich with whipped egg white. They are immensely popular and one of the most appreciated Italian food desserts in Italy.

These four ingredients blended together just right and topped off with chocolate make an Italian food dessert that is as popular as the individual ingredients. Make sure when you prepare this at home that you take great care in choosing the ingredients, it will really make a difference in the quality of Tiramisu. Now that you know the correct quality and the origin of the ingredients you will surely impress your friends with you Italian food knowledge.

The Italian Food of Trentino-Alto Adige

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Italian food has a rich history. It draws on the influences of many different cultures and time periods. It is a great melting pot of different ideas all brought together by a distinctly Italian flavor that makes it Italian food, the most sought after cuisine in the world. The region of Trentino-Alto Adige is a great example of how history has affected and influenced Italian food.

Prior to 1550 the food in this region was known for its simplicity. Food was simply meant for sustenance and a distinct regional flavor had yet to emerge. However, that all changed in 1550. That is the time of the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent was an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church. The council was held in response to the growing Protestant Reformation in an effort to counter it. It is hard to imagine that such a religious and political event would have any affect whatsoever on the local Italian food. However, when all of these high ranking church officials came to the area, they brought with themselves a taste for fine food. It is this event that first taught the region to appreciate the art of fine cooking. This is a great example of how history has shaped the current state of Italian food.

The cuisine here was also influenced by the Republic of Venice and the Habsburg Empire. Other influences include that of the Slav, Austrian, and Hungarian cuisines. It’s hard to imagine now that Italian food was shaped by these cuisines that many people think of as distinctly different than Italian food. This region is known for its use of fresh water fish in contrast to much of the rest of the country that uses salt water fish in much of their cuisine. It’s also interesting to note that despite the foreign influences, it is this area that most popularizes the dishes that are traditionally thought of as Italian food such as pasta, tomatoes, and olive oil. However, in addition to these commonly thought of Italian food dishes is a host of other foods such as potatoes, dumplings, and sauerkraut made from scratch. Goulash is the most commonly served Sunday meal.

Health conscious travelers should also note that lard is still a very popular ingredient in the area. Those concerned with saturated fat should be sure to enquire about the ingredients of the Italian food they are enjoying in this region. But it is important to note that many chefs find that lard is the best ingredient for certain situations and the Italian food chefs in this region certainly feel that way.

There are some specific dishes that are unique to this region. One is potato dumplings with ricotta. You might not think of dumplings when thinking of Italian food, but they are quite common to the area. They even have canederli, a specific dumpling unique to the area that is made with leftover bread. This region also boasts its own regional sauerkraut as well as a stuffed chicken dish.

This region of Italy is a great example of how external forces have shaped Italian food. The style of cuisine here is an excellent blend of the popular Italian food and the unique authentic flavors of regional Italian food.

The History of Pizza in Italian Food

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Italian food is unique amongst world cuisines in that it has birthed not one, but two international sensations. Of course I’m talking about pasta and pizza. Pizza is one of the most widely eaten foods today. While most people think of pizza in America as Italian food, it really is not like the pizza of authentic Italian food. It is said that with one taste of pizza made in the style of authentic Italian food, you will never go back to the Americanized version. Even when eating at Italian food restaurants it is hard to capture the distinguished taste of true Italian pizza.

Pizza is one Italian food that has been around in one form or another for centuries. It has a long history in the Mediterranean where it began as a seasoned flatbread that was used more as an edible plate to hold other food, rather than as a food by itself. However, these earlier pizzas established a name for Italian food very early on and were eaten in Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon and were emphatically praised by many historians of the day.

It was in the Middle Ages that pizza began to take a form that would be more familiar to Italian food lovers today. Pizza started out being just a dough topped with herbs and olive oil. Once mozzarella cheese began to be produced from Indian Water Buffalo it quickly became a signature aspect of pizza. Today at any true Italian food eatery this fresh mozzarella di buffalo is nonnegotiable. The dried shredded mozzarella that is often associated with Italian food would actually never be used on a pizza made by a true Italian food chef.

It wouldn’t be until the tomato became popular in Italian food in the 18th century that we would see modern pizza. During this time pizza began to take an even more prominent role in Italian food. In Naples pizza was sold on the streets for every meal. This once peasant food was quickly taking hold of all of society, including the upper class. In fact, by 1830 the first ever pizzeria was opened in Naples. Ever since this time pizzerias have been found all over the world converting people to the love of Italian food.

Traditional Italian pizza is cooked in a wood fired oven. The reason American pizza is often not thought of as a true Italian food is because the large restaurant chains that specialize in pizza do not cook it in a wood fired oven. Pizzas featured in Italian food restaurants should use only the freshest ingredients. In Italy pizzas change with the seasons as new ingredients become available. The great thing about pizza that has made it so popular is the fact that it can be topped with a vast array of toppings. Each region of Italy has its own particular style of pizza that they specialize in, making use of the ingredients most readily available to them.

So for real Italian food pizza it is necessary to step out of the confining ideas of just a few types of pizza and open your mind to the different possibilities. Italian food is full of variety and you could literally spend a year in Italy just trying all the different styles of pizza that made Italian food so universally popular.

The History of Pasta in Italian Food

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

The most widely recognized element of Italian food today is pasta. Pasta is a signature of Italian food in all parts of the globe. It is easy to store and prepare and therefore became the ambassador of Italian food to the world. Pasta has a much older history than other common dishes in Italian food like pizza and tomato sauce.

There are many myths surrounding the time when pasta actually entered into Italian food. The most common of these myths is that Marco Polo introduced it to the country from his extensive travels. However, pasta was already a part of Italian food during Marco Polo’s life. To get to the heart of the matter you must travel even further back in history. In fact the most accepted theory on the introduction of pasta to Italian food takes us back to the eighth century. During this time the Arab invasions greatly influenced Italian food and are the most likely start of pasta’s life in Italy.

Since the wheat used for this early pasta thrived in Italy, it quickly spread and by the 1300’s dried pasta was immensely popular and found all over the country. The appeal of pasta to Italian food was its nutrition and its long shelf life. These factors made pasta a great candidate for long ship voyages and because of this it was one of the first Italian foods to be introduced to the world. By the time pasta made its world debut much advancement had been made and there were many different shapes and forms of pasta being used in Italian food. The Italians had also developed ways to make pasta faster and more efficiently, making it an integral part of Italian food and Italian life.

The next important phase of pasta’s development in Italian food was the introduction of the tomato of course. Today pasta and tomato sauce go hand in hand when thinking of Italian food, but the marriage wasn’t made until 1839. Prior to this time tomatoes were just being introduced to the world from the Americas and many Europeans believed them to be poisonous. It took a long time for people to trust the tomato enough to eat it and include it in Italian food. However, once the tomato was accepted it was welcomed with open arms and took off in Italian food, especially in the southern regions of Italy.

Today one only has to look at the numbers to see just how big a role pasta plays in Italian food. Italians eat over three times as much pasta as Americans. Their pasta consumption is over sixty pounds per person per year. It’s no wonder that pasta is considered the cornerstone of Italian food. In fact, pasta is used so extensively in Italian food that Italy must import most of its wheat in order to keep up with the demand. This popularity of pasta and Italian food has caused pasta to be mass produced. This has lead to an inferior quality of pasta being used in American Italian food. The best pasta is still found in Italy where they stick to the same recipes handed down through the generations. A true Italian food lover must try some authentic pasta made in Italy if they want to capture the authentic taste of Italian food.