It is hard to speak about Italian food. The secret is not in a too sophisticated preparation process, it is in the freshness and in the correct mixture of ingredients. Italian cuisine is generally very simple and most of the dishes are based on bread, tomatoes and olive oil. When we talk about an “Italian cuisine” we must consider that we are talking about an incredible variety of different cuisines according to the regions of Italy and their cultural differences.
Each region has different cultural and food backgrounds like the Arabic in Sicily, the Greek/Turkish in Puglia, the French in Piedmont and the Spanish in Sardinia. Pasta and pizza are surely the queens of Italian food and with this base, it is possible to prepare very different dishes. Pasta can be served with simply with tomato sauce as with pesto (a sauce based on basil) or with vegetables like eggplants or meat like the ragù. Desserts can be very different depending on the region. Tiramisù in Northern Italy or Babà in Naples, you are spoiled for choice! There are also numerous types of Italian wines in Tuscany, Sicily, Abruzzo, Puglia and Sardinia and several liqueurs like limoncello in the Southern regions and Grappa in Veneto. We will focus this article on one of the most particular Italian cuisines: Sicilian cuisine!
Sicilian cuisine show traces of all different cultures which have existed on the island. Sicily can be considered one of (if not the first) cradles of Italian cuisine. In fact, during 5th century BC, the Sicilian cook Mithaecus wrote a cookbook about Sicilian gastronomy and it is the earliest cookbook in any language whose author is known! Moreover, Sicily is the oldest Italian and Western location where pasta was found. The first traces, in fact, date back to the 12th century as attested by the Tabula Rogeriana of Muhammad al-Idrisi. The most traditional types of pasta are “Pasta alla norma” with eggplants and pasta with sardines. The use of sugar, citrus, apricots, saffron, raisins, and cinnamon is obviously a sign o Arab influence. Probably the most symbolic one is the traditional couscous from Trapani.
Other influences are the Norman above all in the meat dishes and the Greek one on the east side of the island where fish, olives, broad beans and pistachio are preferred. Sicilian desserts are so various and numerous that it would be impossible to list all of them. We will mention “cannoli” with ricotta, the famous “cassata” and the traditional lemon or almond “granita” usually served with the so-called “brioche”. Sweet wines like “marsala” and “zibibbo” usually are served with these desserts.