Italian cuisine, developed through centuries of social and political change, has its roots as far back as the 4th century. It is heavily influenced by Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, and Jewish cusine.
With the discovery of the New World items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize began to creep in but were not introduced in quantity until the 18th century. Noted for its regional diversity, Italian cuisine is noted for its abundance of different flavours and has subsequently become one of the most popular in the world.
Before the 2nd WW foreign travel for the average Brit was not really an option. It remained a prerogative of the moneyed classes. Following the war all that changed. It proved to be a class leveler in more ways than one.
Thomas Cook, an early bird in the package holiday business, began the ‘going away’ for a holiday concept in the late Victorian era but cost was the key. 1950 saw a mere one million Britons travel abroad but by 1994, 27 million Brits took a foreign holiday, 56% of which were packages.
As foreign travel became more common so people wanted to reproduce some of the dishes they had encountered on holiday at home. The text and recipes here are from the same source I have used for the English county posts. Published in the late fifties, early sixties these recipes sought to satisfy that demand.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in pasta, fish and vegetables, is characterized by its extreme simplicity and variety with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Recipes are often derivatives from local and familial tradition rather than ‘created’ dishes and so are ideally suited for home cooking.
Much of the success of Italian cuisine is its food industry that relies heavily on traditional products : Italy is the country with the most traditional specialities protected under EU law with many regional declinations and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) labels.
Coffee also forms an important part of the Italian gastronomic culture while desserts have a long tradition of merging local flavours such as citrus fruits, pistachio and almonds with sweet cheeses like mascarpone and ricotta or exotic tastes as cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon.