Food has traditionally been a fundamental pillar of Italian social life. Infused with ancient accents adapted from the Romans, the Greeks and the Etruscans, modern Italian cooking is a national culinary pastime characterized by endless examples of unique local flair. How much do you know about the cuisine commonly served at Italian supper tables?
Potatoes, and to an even larger extent, corn, both played pivotal roles in the evolution of the cuisine of Italy. But the introduction of the tomato revolutionized Italian cooking like no other New World crop.
Cooking with tomatoes took a while to really catch hold in Europe. It wasn't until the early 1800s that tomatoes started popping up in Italian pots.
Italian cuisine is renowned for the wide range of ingredients that could end up included in any given dish. Those ingredients are frequently chosen based on what's fresh at the market. Personal culinary creativity is also warmly embraced.
Pizzerias are probably the most common type of eatery in Italy. Originally pioneered in Naples, the popularity of pizza swept northward across the country and the world in the years since.
The initial introduction of pasta into Italian cuisine isn't established for certain, but many think it was first brought to Italy by Arab invaders.
Italians eat approximately 60 pounds (27 kilograms) of pasta on average each year. That beats out Americans who only eat about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) annually.
Pasta comes in about 350 different shapes and sizes in Italy, although incorporating regional variations would probably push the number higher.
Pasta is often highly textured and intricately shaped because that makes it better at holding onto sauces.
Although rosemary and thyme are used frequently in Italian cooking, pesto sauce is traditionally made from fresh basil.
Olive oil is by far the most commonly used oil in Italian cuisine, especially in the form of extra virgin olive oil. The quality of extra virgin olive oil varies depending on a number of factors, including the point when the olives are harvested to the method used for processing them.