Italian Food History: The Roman Empire serves as the start of Italian food history.
Because the Romans had control of the territory about 2,000 years ago, they were able to import a variety of foods such as wheat and spices to satisfy the Romans’ desire for more foreign ingredients.
Ruins from the vulcano eruption in Herculanum or Ercolano, Naples, Italy, in the antiquity, the thermopolium had the same use than a fast foods restaurant. Yet, for the most part, cooking in ancient Italy was simple and differentiated by region, with each region becoming known for some specific culinary recipe.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, invading people and cultures brought with them many new cooking customs and it was not until the medieval times that order was restored and a true Italian cuisine could be built. Italian food history continued in the territory of northern Italy which was occupied over a period of time by France or Austria which served to bring into the region additional culinary influence.
Culture of fresh pasta
It was here that a culture of fresh pasta was developed while dry pasta was mass produced in southern Italy and found excellent for trading since it was easy to store and transport and was very affordable. By the 1700’s, pasta became very popular due to the Arab occupation but it was really northern Italy that produced the recipes more representative of Italian cuisine.
It was Bologna that was considered the true heart of Italy’s gastronomic efforts. The southern part of Italy was unified for long periods of time yet separated from the great trading routes with northern Europe. Consequently, the people of the south were somewhat isolated and poor and did the best with what they had. With regard to Italian food history, they were, however, responsible for developing spaghetti and pizza which were exported by Italian emigrants and became popular everywhere.
Influencers of the italian cuisine
There were many other influences in Italian cuisine. Greek cooking played an important role as did the Muslim occupation of Italy that lasted for two hundred years. The Muslims brought with them the use of fruits in a wide variety of courses as well as rice, spinach and sugar. Sicily remains one region where the Muslim influence is still greatly felt.
Local traditions still remain strong in this culture with distinctive cultural and social habits having distinctive influences on the cuisine of each region.
Pasta still remains a favorite choice with spaghetti in the south, tortellini in Bologna and risotto in Milan.
Other traditional food remains at the core of the Italian cuisine with each region contributing gastronomic specialties of their own making for a wide variety of Italian typical dishes. Did you enjoy reading about Italian food history?
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