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This brief study explains the Characteristics of European cuisines and detailed features of two European countries,diversity of the cuisines found in each area.
In this study you find the description of the equipment ,commodities and cooking methods and history of French and Italian cuisines.It also describes the influences that are endemic to the culture and geography.
Europe has a great diversity of food reflecting its linguistico-cultural mosaic. In this age of globalisation. Many dishes are so old, often dating back to ancient times, that their origin is unclear.
European cuisine is a generalized term collectively referring to the cuisines of Europe and other Western countries. European cuisine includes that of Europe and to some extent Russia, as well as non-indigenous cuisines of North America, Australasia, Oceania, and Latin America. The term is used by East Asians to contrast with Asian styles of cooking.This is analogous to Westerners referring collectively to the cuisines of Asian countries as Asian cuisine. When used by Westerners, the term may refer more specifically to cuisine in Europe; in this context, a synonym is Continental cuisine, especially in British English.
The cuisines of Western countries are diverse by themselves, although there are common characteristics that distinguishes Western cooking from cuisines of Asian countries and others. Compared with traditional cooking of Asian countries, for example, meat is more prominent and substantial in serving-size, and Westerners traditionally have a far more in-depth knowledge concerning specific methods of preparing and serving different cuts of meat than Asian cooks. Steak in particular is a common dish across the West. Similarly to some Asian cuisines, Western cuisines also put substantial emphasis on sauces as condiments, seasonings, or accompaniments (in part due to the difficulty of seasonings penetrating the often larger pieces of meat used in Western cooking). Many dairy products are utilized in the cooking process, except in nouvelle cuisine.Wheat-flour bread has long been the most common sources of starch in this cuisine, along with pasta, dumplings and pastries, although the potato has become a major starch plant in the diet of Europeans and their diaspora since the European colonization of the Americas.
Restaurants advertised to be specializing in generic Western cuisine in Asia tend to have menus containing a mixture of dishes mainly from France, the English-speaking world, and Germany. Since the early 1990s dishes from Italy and Spain have become more prominent on these restaurants menu.
Mustard : most likely developed by the Romans.
Béchamel sauce : first mentioned by by François Pierre La Varenne in 1651.
Mayonnaise : invented by a French chef in in 1756.
Bearnaise : likely first made by the chef Collinet in 1836 near Paris.
Worcestershire Sauce : invented in 1835.
Famous dishes and snacks
Roast beef : Already known of the Romans (military food).
Lasagna : probably first cooked in England in the 14th century.
Chicken Kiev : invented by French chef Nicolas François Appert in the mid 18th century.
Bouchée à la reine (individual vol-au-vent) : named after King Louis XV of France's wife, Marie Leczinska. Invented in France in the mid 18th century.
Bouillabaisse : term first appearing in Marseilles in the 1830's.
Hot-dog : probably invented in Germany in the mid 19th century.
Pizza : invented by Raffaele Esposito in Naples in 1890.
Croque-monsieur : first served in a Parisian café in 1910.
Famous deserts or sweets
waffle : invented in Medieval Times (13th century), probably in France.
choux (pastry) : invented by Popelini in Italy in 1540.
(modern) ice cream : invented in the 17th century in Italy.
Tarte Tatin : invented (by accident) in France in 1889.
France is located in western Europe. It borders the English Channel and the Bay of
Biscay to the west; the Mediterranean Sea to the south; Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium to the east and Spain and Andorra to the southwest. The unique geography of France allows it to connect to all major western European nations by the land or the sea. France generally has cool winters and mild summers, but the warm Gulf Stream current along the Mediterranean coast provides for mild winters and hot summers in the coastal region.
French cuisineÂ is aÂ styleÂ of cooking derived from the nation ofÂ France. Arguably considered to be one of the world's most refined cuisine (along with Chinese cuisine), it evolved from centuries of social and political change. TheÂ Middle Ages brought lavishÂ banquetsÂ to the upper class with ornate, heavily seasoned food prepared by chefs such asÂ Guillaume Tirel. The era of theÂ French Revolution however, saw a move toward fewerÂ spicesÂ and more liberal usage of herbsÂ and refined techniques, beginning withÂ François Pierre La Varenne Â and further developing with the famousÂ chefÂ ofÂ Napoleon Bonaparte and other dignitaries,Â Marie-Antoine Carême French cuisineÂ was codified inÂ the 20th centuryÂ byÂ Georges Auguste Escoffier to become the modern version ofÂ haute cuisine. Escoffier's major work, however, left out much of the regional character to be found in the provinces of France.Â Basque cuisineÂ has also been a great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day.Â Cheese andÂ wineÂ are also a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations andÂ Appellation d'origine controlee (AOC) (regulatedÂ appellation) laws.
French and its regional influences
In some regions people contained there regional specialties but most of them became famous and enjoyed all over the world. In their own region of origin you can mainly find their specialty with more quality of preparation and ingredients, even if you can find them throughout France. In each region they have also their typical way of choosing the ingredients and cooking their meals. For example Tomatoes, different kinds of herbs and Olive oil are a must in the Cuisine in Provence.
Here are a couple main influences of regional cooking:
*Â Economic conditions and history: The economic conditions, lifestyle and the culture of course have formed the local food traditions in different areas. Firm cheeses are found in the mountain regions since that over difficult and long winters they can be preserved. In the history when we speak about economy, we find that in some limited areas this firm cheeses are also the main means of support for a lot of homes since they can be produced in the mountains for the livestock. Over several centuries the economic prosperity of the region of Burgundy was great due to their excellence in raising cattle and that also helped them to provide their rich cream sauces and meat dishes.
*Â Local availability: Fresh local ingredients that are not transported for long distances are of better quality and are the basics of the best food and of course the French nation of gourmets knows that. For example, the community of areas where herbs and fruit grow easily will use them in their local cuisine. Likewise, inland areas don`t really use a lot of sea fish but on the contrary Northwest coastal places of France like Normandy and Brittany offer a typical way of eating sea fish meals.
*Â Immigration and neighbouring countries: The neighbors cuisine is formally incorporated in areas of France which border onto other countries. Near to the Italian border for example it will not be surprising to find Italian dishes. Because of immigration, the North African people residing in the South of France are letting enjoy the French people of their original African dishes. And also after various wars the border of Germany has been moved back in the area of Alsace but until now you find the German Â« Sauerkraut Â» and wine that became very popular in that kind of areas.
You will find in all parts of France, both in homes and in restaurants, a great range of dishes far extending beyond the regional specialities. However you will always remark the local influences in terms of cooking and ingredients. Local recipes and ingredients seem to be the best cooking and the most available in its own region. Therefore, the types of food one desires to enjoy is a great consequence of the choice where to visit or live in France.
These are a couple of examples:
* Fresh water fish is consumed in the inland areas, like in the Loire Valley, while sea food is preferred in the Mediterranean and near the Atlantic coast.
* The hot climate throughout the south, favorites the use of fruit and vegetables.
* The Sauerkraut and beer have been influenced in the northeast of France, like in Lorraine and Alsace, by the German.
* Apples, crème fraiche (soured cream) and butter are used in the cuisine of northwest France.
* Tomatoes, herbs and olive oil are mainly used by the French Mediterranean.
(Ref-http://ezinearticles.com/?French-Food-and-Its-Regional-Influences by Everaert Patrice)
Brittany and Normandy
Tarte Tartin, Moules Mariniere, and the drink Calvados. Brittany is famous for its crepes. These can be savoury or sweet. Buckwheat flour is used to prepare galettes- a savoury pancake usually eaten with ham, cheese and an egg as its filling
Champagne and the North Champagne's main contribution is obvious, but being on the Belgian border there are also rich dishes of Flemish influence; the region's cooler climate also lends itself to growing potatoes, cabbages, beets, watercress, endive and leeks. Flamiche is a simple dish of leeks cooked with cream and eggs in a pastry crust, and endive flamande is made by wrapping endives in ham and serving them with a white sauce. Carbonnade de boeuf is another classic dish, where the beef is slowly braised in onions and beer. A stew called chaudrée (hence the word chowder) makes good use of the region's fish. The cosmopolitan city of Lille is a big producer of charcuterie and beer. Pastries are quite basic with gaufres (waffles eaten with sugar and fresh cream) being among the best known. In Champagne, biscuits de Reims are sweet and delicious paper-thin macaroons.
Alsace and Lorraine
They both have been under German rule more than once in the past and this influence is evident in many of the local dishes, in which pickled cabbage and pork are common. Baeckeoffe is a stew of marinated meat and vegetables and choucroute alsacienne is pickled cabbage flavoured with juniper berries and served with sausages, bacon or pork knuckle. The locals also enjoy all kinds of savoury pies and tarts, the best-known being tarte flambée or flammekuche which is a thin layer of pastry topped with cream, onion and bacon and cooked in a wood-fired oven.
From Lorraine comes the most famous of all, quiche lorraine. Originally, this dish was made without cheese, but most recipes now include it and also add vegetables, seafood or ham to the basic mix of eggs and cream. Burgundy and Bordeaux. Dishes make liberal use of their famous red and white wines. Burgundy provides the best beef in France and is famous for its boeuf bourguignon. It's also home to Dijon mustard which is used to enhance the flavour of many dishes. Coq au vin (chicken in red wine) is another perennial favourite, and in this region you'll find the biggest escargot (snails) in France - because they're raised on grape leaves they're also meant to be the tastiest. Bordeaux is carnivore country and its most celebrated dish is entrecôte marchand de vin - rib steak cooked in a rich gravy made from Bordeaux wine, butter, shallots, herbs and bone marrow. Sweet treats include cannelés (caramelised brioche-style pastries) and the famous marrons glacés (candied chestnuts).
Languedoc-Roussillon, Gascony and the Basque Country.
These regions lie on the Spanish border and, using an abundance of tomatoes, peppers and spicy sausage, their food shares many similarities with that of Spain. Cassoulet (a casserole with meat and beans) is Languedoc's signature dish; Roussillon has a similar dish called ouillade. There are strong Spanish and Catalan influences in Roussillon too, with tapas-style dishes served in many wine bars. Gascon dishes are kept simple but hearty with lots of meat, fat and salt. Garbure is a thick stew made with vegetables, herbs, spices and preserved meats. Poulet Basque is a chicken stew with tomatoes, onions, peppers and white wine and piperade is Basque comfort cooking - peppers, onions and tomatoes cooked with ham and eggs. The locally prepared Bayonne ham is usually eaten sliced with bread but is also the basis of jambon à la Bayonnaise (ham braised in Madeira
Provence and the south of France.
The region has glorious weather to thank for its colourful, flavoursome specialities like ratatouille and salade Niçoise. It is often called the garden of France because of the high quality of its herbs, fruit and vegetables. Dishes here rely on tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs. It's not an area famous for its meat dishes, but a winter staple is boeuf en daube - beef stewed with red wine, onions, garlic, vegetables and herbs. Perhaps its most famous dish is bouillabaisse, a hearty fish soup brimming with lobster, crab, mussels or clams, served as a main course and accompanied by rouille - a spicy mayonnaise made with olive oil, garlic, chilli and fish broth - and warm bread
In french cuisine sauces play an important role as a wide range of sauces are available but many are variations of a mother sauce like . espagnole, (brown stock sauce)
2. velouté, (white stock sauce
3. béchamel, (milk and roux)Â
4. tomate, (tomatoe)
5. hollandaise (egg)
These 'fonds' or sauces, are the foundations from which Carême's repertoire of 100 +sauces derived- adding different mixes of flavorings to each mother sauce produced a slight variant.
French cooking is not complete without the mention of its breads including the Baguette,Fougasse and pate du Campagne and Pain rustique.
"Aside from bread and water, the most common accompaniments to a French meal are wine and cheese. Unlike other countries, in France wine is considered a standard part of everyday meals, and is neither expensive nor reserved for special occasions. With everyday meals, ordinary wines are served, although it is expected that the style of wine match the style of food .
In addition to its use in cooking, cheese is often served as a course in itself. In this case, it is served after the main meal but before dessert. This typically consists of a platter with three or four different cheeses, from which guests can slice pieces according to their preferences. Sliced bread (e.g. slices of a baguette) are typically provided at the same time."
Various dishes show the French passion of fresh vegetables.Even as an accompaniment,Vegetables are usually treated like expensive food ,only the best vegetables are used like potatoes ,haricot,carrots ,leeks ,turnips and courgette. Aubergine and peppers are used from the fields. Tomato forms the sauces and herbs are added to give flavours.
The French people enjoys eggs prepared in many different ways by using other vegetables ,such as pureed spinach or ratatouille as a base like baked eggs with creamy leeks.
Chestnuts and mistletoe are widely use in Brittany , chestnut are the basis of the most of the meals in this region and mistletoe traditionally represented persistence in druidic times.
For French cuisine intensity of each flavor matters more than quantity .Olives ,saffron
Lemon, garlic, capers and virgin olive oil are all used to give character and zest.
French cuisines revolves around the its sauces. The varieties of sauce are limitless as a number of ingredients can be used in various combinations. Dairy products like cream are used extensively .
A variety of herbs can be used like tarragon, rosemary ,marjoram ,lavender ,thyme ,sage, parsley, basil ,oregano.
(Ref-Recipes from a French kitchen(2001)Carole Clement and Elizabeth Wolf Cohen.)
Every region of France has its own distinctive traditions in terms of ingredients and preparation . On top of this, there are three general approaches which compete with each other:
Classical French cuisineÂ (also known in France asÂ cuisine bourgeoise). This includes all the classical French dishes which were at one time regional, but are no longer specifically regional. Food is rich and filling, with many dishes using cream-based sauces.
Haute cuisineÂ is classical French cuisine taken to its most sophisticated and extreme. Food is elegant, elaborate and generally rich. Meals tend to be heavy, especially due to the use of cream and either large portions or many smaller portions. There is a strong emphasis on presentation (in particular, vegetables tend to be cut with compulsive precision and uniformity). The finest ingredients are used, and the meal is correspondingly expensive.
Cuisine Nouvelle. This style developed in the 1970s, as a reaction against the classical school of cooking. The food is simpler and lighter. Portions are smaller and less rich; the heavy cream sauces of the classical approach are particularly avoided. Cooking is less elaborate and quicker, with more emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients.
Cuisine du terroir. This focuses on regional specialities and is somewhat more rustic in nature. Local produce and food traditions are the main focus.
Each of these three traditions are strongly represented in France, with each having its supporters and specialist restaurants. At the moment,Cuisine NouvelleÂ is less popular than it was, whileÂ Cuisine du terroirÂ has grown in popularity in recent years.
Baking blind-Its is the method to bake pastry case before adding a filling making the pastry soggy.
Baste-To moisten food with fat.
Braising-It involves first searing the food at high temperature and then finishing it in some flavourful liquid.
Beurre Manie-It is a method of preparing cooking liquid in which equal portion of butter and flour blended to a paste and whisked into simmering .This cooking liquid is used for thickening.
Infusion-This is the method for extracting flavours by steeping in hot liquid.
Flambeing-It is a somewhat dangerous technique used to add flavour to food at the end of the cooking.
Sauteing-It is a low fat method of range- top cooking.
Poaching-It is a gentle way to simmer food and bring out a tender texture.
Grilling-It is a style of cooking using direct heat. The food is placed on a metal grate which leaves a grill mark.
Provencale-It is a method of cooking with garlic ,onion, mushroom, tomato, olive oil and herbs.
En Papillotte-It is a method of cooking in which the food is put into folded pouch and baked in its own juice.
A mandoline is used to precisely cut vegetables in perfect, uniform shapes, including slices, julienne cuts, or waffle cuts. It is more effective than a food processor.
A Chinoise is a conical strainer used for making perfectly smooth soups and sauces.
3)A lame is a small tool with a razor-sharp blade at one end, used for slashing cuts into risen bread dough just before it goes into the oven.
4)A rolling croissant cutter speeds up the process of cutting the dough to the right shape.
And other equipment has evolved for specialized purposes: molds for mousses, flans, terrines, and pates, plates and tongs for serving escargot, slicers for truffles, peelers for chestnuts, etc.
THE ITALIAN CUISINE
The Italian cuisine is world famous. Pizzas and pastas are the two popular dishes people around the world are familiar with. Italian recipes are known for it is use of fine ingredients such as herbs and spices. The history of Italian cuisine dates back to ancient Roman days. The historians believe the history of Italian food began during the eight century BC, when Greek settlers colonized Sicily and Magna Graecia, a region in Southern Italy.Â
Italian food of mountainous regions is a blend of French cuisine and mountain specialties. The Italian cuisine of this region has strong Gallic flavors adopted from France. Hence, a dish such as white truffles or "trifola d'Alba " is one of the popular Italian dish. Seafood with a touch French flavor is found in Liguria, a city in North Italy.Â
- Magna Graecia
The Italians believe the nourishing and tasty Italian cuisine was borrowed from the Greeks. The regular meals consisted of food prepared from chickpeas, lupins, dry figs, pickled olives, salted and dry fish and pork. On occasions such as weddings or festivals various delicacies were prepared. A few dishes belonging to Magna Graecia include sweet meats made from almonds and walnuts, honey sauces, soups and meat in vinegar. Sumptuous feasts were associated with ancient Roman nobles.Â
- Middle Ages
Italy was invaded by barbarians during the 5th century AD. The cuisines of Barbarians were different from that of Italians. The Barbarians cuisines consisted of dishes such as stuffed-pastries, baked pies and roasted meats. The barbarian cuisine has influenced the Italian dishes to an extent. The Italians introduced fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet in the early 1000 AD. This period is known as the revival of the Italian culinary art.
History of Italian food would not be completed without mentioning "Pizza". Pizza was popular food in ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Babylon. Many historical evidences reveal a pizza was relished by ancient historians Cato the Elder and Herodotus. In olden days, a pizza was baked on a hot stone. Later it was consumed with vegetable or meat stew. Sometimes pizzas were seasoned with herbs and spices.Â
In Latin, pizza is called as "pinsa", which means flatbread. In Middles ages, people started to top a pizza with various herbs, spices mixed in olive oil. You could rightly say that the pizza gained a new taste and look during the medieval period. Gradually, with the introduction of buffalo cheese called mozzarella, the Italian pizza gained popularity not only in Italy but also around the globe.Â
Ancient Romans often had a light and meager meal twice a day and a heavy meal once a day. The fast was broken with olives, milk, eggs and wine. The meal of the noon was usually fruits and cold dishes. However, the dinner was heavy consisting of various seafood, bread, meat, sweat meat and wine. Fresh and dry fruits were served as desserts.
Given its position in the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy is a crossroads, and many foreign powers have left their mark. As you might expect, you'll find quite a bit of French influence (regional French, not haute cuisine) in the areas of Liguria, Piemonte, and the Valle D'Aosta bordering France, and Austro-Hungarian influences in the Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. There is also Spanish influence, especially in Milano, which was under the Spaniards for a time; this Spanish influence surfaces again in the South, which was ruled by the Bourbons until the unification of Italy in mid 1850s, and in Sardinia, which was ruled directly by Spain for a time. You'll find English influence in Tuscany, where the classicÂ bistecca alla FiorentinaÂ andÂ zuppa Inglese, English steak and English trifle, respectively, were initially prepared for the enjoyment of the sizeable English colony that settled Tuscany in the 1800s. And you'll find Jewish influences in Rome, dating to the 1500s, when Jews fleeing the Inquisition settled in the Eternal City. Finally, in Sicily you'll find a fascinating mixture of Roman influence, Arab influences dating both to the time that Sicily was an Arab province, and to more recent trade with North Africa (cuscus, for example), Norman French influence, and Spanish influence
Northern Italy differs from the rest of the Peninsula in a number of ways. Most traditional North Italian recipes call for unsalted butter rather than olive oil, and though there are many kinds of stuffed pasta, except in Emilia Romagna and Liguria the flat and extruded forms that are so important further south are less important, giving way to polenta and risotto, and, in the winter, to rich, hearty soups.
The North, especially Piemonte and Emilia Romagna, has excellent cattle breeds suited to meat and milk production, and also excellent hogs; as a consequence beef, veal, and pork are the meats of choice, with lamb and other animals playing a lesser role. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing, and in the latter cases northern cooks use much less tomato, preferring to use wine or broth as the liquid, and chopped herbs for flavor. The results can be extraordinarily elegant, and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings.Â
Theere is also an extraordinary variety of fish; Comacchio, south of the Po Delta, is renowned for its eels, while the Veneto's coastal lowlands provide mussels and clams, and the lakes and waterways inland a tremendous variety of fresh water fish, in addition to ducks and other wild birds.
In Central Italy the summers are hotter and longer than those of the North, and consequently tomato-based dishes are more common than they are further north; at the same time the winters are chill inland, making it possible to grow leafy vegetables that reach their best after it frosts, for example black leaf kale. Though there are braised meats and stews, in much of central Italy the centerpiece of a classic holiday meal will be a platter of mixed grilled or roasted meats, with poultry, pork, and beef, especially in Tuscany, where the renowned Chianina cattle graze the fields. In Lazio, on the other hand, the platter will likely also have lamb, which may also be present in Umbria and the Marche.Â
Central Italy also has a rich specialty farming tradition, with many crops that are difficult to find elsewhere, including farro, an ancient grain domesticated by the Romans, and saffron, whose distinctive sharpness adds considerably to many dishes. The area, which is almost entirely hilly or mountainous, also boasts massive chestnut stands on the steeper slopes; chestnuts were in the past one of the staple foods of the poor and even now roasted chestnuts are a wonderful treat in winter, as are the dishes made with fresh chestnut flour.
Southern Italy is a land of contrasts; on the one hand it is the poorest section of Italy, and in the past much of the population subsisted on an almost exclusively vegetarian diet, eating greens and bread or pasta. On other, the nobility was extraordinarily wealthy, enjoying a rich and extremely refined diet.Â
With respect to Northern and Central Italy there is greater use of dried pasta (as opposed to egg pasta), though people also enjoy vegetable based soups, and entrees, many of which also include fish. In terms of meat, though there are cattle, historically the South is known for shepherding, and lamb and kid play a much more important role in the diet than they do in much of the north. Fish also contribute strongly, and indeed in many coastal areas dominate.Â
The growing season is much longer, and hotter in the South; among the most popular summer vegetables are tomatoes (many of which go into red sauces) and eggplant, whereas in the winter months broccoli raab and cauliflower come to the fore.Â
Southern cheeses are also worth mentioning; they tend to be firm, for example caciocavallo and provolone, though there is a wonderful exception: Mozzarella.Â
Finally, Southern desserts tend to be much more opulent than those made further north.
Antipasto - antipastiÂ in the plural - literally means 'before the pasta'. It consists of a varied combination of foods, and should be colourful and served cold.
Two of the most popular Italian ingredients of the antipasti are melon or tomatoes, accompanied by raw ham (prosciutto) that has been cut into very thin slices. Italian varieties of lettuce, such as the slightly bitter endives or rocket, or other green leaves, such as the aniseed-tasting fennel, are usually used as a garnish, placed around the edges of the serving dish.Â Salami, mortadella, coppaÂ andÂ zamponeÂ (meaning big leg) are manufactured meat products common in antipasti.
The look of food, as well as the taste, is important to Italians. For example,Â salamiÂ is reddish and provides a good contrast to the green lettuce. Fish may also be included, especially highly salted anchovies or sardines, served with slices of roasted red capsicum, sometimes in a cold sauce (pepperonata) or chopped garlic.
Some other seafoods may also be used in antipasti and, of course, olives (black, green or capsicum-stuffed) and artichokes are also common servings, as are mushrooms (funghi) seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
There are many types of pasta, each type usually named after its shape. Common types includeÂ spiraliÂ (spirals),Â farfalleÂ (butterflies; sometimes described as 'bow-tie-shaped') andÂ conchiglieÂ (shells).Â PenneÂ are hollow oblongs.
The different shapes are supposed to be better with different types of sauces.Â SpiraliÂ are two strips of pasta twirled around each other and are used with the heavier sauces, such as those containing minced meat and vegetables.Â RigatoniÂ are cylinders, or tubes, with a wide diameter and grooves (or lines) on the outside -Â rigaÂ means 'line' in Italian; the suffixes -oniÂ or -oneÂ mean big. The idea of the grooves is to hold the sauce on to the pasta, meaning that this pasta is good with more runny sauces.
One group of pasta is made of long thin strands. This includes the most common type of pasta, spaghetti, which you must eat by coiling its long thin strands around a fork .
Other long thin pastas areÂ tagliatelle, fettucineÂ andÂ linguiniÂ (all varieties of flattened spaghetti -Â linguiniÂ means 'tongues'). Extremely thin strands of pasta are calledÂ vermicelliÂ (meaning 'little worms'). Another group of pasta is made of flat sheets (lasagne) or tubes (cannelloni), which are either layered or stuffed with meat and cheese fillings.
Whatever the kind of pasta, and whether fresh or dried, it must be cooked in boiling water untilÂ al denteÂ ('to the teeth', meaning still a tiny bit hard in the centre) and then served immediately in a bowl with sauce or cheese. There are as many different sauces as there are pastas. Spaghetti is often served bolognese, con parmigianoÂ (the hard cheese from Parma), and 'spaghetti bolognese' is now a common dish in the West. There is even a popular canned version, although this is nothing like the home-cooked Italian meal.
There are some kinds of pasta that have been used to make 'pockets' to hold the sauce inside them instead of outside. Ravioli are soft sheets of pasta rolled around meat or cheese. Tortellini are similar pockets of filled pasta. They also originated from Bologna. The legend is that Venus and Zeus were staying in an inn near Bologna. The innkeeper spied on Venus while she was lying naked on her bed, and was so amazed by her beauty that he ran straight to the kitchen and created tortellini in the image of her navel!
The Main Course
The meats most commonly used in main courses are chicken, veal (calf) and pork, which are often pan-fried or casseroled. Beef is used as steaks (bistecca), while lamb (agnello) is roasted on special occasions, such as Easter and Christmas. Fish and other seafood are often used as main courses. Common vegetables are beans (greens and pulses), potatoes (often sautéed), carrots and salads. Many Italians like to grow their own vegetables.
Fruit is a common dessert, especially in summer, because grapes, peaches, apricots and citrus fruits are a major product of Italy's agricultural industry. Italians also produce many sweet desserts and 'sweet treats', all of which are very appealing.Â AmarettiÂ (meaning little bitters) are almond-flavoured meringues, which Australians call macaroons.Â PanforteÂ is a sweet semi-hard 'strong bread' based on nuts and containing dried fruit, which is a classic Christmas treat from Siena.Â PannettoneÂ (derived fromÂ pane d'Antonio, meaning Tony's bread) is a very rich bread-cake and is another Christmas treat.
The most common drink associated with Italy is wine, as the wine industry has been important to Italy for centuries. Even in Roman times wine was produced throughout Italy. Until recently, and even now in the countryside, most Italians would make their own red or whiteÂ vino di casaÂ (house wine) after the grape harvest. This would be drunk at every lunch and dinner. Even children were given wine to drink, usually watered down with mineral water (acqua minerale). However, most children prefer fizzy drinks such asÂ aranciataÂ (fizzy orange) orÂ limonataÂ (fizzy lemon). Before dinner many Italians drink anÂ amaroÂ (bitter) to stimulate the digestive system, while after dinner they may drink sweet wines, such asÂ marsalaÂ (from Sicily).
Battuto, which means beaten. Battuto is a very finely chopped mixture of 1/4 part salt fat, bacon, or pancetta, along with 1/2 part onion and 1/4 part garlic. It may also contain carrots, celery, chilies, fennel, or bell pepper, as long as they are finely chopped. The consistency is most readily achieved in a food processor using the pulse setting. The mixture should look beaten together. A battuto is the first step in producing authentic tasting sauces and other complex dishes, such as soups, stews, and casseroles. The batutto is sautéed in olive oil until the onions are a mild yellow in color. Tomato, or whatever else the dish requires, such as vegetables or meat, stock, wine and the like, is then added along with fresh herbs. The final dish or sauce is cooked until ready. The beauty of buttato is that it introduces flavor complexity to the sauce or dish, just as the French mirepoix of vegetables adds complexity to stocks and soups.
Crudo is a technique by which a combination of finely minced raw, fresh herbs and vegetables (try fennel, tomato, bell peppers, chives, and garlic) are put onto or mixed with cooked food just before serving, as in Venetian risi e bisi (rice and peas) or pasta primavera.
One technique uniquely Italian, from the island of Sicily, is simmering vegetables from raw to cooked in a generous amount of olive oil and oregano. The vegetables brown beautifully and have a tender, crisp eating quality. Vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli are best for this technique.
Al dente is a term used in cooking pasta and vegetables. The literal translation is to the teeth, which indicates that the pasta or veggies should still have some resistance to the bite after cooking.
A trito is the equivalent of a mirepoix. It is a combination of onions, celery, garlic, carrot, and parsley without the addition of pork.
Braising-It involves first searing the food at high temperature and then finishing it in some flavourful liquid
.Sauteing-It is a low fat method of range- top cooking.
Poaching-It is a gentle way to simmer food and bring out a tender texture.
Grilling-It is a style of cooking using direct heat. The food is placed on a metal grate which leaves a grill mark.
Provencale-It is a method of cooking with garlic, onion, mushroom, tomato, olive oil and herbs.
A stainless steel, hand-crankedÂ pastaÂ machine helps cooks churn out homemade pastas. These are clamped to the edge of a table or counter, and a variety of sizes and shapes of pasta are rolled out through various attachments.
A mezzaluna is a half-moon-shaped knife with handles at the ends of the blade. Cooks roll the blade from side to side to chopÂ herbsÂ and vegetables.
A five-quart pot is a good size for cooking for two. Purchase one with an inner draining basket that has handles. Once the water has come to a boil and pasta is cooked, raise the basket up by its handles to drain.
A basic, four-sided grater will work just fine for most needs. Another option is a rotary cheese grater, which has a container to catch the cheese. The grater may have different-size apertures as well.
A nifty tool is a ravioli cutter, which is handy for cutting ravioli or pizza
Tong for pasta.