Hello, dear readers and happy Monday
I’m just saying. Last time I was writing the Sunday NaNoWriMo post and.. I realized how much it was long. After a brief poll on the Twitter, the majority voted for having two separated post. That’s how this special on Italian food is born.
Be ready for me destroying some of your convinction about the food from my country.
I thanks Sam @Fictionally Sam for her gentle help. She linked me a good bunch of recipes and restaurants to use as examples between the Italian cuisine outside Italy, and the one done in my country.
There’s a point in which you consider a thing: there’s not enough food in your novel. You concentrated too much on social topics and forgot an important part for the world building. As a person too, in my opinion, because NO FOOD THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS.
THIS GIF HAS NO ACTUAL CONTEXT BUT THIS REAMAINS ONE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS SCENE IN THE FILM
Food work not only as a delicious bookish factor, but is also a great world building element. The way in which people eat denote a lot about their culture. Eating in a way or another is always a mix of general culture, religion and faith, superstitions, social environment, what grows from the earth, thanks to climate and economic conditions.
For example, a lot of now well know and affirmed Italian recipes, came from the farmers, that managed to create nutritional recipes out of the few ingredients they had.
If we all consider that my book is Italian based, how can it be without food?
Italians eat and make a great deal out of food, despite the alarming fact that many Italians don’t know what they eat! Like, okay, we can’t know everything, but some cannot discern what they’re eating: if it’s meat or fish, if there are different types of meat in the same plate, if what they’re tasting is cooked or raw.
So, let me start with a bunch of recipes the dear Sam linked to me. It’s time to debunk some of these pseudo Italian food. I don’t want to offend any italian-american (since recipes are from America) because it’s normal for recipes to change with times and continent, adapting where people live, but some foods are… just not italian from Italy. Those are different versions.
Also, after going around some italian-american restaurants, I’m starting to believe that the main way is to give the plates some Italian sounding names and putting in it ingredients that recall Italy. Because trust me, maybe two foods out of the big menus I read, may pass as actual Italian.
ITALIAN FOOD OUTSIDE ITALY
Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef is actually okay. Because it’s simple pasta al ragù. Nothing more and nothing less. Usually ragù is cooked for a longer time, but is also a really versatile recipe that I think is pretty much eaten all across Italy. Some thing may change from region to region but nothing radical.
PASTA AL RAGU BUT WITH FETTUCCINE, NOT SPAGHETTI.
Tortellini Alfredo is a sin. Look at me and listen well: do not ever bring that thing near me. Do not ever say “food something Alfredo”. Just don’t. That is not how do you do tortellini. Yes, the old recipe done by Alfredo di Lelio born in Italy but is not something we eat and it’s far away from being the emblematic italian food.
Mushroom chiken piccata was a link from which I was expecting worst. But the image I saw was still bad. So, this is not 100% wrong but it’s disturbing to watch. Looks like someone threw food onto the plate. Our piccata is usually just a piece of floured meat, cooked in a pan with lemon and a bit of butter. Nothing more. And maybe we actually call it scaloppina. We have some versions that also include mushrooms.
Baked penne with italian sausage … how can I say that nicely? Well: what in the name of the heaven and hell is that? Looks like a soon to be dead lasagna. No, people. NO. This is not….. I just can’t. No. At best, Italians can give a timballo, which is cooked in the oven and can be defined as a savoury cake with pasta inside. Same thing for tomato chiken parmesan No. Another no. It doesn’t exist.
HERE’S A PARMIGIANA DONE WITH EGGPLANTS. THE ACTUAL PARMIGIANA
Other recipes that left me… perplexed. Like, pasta with meatballs. Why those meatballs are so big? Do you want to start a food war at the table? Meatballs should be much smaller and also is not even exactly the most common plate there in Italy. Same thing with the garlic bread. What the actual hell is that?
But also, my legit question is why putting pesto everywhere? And why there’s cheese on seafood pasta? And much more.
THE ITALIAN FOOD IN ITALY
Now, it’s time to feature some Italian food that I’m gonna show in my book. I made the choice to do not feature any type of pasta, pizza or gelato, because I’m annoyed of seeing these foods as representative of Italy.
Let me start with little snacks: the rustici. There are many and many types of them, all savoury. Those are typical of parties, or to eat at the moment. Can be found in bakeries that also sell bread. Here we call them simply as forni, which means ovens. Rustici can be considered as mini pastries but made with a really soft dough with a heart of tomato, spinach, wusterls and such. Same thing with our savoury cakes, which variations are infinite: spinach, zucchine, potatoes, speck, ham, artichokes…
Bruschetta also has a good number of variations but we don’t do that thing that is called garlic bread. The garlic, if we use it, must just be passed over the bread surface. Then we add the rest. Other delicious types of bread are the olive or chestnut ones, which are simply a piece of bread with pieces of olives or chestnut in the dough.
A type of street food, that comes from South Italy, are the arancini. Arancini comes in various forms. Usually are rounds or shaped as a cone, filled with rice and something else. The most common has ragù, but there are other with rice squid. Just to name two of my favorites.
TWO EXAMPLES OF ARANCINI
Directly from Rome we have the recipe of coratella coi carciofi. It’s important to let you know that Rome has a great love for artichokes, and we have two ways of cooking: one is the roman version, and another is called carciofo alla giudia. The latter is born from the jewish zone of the city. It’s also one of my favorite, because while the roman version boil the vegetables, the jewish version consist in frying them. Once they’re done, they look like giant flowers. We use a specific type of artichokes, one with spine and one without, like the giudia version. Turining back to the coratella, such term is used to denote the interior parts of a little animal, usually a lamb or a little goat. Those parts get cooked with the roman version of artichokes
AN EXAMPLE OF CORATELLA
Still from Rome… I betray myself, because in the end I’ll probably future just one type of pasta. Or maybe two, now that I think about it. Pasta e ceci has always been one of my favorite pasta ever. It can be found in many regions of Italy and generally consist in a type of pasta (no preference here) with chickpeas. The Lazio version include tomato, while the Tuscany one (as my mother does it) has fettuccine and a delicious cream. Another pasta I love is made with chestnut flour. My mother does it with a leeks cream. And do not let me start about pasta with pistachios.
Other plates that are part of Italian tradition and also my childhood, as much as my present, are cuttlefish and peas, rabbit with olives and capers, and saltimbocca. Saltimbocca are typical of Rome: a surface of calf, another of raw ham and a leaf of sage, united with toothpick and seasoned in butter, white vine and black pepper.
Calda calda is another of my big foody love: it may resemble a plain cake, or a flat type of bread, but it’s a unique food made with chickpeas flour and oil, or sometimes just water. I always ate without anything, but tradition wants to eat it in a focaccia with pepper.
Now, it’s time for the sweet part!
Let me start with a little sweet. We call it gianduia, that indicate exactly what it’s made of. It’s not normal chocolate, since it’s made with hazelnut and was born in Italy, Turin, during the year 1806. Caffarel is one of the main produced of the gianduia chocolates and trust me: it’s incredibly good.
I thought a lot about what to include and what do not include. Since tiramusù and cannoli arealready well know, I decided to skip those. For a bit I pondered the idea of including the cassata, one of my favorite cake ever. It’s amazing to watch, made of pan di spagna, a sweet icing, candied fruit, marzipan and a filling of sweet ricotta, little pieces of candied or chocolate.
Brigidini are my other sweet pleasure. Those biscuits are nothing more than a foil made out of sugar, flour, eggs and their special brand: a liquid essence of anise. The biscuits are from Lamporecchio, situated in Tuscany.
Still from the same region, aka Tuscany, the buccellato, spongata and copatte will probably make an appearance.
The buccellato can be defined as a sweet bread made with anise, raisin and brushed with eggs or sugar syrup. While the one I’m going to write down in WIP comes from the city of Lucca, you can also find another sweet with the same name in south Italy.
The spongata and copate are my favorite. The spongata is really ancient, probably eaten since the old Roman Empire. Looks like a big cake, really simple on the outside but filled in the inside with apple, figs marmalade, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, candied orange, cinnamon and nutmeg. The beautiful part of the sweet is that it can be found in many region of Italy, not only Tuscany. Funny fact is that is typical of winter festivities, aka Christmas.
The copate are typical of Siena. For a long time it has been one of the sweet I ate like there was no tomorrow. I could finish an entire box of them. The thin layer of almond or chestnut mixed with a thick caramel, sandwiched between two hosts, is absolutely amazing.
Chestnut is an ingredient, just like every type of dried fruit, that holds a place on my foody heart, in fact I cannot say no, to castagnaccio or the mini pancakes done with chestnut flour.
Castagnaccio include many other ingredients that I love, such as pine nuts and rosemary. The min pancakes also share the same ingredients, but with the adding of ricotta and honey. I prefer to eat them just with honey, since I only like sweet ricotta.
That’s pretty much all! I don’t know if in the end I’m gonna have some kind of new ideas and add other foods instead of others, or keep them all and add more.
One thing that will be kind of challenge, will be finding the moment and the space to add all these food. And the description! I’m already planning some interesting event to feature both the food and the festivities, but only when I’ll write I’ll figure out the result.
If you have any question about Italian food, feel free to ask down below? Questions about stereotypes are also welcome, because I love debunk those if necessary.