The Cuisine of Italy
By: Liz Flynn
Although Italy is well-known for the quality and diversity of its cuisine, there are many that argue that there is no finer example of Italian food than that of Sicily. Although the food is predominantly typically Italian, it also has Spanish, Greek, and Arabic influences. Here is an overview of the cuisine of this Italian island.
Produce of Sicily
The volcanoes on the island have made the soil rich and this is perfect for growing a wide variety of produce. This means that Sicilian cuisine is diverse as there are so many ingredients widely available. Some of the best Sicilian produce includes grapes, olives, grain, pistachios, almonds, lemons, vegetables, artichokes, figs, manna, carob, and capers.
As Sicily is an island, fish and seafood are staple parts of the Sicilian diet. Swordfish, tuna, sea bass, sea bream, and lobster are some of the ingredients used in many Sicilian dishes. Pasta alla Scoglio is a popular seafood dish. This is pasta with shrimps, mussels, and clams. Other ingredients include tomato and herbs.
Unlike many other parts of Italy where the majority of meals have meat as the main ingredient, Sicilian dishes are often vegetarian and this is partly because of the diverse range of vegetables that are readily available on the island. One popular vegetarian dish is caponata. This is a vegetable stew that uses eggplant as the main ingredient.
Like most parts of Italy, cheese is produced in Sicily and they have their own varieties of cheese that are specific to the island. Caciocavallo is one of the main varieties of cheese and its name is rather cryptic. It means ‘horse cheese’ even though this cheese is made from cow’s milk. This is aged for at least eight months to give it a sharp flavor, though mature versions of this cheese are aged for up to two years. It is often grated over pasta dishes and is a good accompaniment to strong wines.
Although many dishes are vegetarian or seafood based, meat is eaten on this island. They use all parts of an animal, so offal is frequently used. A typical street dish is pane con la milza; a pork spleen sandwich. Another popular dish is jaw. This is a stew made by stewing the jaw of an animal in broth for hours.
Ice Cream and Desserts
It is believed that ice cream, or gelato as it is known in Italy, was invented in Sicily. Therefore, it is little wonder that the Sicilians eat so much ice cream and prefer this to any other variety of dessert. Other types of desserts are usually cakes or pastries.
Description: Mike Carioscia
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