There is no better way of knowing a country than by tasting its food. All countries’ gastronomy reflects their way of living, culture, and traditions.
It is very satisfying to be able to travel and perceive any country’s culture first hand. Nonetheless, if you can’t do it at the moment, try to have an approach to it through its cuisine.
Tasting Italy’s Traditional Flavors
Italy is well-known as the birthplace of creamy risotto, copious pasta, and humble pizza. These 3 dishes reunite in a single bite all flavors of this Mediterranean region.
Pasta is just a simple dish every Italian eats at home with flavored sauces. The most popular is spaghetti alla carbonara, a combination of spaghetti, pecorino cheese, cured guanciale, eggs, and black pepper.
Pizza dough is a mix of flour, brewer’s yeast, water, and a pinch of salt. It is a flatbread stuffed or covered with various ingredients such as tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and mozzarella. Pizzas napolitana, margherita and romana are the principal types you can eat in Italy.
When it comes to rice, Risotto is a creamy and tasteful dish. It is prepared with broth and diverse ingredients such as pancetta, peas, mushrooms, chicken, shrimps, and so much more. Each region has its version of this emblematic meal; the most famous are Risotto alla Milanese and Risotto al Nero di sepia.
Italian Risotto By Region
Following its rice tradition, Italy has a vast range of rice types. Each of them has specific uses for preparing the most delightful dishes.
Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone varieties are the rice types used to cook risotto. They are considered rice risotto since they have a high starch content and low amylose. These components allow the rice to absorb any liquid and release the starch, resulting in sticky rice.
Of all these three rice varieties, Arborio is the most popular one for making risotto. It is short-grain rice with an incredible capacity for absorbing the broth giving a creamy and hearty risotto.
The basic recipe includes rice, onion, butter, white wine, parmesan cheese, and broth (chicken, meat, fish, or vegetables). Then different ingredients are added to create various risottos.
Risotto variations depend on the region, and the most common are:
- Risotto alla Milanese: Typical dish from Milan, identified by its color and flavor given by saffron. Its components include rice, beef broth, beef marrow, butter, onion, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Risotto al Barolo: A pink Piedmont risotto made with Barolo wine, which gives its characteristic color, rice, butter, chopped onions, stock, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Risi e bisi: Risotto made in Veneto. It is a soup-like risotto with rice, stock, butter, peas, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Risotto alle vongole e asparagi: Traditional risotto of Liguria with flavors of seafood from the North Mediterranean Sea. It has rice, fish broth, clams, butter, shallots, asparagus, and robiola or taleggio cheese.
If you want to feel and enjoy Italian flavor, try any of these risotto variations. For starting your journey through Italy a smart move would be the following.
Risotto Alle Vongole E Asparagi (4 Servings)
- 2.2 oz (1 kg) of clams (these are the vongole in Italian) .
- ½ cup of water for cooking the clams.
- 1 ½ cups of Arborio rice.
- 5 cups of fish broth.
- 1 cup of white wine.
- 1 bunch of asparagus cut into small pieces (take out the tips and reserve for garnish)
- 2 crushed cloves of garlic.
- 1 finely chopped onion.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds.
- Chilli flakes to taste.
- ¼ cup of crème fraîche.
- Finely chopped parsley.
- Sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
- In a saucepan, pour water and add the clams. Cook until clams open. Save the liquid for later. Take out the molluscs and set aside. Reserve some entire clams for garnish.
- In another saucepan, pour olive oil and cook at medium heat. Incorporate onion, garlic, fennel seeds, chili, and asparagus. Season with sea salt and pepper and cook.
- Add the Arborio and cook until it’s toasted. Pour white wine until it evaporates.
- Pour the saved clams liquid and some of the fish broth. Stir very well, and let the liquids be absorbed.
- Pour broth gradually and keep cooking until the rice is tender and with a creamy consistency.
- Finally, add the clam meat, crème fraîche, and parsley.
- Sauté the asparagus tips in hot olive oil for 2 minutes.
- Serve with the asparagus tips and the reserved clams on the top.