REGIONAL COOKING
To talk about Italian cuisine is somewhat misleading, as it is not a single entity. The country has been united only since 17 March, 1861 and Italians still have a powerful sense of their regional identity. Regional cuisine is a source of pride and considerable competition. Sicilians are dismissed as mangimaccaroni (pasta eaters), while they express their contempt for Neapolitan cooking with the term mangiafoglie (vegetable eaters). Each region bases its cuisine on local ingredients, so the best ham comes from the area where pigs are raised, fish and seafood feature in coastal regions, butter is used in dishes from the north of Italy where there is dairy farming, while olive oil is characteristic of southern recipes.
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ABRUZZI AND MOLISE : This was once a single region and although it has now been divided into two separate provinces, they remain closely associated. Located in northern Italy to the east of Rome, the area is well- known for its high-quality cured meats and cheese. The cuisine is traditional and also features lamb and fish and seafood in the coastal areas. Pepperoni  a tiny, fiery hot, dried red chili is from Abruzzi. BASILICATA : If the Italian peninsula looks like a boot, Basilicata is located on the arch of the foot. The landscape is rugged and inhospitable, with much of the region being over 2,000 metres/6,500 feet above sea level. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the cuisine is warming and filling, featuring substantial soups in particular. Cured meats, pork, Iamb and game are typical ingredients and freshwater fish are abundant in the more mountainous areas. CALABRIA : In the south, on Italy's toe, Calabria is a region of dramatic contrasts — superb beaches and towering mountains. Excellent fish and seafood typify the local cuisine, which is well known for its swordfish and tuna dishes. Fruit and vegetables are abundant, particularly oranges, lemons, aubergines (eggplants) and olives. Like other southern regions, desserts are a speciality, often based on local figs, honey or almonds CAMPANIA : Naples on the west coast is the home of pizza, now known across the world from Sydney to New York and the region bases many of it other dishes on the wonderful sun-ripened tomatoes grown locally. Fish and seafood feature strongly in the Neapolitan diet and robust herb-flavoured stews, redolent with garlic, are popular. Pastries and fruit desserts are also characteristic. EMILIA-ROMAGNA : Α central Italian province, Emilia­ Romagna's capital is the beautiful medieval city of Bologna, nicknames la grassa, the fat city, and home to some of the best restaurants in the country. Α gourmet paradise, the region is famous for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham from Parma, balsamic vinegar from the area around Modena, cotechino, mortadella and other cured meats and, of course, spaghetti bolognese. Butter, cream and other dairy products feature in the fine food of the region and a wide range of pasta dishes is popular. LAZFIO : Capital of the region and the country, Rome is a cosmopolitan and sophisticated city with some of the best restaurants — and ice cream parlours — in Europe. Fruit and vegetables are abundant and Iamb and veal dishes are characteristic of the region, which is famous for saltimbocca, which literally means "jump in the mouth". Here, they nave perfected the art of preparing high-quality ingredients in simple, but delicious ways that retain the individual flavours. A Roman speciality is suppli al telefono — "telephone wires" — mozzarella cheese wrapped in balls of cooked rice and deep-fried. The mozzarella is stringy, hence the name of the dish. LIGURIA : A northern province with a long coastline, Liguria is well known for its superb fish and seafood. It is also said to produce the best basil in the whole of Italy and it is where pesto sauce was first invented. The ancient port of Genoa was one of the first places in Europe to import Asian spices and highly seasoned dishes are still particularly characteristic of this area. LOMBARDY : An important rice-growing region in north-west Italy, this is the home of risotto and there are probably as many variations of this dish as there are cooks. Dairy produce features in the cuisine and Lombardy is credited with the invention of butter, as well as mascarpone cheese. Vegetable soups, stews and pot roasts are characteristic of this region. Bresaola, cured raw beef, is a local speciality that is often served wrapped around soft goat's cheese. MARCHE : With its long coastline and high mountains, this region is blessed with both abundant seafood and game. Pasta, pork and olives also feature and methods of preparation are even more elaborate than those of neighbouring Umbria. PIEDMONT : On the borders of France and Switzerland, Piedmont in the north­west is strongly influenced by its neighbours. A fertile,arable region, it is well known for rice,polenta and gnocchi and is said to grow the finest onions in Italy. Gorgonzola, one of the world's greatest cheeses, comes from this region although, sadly, the little village that gave it its name has now been subsumed by the urban sprawl of Milan. Piedmontese garlic is said to be the best in Italy and the local white truffles are a gourmet's dream. PUGLIA : On the heel of Italy, this region produces excellent olives, herbs, vegetables and fruit, particularly melons and figs. Fish and seafood are abundant and the region is known for its oyster and mussel dishes. Calzone, a sort of inside out pizza, was invented here. SARDINIA : This Mediterranean island is famous for its luxurious desserts and extravagant pastries, many of them featuring honey, nuts and home­grown fruit. Hardly surprisingly, fish and seafood — tuna, eel, mullet, sea bass, lobster and mussels — are central to Sardinian cuisine  and spit-roasted suckling pig is  the national dish served on feast days. Sardo is a mild-tasting pecorino cheese produced in Sardinia. SICILY : Like their southern neighbours, Sicilians have a sweet tooth, which they indulge with superb cakes, desserts and ice cream, often incorporating locally grown almonds, pistachios and citrus fruits. Pasta dishes are an important part of the diet and fish and seafood, including tuna, swordfish and mussels, feature prominently. TRENTINO ALTO-ADAGE : A mountainous region in the north­east, Trentino has been strongly influenced by its Austrian neighbour. Smoked sausage and dumplings are characteristic of the cuisine, which is also well known for its filled pasta. TUSCANY : The fertile plains of Tuscany are ideal for farming and the region produces superb fruit and Vegetables. Cattle are raised here and both steak and veal dishes feature on the Tuscan menu, together with a wide range of game. Tripe is a local speciality and Panforte dl Siena, a traditional Christmas cake made with honey and nuts, comes from the city of Siena. A grain known as farro is grown almost exclusively in Tuscany, where it is used to make a nourishing soup. UMBRIA : Pork, Iamb, game and freshwater fish, prepared and served simply but deliciously,characterize the excellent cuisine of the region. Fragrant black truffles are a  feature and Umbrian cooking makes good use of its high-quality olive oil. Umbria is also famous for imbrecciata, a hearty soup made with lentils, chick-peas (garbanzo beans) and haricot (navy) beans. VENETO AND FRIULI : An intensively farmed area in the north-east of Italy, this region produces cereals and almost 20 per cent of the country's wine. Polenta and risotto feature in the cuisine, as well as an extensive range of fish and seafood. Risi e bisi, rice and peas, is a traditional dish which was served every year at the Doge's banquet in Venice to honour the city's patron saint, Mark.
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