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Authentic Italian Cuisine

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In this Lesson you will Learn

  1. What are typical Italian ingredients?
  2. When did the tomato come to Europe?
  3. What are authentic Italian dishes and recipes?


Italian food is hugely popular around the world. While pizza and pasta might pop into your mind first, Italian cuisine encompasses a huge variety of dishes, which vary from the island of Sicily in the south to the capital of Rome to Milan in the north (and every region in between!) Entire cookbooks have been devoted to each of Italy's many regions, so the information below will provide a brief and general overview of typical Italian cooking.

Typical Ingredients

If you plan on stocking your kitchen for Italian cooking, browse the produce section for artichokes, fennel, green beans, radicchio, mushrooms (especially porcini, portabella, and even truffles), tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, spinach, and lemons. Eggplant, pine nuts, and coffee, though closely associated with Italy, are not native to Italy and were brought by conquering Arabs around the 9th century B.C.1

As you may already know, tomatoes are not native to Italy either. They were introduced to Italy from Spain (where they arrived from the Americas in the late 1500s, though they were thought poisonous until the 1800s!)2,3

Beef, veal (especially veal scaloppine, a special cut), chicken, fish, and seafood are all consumed with vegetables as part of the second course in Italian cuisine, while the first course often consists of rice (e.g. arborio or vialone nano for risotto), pasta, or polenta. The variety of pastas produced in Italy is astounding; whether dried or fresh, you can find spaghetti, fusilli, penne, tagliatelle, tortellini, and countless more, even up to 600 different shapes!

Beans, particularly white cannellini beans or cranberry beans, are also used throughout Italy.

Olive oil is ubiquitous in Italian cuisine, whether for sauteing, creating sauces, or mixing with vinegar (especially balsamic vinegar) for salad dressing. Many dishes feature freshly grated Parmesan. Fontina, gorgonzola, mozzarella, ricotta, and Romano are typical Italian cheeses. Salami and cured meats are also popular, such as capocolla, mortadella, pancetta, proscuitto, and soppressa.

Italian herbs include basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and sage. Garlic, though stereotypical, truly is very typical. Finely chopped anchovies are also used to add flavor to a dish, whether a roast or pasta sauce. Capers are used to add a pungent note to many Italian dishes.

Authentic Italian Recipes

Appetizer: Crostini
Salad: Caprese
Soup: Pasta e Fagioli
First Course or Main Dish: Lasagna
First Course or Main Dish: Risotto
Main Dish: Scaloppine
Main Dish: Cacciatore
Sauce: Basil Pesto
Sauce: Bolognese Sauce
Dessert: Tiramisu
Dessert: Panna Cotta

Recommended Read

The Italian Cookbook for Beginners

As the name suggests, this cookbook contains over 100 simple yet authentic Italian recipes that can be made without any obscure, hard-to-find ingredients. You will find favorites like eggplant parmigiana and chicken piccata, plus new dishes.

check it out ยป


  1. International Cuisine
  2. Smithsonian Magazine - Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years
  3. PBS - The Journey of New World Foods


  1. Typical Italian ingredients: artichokes, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, pasta, rice, polenta, meat (including veal) and seafood, beans, olive oil, cheese, and herbs.
  2. The tomato came to Europe in the 1500s but was thought to be poisonous until the 1800s.
  3. Authentic Italian dishes: crostini, lasagna, various other pasta dishes, risotto, pizza, scaloppine, cacciatore, tiramisu, and panna cotta.
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