Some experts argue that the Arabs introduced pasta in southern Sicily around the beginning of the second millennium. Others say the Etruscans were making and consuming some types of pasta more than a thousand years earlier. No doubt pasta was "invented" numerous times in many places but the Italians have done more than most peoples sto develop and exploit it. In general, Italian pasta is made from wheat, although buckwheat (Grano Saraceno) is extensively used in Lombardy's Valtellina and other regions of northern Italy.
In the past, each area of the country had its own types of pasta and its own ways of preparing them. Modern transportation systems have expanded distribution so that specialties of one area have spread to others or throughout Italy. Southern Italy was (and in general still is) the stronghold of dried pastas made from hard (durum) wheat. The north favoured fresh and often stuffed pastas made with soft wheat or a mixture of the two types. Eggs were normally added to fresh but not to dried pastas.
Dried pastas once dominated the export trade because they could be stored for extended periods. Due to development of vacuum packaging, fresh Italian pastas are now widely available on foreign markets. pasta is a highly nutritious food product and its consumption is often recommended to athletes as part of a high-carbohydrate diet.
As Europe's leading rice producer, Italy specialises in varieties of short, ovular grains bred expressly for the extended braising of Risotto. Most of the world's rice is the long-grain type suited to boiling or steaming. Rice is grown in much of the Po Valley, though the prime Risaie lie in Lombardy's Lomellina area and in Piedmont around Vercelli and Novara.
Italian rice is grouped in four categories according to size and cooking time, ranging from the small Comune or Originario to Semifino, Fino, and Superfino. Superfino, due to its tenacity, is suited to classical Risotto, though cooking performances vary among a dozen types. Arborio is popular, though chefs often prefer Carnaroli, Baldo, or the Semifino Vialone Nano.
Italy produces nearly a third of the world's olive oil including the superior class of extra virgin, made in all regions of the center and south and in a few places in the north. The most flavourful and wholesome of edible oils is used raw in dressings or as a condiment for salads, vegetables, pastas, soups, seafood and meats. Chefs find extra virgin unmatchable in cooking, despite the higher cost. The best oils show distinct character due to terrain and climate, the varieties of olives they come from and methods of harvesting.
Hand picking of under-ripe olives renders oil of deep green colour, fruity aroma and full flavour. Mature olives make oil of paler colour and subtler flavour. Most olive oil is processed by mechanical mashing and centrifuging but traditional extraction by stone crushing and mat pressing is still practiced in mills in Tuscany and Umbria. This oil is especially prized.
By law, olio extra vergine di oliva must come from the first pressing of olives by mechanical (not chemical) means and must contain less than 1 percent of oleic acid (the key measure: the lower the acidity the better). Olio vergine di oliva may have a maximum of 2 percent acidity; what is called simply olio di oliva may be rectified and de-acidified. Such oils are best within a year of the harvest, since the flavour slowly fades.
幾十年前，Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP與Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP默默無名，如今卻活躍銷售於世界各國。這兩種醋歷史悠久，其製作方法自古羅馬以來幾乎無變；並都是由普遍栽種於摩德納（Modena）和雷焦艾米利亞（Reggio Emilia）區域中的白葡萄所釀製而成的，但在某些情況下也會使用紅葡萄品種釀製而成的，但在某些狀況下也會使用紅葡萄品種釀製。
Grapes are grown and wines are made in every part of Italy. It is not surprising, therefore, that Italian vinegar is obtained almost exclusively through the acidification of red or white wines. It is true that specialty vinegars are made from other fruits in various parts of the country but their production is extremely limited.
Italian laws strictly regulate the vinegar sector, for example, vinegar and winemaking facilities must be kept absolutely separate. The production of Italy's two most famous vinegars begins not with wine but with the unfermented juice of grapes.
Several decades ago, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP were relatively unknown but today they are in demand in countries throughout the world. These two vinegars have extremely ancient origins, since the techniques used in their production were applied, basically without change, by the ancient Romans and other peoples. Both vinegars are made from white grapes, or possibly in some cases red varieties, that are widely cultivated in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
The must is cooked down over open fires and then fermented in large barrels. Afterward, the "mother" is added and the resulting vinegar is aged for at least 12 years. Each year, it is transferred to a smaller barrel in a "battery" consisting of containers made of five types of wood on average. The most common woods are cherry, mulberry, juniper, oak and chestnut. Each gives the vinegar a distinctive flavour or colour.
The balsamic vinegars are expensive because of the enormous loss of volume during prolonged ageing. After 12 years, 18.4 gallons of fresh must at the beginning of the process shrinks to a maximum of about three quarts of mature vinegar. The flavours and aromas of the two vinegars are so extraordinary that only a few drops are necessary to add a special touch to virtually any preparation.
In northern Italy, cow's milk cheese prevail, led by the Grana family of Parmigiano and Grana Padano, which together account for a third of Italy's cheese. These firm cheeses, of granular texture, are used for grating though when relatively young they are eaten in bite-sized morsels.
Other popular northern cheese are blue-veined Gorgonzola, creamy Fontina, Taleggio, Asiago, Stracchino and Robiola. In central and southern Italy, cheese from sheep's milk is called Pecorino, distinguished as Romano, Sardo (Sardinian) and Toscano (Tuscan). The spongy Mozzarella is best from the milk of water buffalo. Caciocavallo and Provolone are aged and sometimes smoked.
Goat's milk cheese made in various places is called Caprino. Popular everywhere is Ricotta and a lightly fermented cream called Mascarpone.
Asiago is a tasty cheese made from cow's milk with a cheese making history of more than a thousand years. Fresh Asiago is a cheese with a taste of milk fresh from the cow, melting in your mouth to release sweet and slightly sour notes. While aged Asiago is a flavorful cheese with a strong personality.
The exquisite creamy Gorgonzola cheese, which actually gets its distinctive flavor from the blue mold veins that it develops in its paste, takes its name from the village of Gorgonzola, on the outskirts of Milan. Legend has it that this cheese was made there for the first time in 879 A.D.. By law and tradition, Gorgonzola cheese production is allowed in only some provinces of two Italian regions: Lombardy and Piedmont. It is a raw marbled, soft cheese with a white to straw color and characteristic green-blue veining. Soft and creamy, it has a typically sharp, tasty flavor; its strength varying according to variety.
約1000年前，來自義大利北部肥沃波河谷地的熙篤會修士，發展出一種使用產自當地多餘牛奶的乳酪製作方法。由於此種乳酪與其他乳酪截然不同的粗糙質感（Grainy），所以被命名為「Grana」，而在今天則被稱做為「Grana Padano」。時自今日，Grana Padano的製作方法仍與最初作法並無太大差別。嚴謹審慎的牛奶產出作業，包含獨特的牛隻飲食控管使其牛奶有一番特別風味，並富含營養價值。而成品則為一硬質、半脂且慢熟成的乳酪，且表面略帶天然乳脂。
Nearly 1000 years ago, the Cistercian monks from the fertile Po Valley, in North of Italy, developed an original recipe to use the excess milk produced in the area. Due to its grainy structure, so different from all other cheeses, it was given the name “Grana” and now it is known as Grana Padano cheese. Today the production method has hardly changed. Strict dairy farming practices, including a special cattle diet, results in a milk of unique flavour and nutritional value. The outcome is a hard, semi-fat and slowly aged cheese, partially skimmed by natural surfacing of the cream.
Mascarpone is a fresh, soft, spreadable cheese, originally typical of the Lombardy regaion, but today commonly produced throughout Italy. Unlike all the other Italian cheese, Mascarpone is made from cream to which smalll amounts of milk are generally added.
Montasio乳酪為以義大利的弗留利－威尼斯朱利亞大區（Friuli-Venezia Giulia）內的Montasio山丘而命名。18世紀時，Montasio乳酪即在此山丘上，經由Moggio Udinese大修道院的僧侶所悉心照料的夏天放牧地製作。自此開始，Montasio乳酪的製作技術則延伸至阿爾卑斯山的朱利安與卡爾尼克山脈地區，一路至南邊的弗留利平原與威尼托大區（Veneto），而18世紀的傳統製法也傳承下來。Montasio乳酪為半硬質乳酪，不同的熟成階段也賦予其不同的味覺感受。
The cheese is named after the Montasio massif in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It has been produced in the summer pastures of the massif since the 18th century, through the loving care of the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Moggio Udinese. Since then, the skill of Montasio production has spread to the Julian and Carnic Alps and on down into the plains of Friuli and Veneto, while still holding true to the traditional 18th century recipe. It is a medium-hard cheese with different stages of maturation that give rise to its varied range of sensorial features.
MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA CAMPANA
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana，正如其名，來自於義大利的坎帕尼亞大區（Campania）。此款乳酪的清鮮特質主要來自產自發源地的新鮮水牛乳。12世紀時，即出現有義大利Capua地區San Lorenzo內修道院僧侶製作一種叫作「Mozza」或者是「Provatura」（如果有煙燻）乳酪的文獻紀錄。但是必須等到西元1570年時，在當時教廷御廚Bartolomeo Scappi的料理文獻中，才第一次出現「Mozzarella」的名稱。
MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA CAMPANA
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, as the name explains, comes originally from the Campania region. It is a fresh cheese, which owes most of its unique characteristics to the fresh water buffalo’s milk produced in the traditional place of origin. The 12th century, produced the first historic documents that evidence how the monks of the San Lorenzo in Capua monastery made a cheese called "Mozza" or "Provatura" (when smoked). However, it would be necessary to wait until 1570 before the expression "mozzarella" appeared for the first time in the famous text by Bartolomeo Scappi, chef to the Papal court.
如同Mozzarella di Bufala Campana，Mozzarella乳酪為新鮮軟質乳酪，其由乳酸菌發酵而成，但是由牛乳製成。Mozzarella的發源地為義大利中部與南部，但隨著時間變遷，目前義大利全國各地都可見Mozzarella並且在全世界享譽盛名。一般而言，Mozzarella為球狀，但也有其他的形狀。Mozzarella最顯著的特色即為其軟嫩、無外皮、滑順且表面光滑並為乳白色。此外，Mozzarella的內部為層層相疊的纖維結構，當切下或按壓它時會有乳白色液體流出。
Like Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, it is a fresh soft cheese fermented with lactic acid bacteria, but made from cow’s milk. It is native of central and southern Italy, but over time it has spread throughout the country and is known all over the world. Generally, mozzarella has a spherical shape, but can also be found in other molds. Of the most distinctive feature of mozzarella is its soft, rindless, smooth, shiny and milky white surface. Typically it has a fibrous structure with overlapping layers which release a milky liquid when cut or lightly pressed.
Parmigiano Reggiano為另一在義大利乳製品傳統寫下歷史一頁的乳酪代表。其相關信史可追朔至13世紀。被稱作「乳酪之王」的Parmigiano Reggiano，為一未經擠壓的硬質且慢熟成乳酪，並僅用生牛乳製成。最短熟成期不可少於12個月，但如要最佳品質則約要有24個月甚至更長的乳酪熟成期。
Another cheese which makes history in Italian dairy tradition is Parmigiano Reggiano. its documented origins date back to the 13th century. Called the “King of cheese”, it is a non-pressed cheese with a hard and slowly matured paste, made only from raw milk. The minimum maturation is of 12 months, but only when atapproximately 24 months of aging or more does it reaches it’s highest potential.
Provolone Valpadana emerged during the second half of the XIX century, born out of a happy marriage between the range of stretched curd cheeses coming from the southern Italy, and the dairy vocation of Val Padana. In 1861 the unification of Italy made it possible to overcome the barriers between the various areas of the peninsula, which let to entrepreneurs coming from the south of Italy to settle in Val Padana. They were determined to promote and defend the culture and consumption of their cheeses across the country and Val Padana offers much in terms of good milk for making cheese.
There are many different types: it can be made from the milk of cow, sheep, goat or buffalo with methods of production which reflect various local traditions. The main ingredient however is whey obtained by the cheese making process. The name “Ricotta” (literally meaning "recooked") is derived from the double cooking to which the whey is subjected during processing.
Historical evidence shows that business transactions and exchanges involving Taleggio date back to the 11th century. It originates in Val Taleggio, which gives the cheese its name, in the province of Bergamo, made of raw milk from the summer Alpine pastures. With its consumption ever on the rise, the production of the cheese has extended to the padanese lowlands. The taste of the cheese is sweet, with a slightly acidic, sometimes with an aftertaste of truffle.
From twilight until deep into the night, when the contours of the hills of the towns of Langhe, Roero, Monregalese, and Monferrato are blurred by the autumnal fog and the cold is beginning to bite, a few men set out in the company of their trusted dogs to follow imaginary routes that have been jealously guarded in their memories, passing over gorges and hills, in what has become a pilgrimage among poplar and linden trees and deep into the forest of oak and willow.
Thus begins the search for the unique white truffles of the Piedmont region that takes place each year from Septembre to Decembre, where truffles-hunters, locally known as Trifolau, unleash their dogs in what is a trilling and fascinating contest that will be the subject of stories in the local inns throughout the Winter months.
For centuries, the truffle was believed to grow wherever lightening stuck, the Greeks and Romans considered it to be an excellent aphrodisiac and Emperor Charles V is said to have enjoyed one during a memorable dinner in Alba in 1537. Rossini, a truffle connoisseur, called the white truffle "the Mozart of mushrooms", while Byron kept one on his desk to stimulate his creativity. More recently, Rita Hayworth and Winston Churchill are among those who have sung its praises as well as gourmets around the world who appreciate the unique nature of this rare variety of truffles.