5 Foods We Can Thank The Italians For

Italian food is extremely popular in the UK and many dishes have made it onto not just our restaurant menus but our plates at home too. Italian restaurants now litter our high-streets and provide the perfect destination for an elegant evening meal or a quick and tasty lunch time dish. So as a way to pay homage to the delicious food from the nation affectionately known as ‘the boot’; here are five fantastic foods we have Italy to thank for.

Pizza –

When you think of Italian food the first thing that often comes to mind is pizza. Perhaps the success behind this food that is now sold all over the world is the fact that it is so versatile and that you can easily personalize it to your own taste by adding whichever toppings you choose. The word pizza is said to stem from the Greek word for ‘pie’ which is ‘pita’ and the dish is often referred to as a ‘pizza pie’ because of this. The idea for modern day pizza was conceived in Naples and it is said that the classic margarita topping is named after a Queen that visited this area in the late 1800s; although this is largely considered to be a myth.

Pasta –

Although we only have a few types on our shelves in the UK, there are actually over three hundred different varieties of pasta that are known by over a thousand different names; each originating from the different towns and cities of Italy. Pasta has been used in Italy for hundreds of years but we have only had the English word ‘pasta’ in our language since around 1874. Again the word is thought to stem from the Greek language where ‘pasta’ first meant ‘barley porridge’.

Mozzarella –

Italy has given us many different varieties of cheese over the years but mozzarella has to be the most popular and widely used. Traditionally the cheese was made using only buffalo’s milk but is now more likely to contain that of a cow; however you can still buy the buffalo version which is said to taste a lot creamier. Mozzarella gets its name from the spinning and cutting method that is used to make it as the Italian verb ‘mozzare’ means ‘to cut’. Many Italian recipes use this versatile cheese including pizza and a traditional Caprese salad.

Bruschetta –

In Italy starters are known as ‘Antipasti’ and perhaps the most famous type of food from this part of the menu is a traditional bruschetta. Bread is rubbed with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and is then lightly toasted and finished with a topping of your choice such as tomatoes, cured meat or beans. It has been an Italian staple since the turn of the fifteenth century and has found its way on to British menus as Italian food has become more and more sophisticated in this country. Like pasta there are different variations on this dish in different parts of the country but it is said to have come about as a way of making use of bread that may have gone a bit stale.

Panna Cotta –

If you have never tried panna cotta before then I would urge you to give it a go as it is a delightful way to bring any meal to its conclusion. This dessert is made with cream, milk and sugar and is set using gelatine which gives it a consistency which is very similar to a mousse. The recipe for panna cotta has changed over the years and originally wouldn’t have included gelatine or sugar. Sugar would have been very expensive and hard to come by and so the cream would have been sweetened with wild berries, while the role that gelatine plays in the process would have been replaced with collagen that was extracted from boiled fish bones. Today though there are no fish bones in sight and the berries are more likely to be found as an accompaniment to the dish rather than inside it.

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Chris Mayhew is a big fan of Italian food and it is always his restaurant of choice when he ventures out for a meal. He would recommend Giuseppe’s Place to anyone looking for lunch in the Borough Market area of London. They even do sandwhich delivery to anyone in the SE1 post code.

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