Italian Food: Northern & Southern

“In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” – Robin Leach, English writer.

We all know and love Italian food. As the passion for food and cuisines has grown, we have come to know the more traditional Italian dishes, closer to their roots, and availability of true ingredients such as Olive Oil, Roma tomatoes and Pecorino cheese.

While we still enjoy a good ole ‘spagbol’ – more like Gogo makes than Nona, we have learnt to appreciate true Italian flavours and methods.

It’s the Italian Festival at Food Lover’s Market this week and we want to inspire you by sharing not only recipes but the origins and history of Italian food. So let’s delve into the difference between cuisine in Southern vs. Northern Italy.

Italy is a small country – especially in comparison to South Africa. You can fit 3 Italies into our beautiful country! Despite it’s small size, the cuisine from North and South differ vastly – as a proud Italian will tell you. The geography, surrounding countries, weather and landscape vary and have hugely impacted the culinary styles of North and South.

Northern Italian Cuisine is known for rich, creamy sauces, more beef and less pasta – yes, less pasta (than found in the South).

Colder temperatures and mountainous terrain made for more cattle pastures than crop fields. Stews and soups such as the famous minestrone originate here, to warm up a cold winter’s evening. Veal found as in the popular dish, Saltimbocca, served in the Spring time. This is a dish also popular in nearby Austria showing the effect of geography on the cuisine. More ‘gamey’ meats form part of Northern Italian dishes.

The cold winters wouldn’t allow for crops to grow all year so the people would rely on food they could preserve; specialities like hard cheese such as parmesan and, the global favourite, cured meats such as prosciutto would get them through the colder months.

Northern style Dishes: polenta, gnocchi and risotto, chicken Milanese, Bolognese.

Let’s talk about Southern Italian Cuisine; 

To picture Southern Italy; think of coastlines and warm weather. The cuisine is dominated by flavours of tangy tomato, olive oil and seafood. Generally, Southern food may have more of the kick from peppers than the Northern counter parts.

The Mediterranean climate grows brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and olives.  Olive trees grow around the world, but it was the Italians that truly honed its flavours to the perfect dressing, or rustic dip for their delicious crusty bread. Crusty bread and pastas are another thing synonymous with Southern Italy.  The abundance of tomatoes ripening in the sun are what brought us the most popular Italian export – Pizza! Pizza originated in Naples, in the South.

Southern Italian Dishes: Margherita pizza, pecorino cheese, salami piccante (pepperoni), eggplant Parmesan.

Now you’ve got a better idea of the cuisine that has spread to huge popularity right across the globe, pop down to Food Lover’s to find the finest Italian ingredients. And while the peppers and tomatoes may have ripened right here in SA, we guarantee they taste every bit as good.

Buon Appetito!


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