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History of Italian Food

The Old and Enchanting History of Italian Food

Italian food is mainly influenced by Greek and French flavors. Each and every region of Italy has its own popular dish. Here, we try to shed light on the history of Italian food.
Maya Pillai
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Italian cuisine is world-famous. Pizzas and pastas are the two popular dishes people around the world are familiar with. Italian recipes are known for it is use of fine ingredients such as herbs and spices. The history of Italian cuisine dates back to ancient Roman days. The historians believe the first recorded instance of Italian food began during the eight century BC, when Greek settlers colonized Sicily and Magna Graecia, a region in Southern Italy.
Food from the mountainous regions of Italy is a blend of French cuisine and mountain specialties. The cuisine of this region has strong Gallic flavors adopted from France. Hence, a dish such as white truffles or "trifola d'Alba" is one of the popular Italian dish. Seafood with a touch French flavor is found in Liguria, a city in North Italy.
Magna Graecia
The Italians believe the nourishing and tasty Italian cuisine was borrowed from the Greeks. The regular meals consisted of food prepared from chickpeas, lupins, dry figs, pickled olives, salted and dry fish and pork. On occasions such as weddings or festivals various delicacies were prepared. A few dishes belonging to Magna Graecia include sweet meats made from almonds and walnuts, honey sauces, soups and meat in vinegar. Sumptuous feasts were associated with ancient Roman nobles.
Middle Ages
Italy was invaded by barbarians during the 5th century AD. The cuisines of Barbarians were different from that of Italians. The Barbarians cuisines consisted of dishes such as stuffed-pastries, baked pies and roasted meats. The barbarian cuisine has influenced the Italian dishes to an extent. The Italians introduced fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet in the early 1000 AD. This period is known as the revival of the Italian culinary art.
History of Italian food would not be completed without mentioning "Pizza". Pizza was popular food in ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Babylon. Many historical evidences reveal a pizza was relished by ancient historians Cato the Elder and Herodotus. In olden days, a pizza was baked on a hot stone. Later it was consumed with vegetable or meat stew. Sometimes pizzas were seasoned with herbs and spices.
In Latin, pizza is called "pinsa", which means flatbread. In Middles ages, people started to top a pizza with various herbs, spices mixed in olive oil. You could rightly say that the pizza gained a new taste and look during the medieval period. Gradually, with the introduction of buffalo cheese called mozzarella, the Italian pizza gained popularity not only in Italy but also around the globe.
Ancient Romans often had a light and meager meal twice a day and a heavy meal once a day. The fast was broken with olives, milk, eggs and wine. The meal of the noon was usually fruits and cold dishes. However, the dinner was heavy consisting of various seafood, bread, meat, sweet meat and wine. Fresh and dry fruits were served as desserts.
Italian pasta with seafood on a white plate
Pizza on table