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Food trends, Gourmet food

TYPICAL ITALIAN PASTA SAUCES: PESTO GENOVESE

08/02/2021
TYPICAL ITALIAN PASTA SAUCES: PESTO GENOVESE

There is something about Italy that makes this country so special: it is not just the abundancy of art or the variety of landscapes, it is its food. The beauty of it is that each region has its own recipes and they are all so tasty that a trip to Italy could easily be organized as a culinary tour of the so-called Bel Paese (beautiful country) via its most traditional dishes.

Starting from the North-West of the country, one of the most popular is pasta with Pesto Genovese. Typical of the city of Genoa (Genova, in Italian), from which it takes its name, pesto sauce was first mentioned in its contemporary version by the gastronome Giovanni Battista Ratto in his book “La Cuciniera Genoese” dated 1863. Its origin, though, is still debated: some maintain that Pesto Genovese has a strong link with the agliata, a garlic-based sauce that used to be prepared in the Middle Ages to preserve food once cooked, while others are more inclined to believe in the legend of a friar who created the sauce by chance, just by crushing some basil together with a few, simple ingredients received as an offer by the local community.

Notwithstanding the controversy about its origin, the recipe for Pesto Genovese is now protected by the Consorzio Pesto Genovese that dictates its seven ingredients: Genovese DOP* basil, extra virgin olive oil (possibly the one produced in the Ligurian Riviera), Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino cheese, pine nuts, garlic and salt. As the word pesto comes from pestare, which means to pound, the authentic Pesto Genovese is prepared by using a marble mortar and a wooden pestle to crush and mix all these ingredients in order to obtain a creamy sauce that is then poured uncooked over pasta.

Since Pesto Genovese should ideally be made shortly before it is eaten, these days many people tend to reduce the preparation time by using a food processor when making pesto at home: unfortunately, the steel blades tend to oxidize the basil thus ending up with a very dark green and slightly bitter pesto. Just like for anything that concerns real Italian recipes, even with pesto it is a matter of appreciating the joys of slow food therefore there is no proper substitute for pounding by hand; likewise, since each pasta has its sauce, Pesto Genovese should be served with trofie or trenette. It is also good for adding extra taste to vegetable soups and as a heathy spread in sandwiches.

*Denominazione di Origine Protetta, literally Protected Designation of Origin.

Food trends, Gourmet food

FOCACCIA, A REAL ITALIAN EXCELLENCE

26/01/2021
FOCACCIA, A REAL ITALIAN EXCELLENCE

It is almost impossible to discuss Italian food without mentioning the three Ps that make it so popular all over the world: pasta, pizza and pane (bread). To be fair, there is a fourth element that should be added to this list as it has become more and more popular in recent years: focaccia, a delicious flatbread that looks like pizza but resembles bread in its preparation.

Despite being so up and coming worldwide both as a healthy street food and a posh substitute for bread in top-rated restaurants, the Latin origin of its name (panis focacius literally means bread baked in coals) tells us that focaccia was already well-known among the ancient Romans who used to place it on altars during their religious ceremonies as an offer to their gods. In its contemporary version, focaccia has been around since the 16th century. Legend has it that bakers in Genoa used to make focaccia early in the morning to test the temperature of the wood-fired oven before baking the loaves of bread; the result provided them with such a tasty snack that it soon became saleable to the public. Focaccia rapidly gained such a remarkable fame among the citizens of Genoa that they eventually adopted it as their favourite morning food: even nowadays the typical breakfast in town involves focaccia, which many locals love to dunk in a hot cappuccino.

The original focaccia – about 2 centimetres thick, crispy and oily on the outside and tender inside – is the one produced in Genoa and it is such an important staple in the Italian cuisine that its recipe is protected by Slow Food, the global organization founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Nowadays each region in Italy has its own variation of focaccia and it is not unusual to find it under different names: pizza bianca is the thin, salty one that can be found in Lazio, especially in and around Rome, while schiacciata or schiaccia indicates the taller, softer version that can be enjoyed in Tuscany; in Apulia there is the Focaccia Barese stuffed with tomatoes while the most popular flatbread in Sicily is the Schiacciata Catanese, with cheese and anchovies. Despite the differences that characterize each one of them, the ingredients always remain the same: water, yeast, extra virgin olive oil, salt and good flour.

Food trends, Gourmet food

RISOTTO: A VERSATILE DISH THAT RIVALS PASTA

14/01/2021
RISOTTO: A VERSATILE DISH THAT RIVALS PASTA

The essence of Italian food is simplicity: a few seasonal ingredients and basic cooking techniques can produce all those delicious dishes that are now famous all over the world. Risotto is one of them. Made by combining rice with a few ingredients of choice, its very first recipe originates from Northern Italy where rice – introduced by the Arabs in the Middle Ages – has been grown since the 14th century. The humidity of that area is ideal for the cultivation of those shorter-grained varieties which, after so many centuries, are still used to prepare a main course that easily rivals pasta.

Versatility is what makes risotto so popular: one could try a different recipe every single day of the year and not run out of new combinations of flavours to experiment. Staple recipes are Risotto alla Milanese (with saffron), Risotto alla Trevigiana (with radicchio), Risotto alla Parmigiana (with Parmigiano cheese) and Risotto ai Funghi (with mushrooms); however, nowadays many chefs in the world are opting for seasonal and local ingredients thus creating new versions of this dish which are just as enjoyable as the classic ones. Whatever the ingredients, the perfect Italian risotto should be all’onda, that is creamy without being runny. Cooking times may vary depending on the type of rice used; still, it always needs to be cooked to a consistency that equals al dente for pasta, with each single grain slightly firm to the bite.

With a significant 52% of the entire European rice production, our country boasts about 200 local varieties to choose from. Up until 2016 they were divided into four categories: comune, semifino, fino and superfino; then in 2017 the Ente Nazionale Risi – the national body that safeguards the quality of the rice produced in Italy – changed this classification and now Italian rice is differentiated according to the grain size. When it comes to making risotto, the best varieties are Arborio and Carnaroli. Despite the simplicity of its preparation, this dish may result time-consuming for those who have a hectic lifestyle: for this reason, the latest trend in the market is fast cooking, ready-to-eat risotto that significantly reduces the cooking time without giving up on quality.

Gourmet food

ITALIAN GELATO VS ICE CREAM: THE FOUR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM

20/07/2017

 

Apart from the fact that gelato comes from Italy, people usually consider gelato and ice cream synonymous terms, but that is absolutely not the case. There are four main differences – let’s have a look at them.

1 – Italian gelato has much less fat. American ice creams have to contain at least 10% fat by law, while gelato usually contains an average of 3.8%. That’s because, unlike ice cream, gelato is made with fresh milk and not powdered milk or cream.

2 – Italian gelato is blended slowly, so it contains less air than industrially produced ice cream (10% air in gelato, 50% in ice cream). A balanced quantity of air is an essential step when making good gelato: it affects the consistency, smooth texture and appearance.

3 – Italian gelato is kept at a temperature of around -12°C, while industrially produced ice cream is usually kept at an average of -20°C. This makes an unmistakable difference to the product’s taste.

4 – Italian handmade ice cream is usually made in small batches that are consumed shortly afterwards. That’s why it doesn’t need the preservatives or additives that industrially produced ice cream needs to be stored for long periods of time.

A year-round market
If we analyse global consumer trends in frozen desserts (ice cream, Italian gelato and sorbet), one fact stands out: they are all products that are not influenced by the season or climate. If we look at per capita consumption per country, Business Insider’s league table surprisingly awards New Zealand the top spot, with an average of 28.4 litres per person per year, followed by the USA with 20.8, Australia with 18, Finland with 14.2, Sweden with 12, Canada with 10.6, Denmark with 9.9, Ireland with 9.4, Italy with 8 and the UK with 7. What’s even more surprising is the figure that reveals that, of all the states in the USA, Alaska – where the average temperature never rises above 19°C – consumes the most ice cream. In contrast, Texas, where the climate is decidedly warmer, only comes tenth.

The Italian gelato boom in the USA
Italian handmade gelato is increasingly popular in the USA. Thanks to the range of flavours, its nutritional balance and its ‘exotic charm’, it’s the perfect combination and a luxury that many Americans are increasingly indulging in, even if just to take in the typical atmosphere of an Italian ice cream parlour. If we look at the figures, consumption of Italian gelato in the USA has been constantly increasing since 2009, with annual sales estimated to be worth approximately $210 million. However, we should stress that although gelato accounts for a smaller share of the frozen dessert market, it is also the sector with the fastest growth (up 32% in 2016).

Food trends, Gourmet food

THE GOURMET STREET FOOD PHENOMENON

08/06/2017

It’s winning over everyone: Michelin-starred chefs, food and wine critics, food bloggers, entrepreneurs and, of course, consumers. We’re talking about gourmet street food: the modern-day reinterpretation of street food that uses top-quality ingredients. It’s still a niche market but it is rapidly growing, particularly in big cities where the number of food trucks offering sophisticated delicacies from all over the world is increasing.

Today, meal times have changed due to busy lifestyles and the lack of spare time. So-called “metro eaters” eat on their way from one appointment to another and they have two priorities: quality and speed. According to food anthropologist Lucia Galasso – who contributed to research commissioned by Sanpellegrino, a leader in the beverage industry –gourmet street food is a vehicle we use to communicate our food values to others. It’s no coincidence that every food preference is catered for in large cities. What we are dealing with is a reaction to standardised food that could end up making us lose the sense of those unmistakable details that reveal the identity of a particular cuisine. As far as this aspect is concerned, street food is a tool that allows us to explore a territory and rediscover recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next at an affordable price. And let’s not forget storytelling. Often street cooks are the repositories of an oral tradition of traditional cuisine: a pleasure that involves all the senses and wins us over through the stories they tell and their gestures.

A number of international cases demonstrate the rise of gourmet street food. The chefs at New York’s Rouge Tomate, a well-known restaurant on the Upper East Side boasting a Michelin star, have created the “Rouge Tomate Cart in the Park”, which offers a street menu at the entrance to Central Park Zoo. Italy, with its rich food tradition, is just as far ahead: Michelin-starred chefs Cristina Bowerman and Mauro Uliassi offer their specialities in the open air from an Ape Romeo three-wheel van and the “Uliassi street good gang”. The Michelin guide has also joined the fray, and in 2016 it ennobled this phenomenon by awarding a star to two landmarks of Singapore’s street food: the Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle food stall and the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodles food stall.

Gourmet food

Italian Carnival rhymes with Venice

02/03/2017
italian carnival

 

Carnival has just ended, but the party atmosphere still lingers on. All of Italy celebrates Carnival, but the most popular and famous carnival is the Carnival of Venice. It’s one of the of the oldest in the world and it’s surreal because it’s set in a city that is so mouthwatering, so picturesque that no matter where you look, it looks like a postcard. Continue Reading…

Gourmet food

Italian Food: Japan’s culinary passion

16/02/2017
italian food in japan

Japan is famous for its variety of culinary delights such as sushi, sashimi, ramen or Gyoza as well as Sake and Shocho. Although traditional Japanese culinary culture remains a strong part of the national identity, Japanese consumers enjoy a more diverse and international range of food products. Continue Reading…

Gourmet food

The best Italian foods to eat on a cold winter’s day

31/01/2017
winter Italian food

Italian food is an amazing world made up of an abundance delicious food recipes and flavors for every season.  Winter is certainly no exception. There are a variety of stick-to-your-ribs dishes that are just right for those icy cold days. Warm pastas, soups and polenta…What could be more satisfying when the tips of your nose, ears and fingers are all freezing cold? Continue Reading…

Gourmet food

Italian wines for your Christmas dinner

22/12/2016
Italian christmass wines and meal

 

One of the biggest holidays of the year is on its way! In Italy, Christmastime is family time, which means that there is a lot of eating and drinking involved. We’re taking this grand opportunity to suggest the best wines to pair with some of our most traditional holiday dishes. Continue Reading…