It’s true, Italians do eat a large amount of pizza and pasta, but authentic Italian cuisine is much more than boiled noodles and tomato sauce.
“It’s not spaghetti and meatballs,” said Jason Bartner, co-owner and chef at La Tavola Marche Organic Farm, Inn, and Cooking School.
“Everything in general, it is just much, much lighter than what you find in the States,” says Bartner, whose agriturismo is located near Piobicco, Italy, in the Apennine Mountains of Le Marche. Traditional Italian food uses very few ingredients, he says. Instead of soft pasta smothered in sauce, most dishes are prepared with three or four ingredients: olive oil, salt, and herbs.
The perfect example, according to Bartner, is lasagna. In the States, lasagna is stacked two to four inches high with thick pasta and ricotta cheese and topped with a thick red meat sauce and mozzarella. In Italy, lasagna stands only an inch-and-a-half high with fresh, paper-thin pasta, just enough tomato sauce and béchamel to cover the layers, a bit of sausage sprinkled within, and a dusting of parmesan.
Simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients are the stars of Italy’s traditional dishes.
“You must think of what season you are coming to Italy,” says Jason. “If a dish is in season, you can’t go wrong.”