Italian Cuisine: How it was influenced by Region

Although many of associate Italian cuisine with pizza and spaghetti and Olive garden, it has a rich history that suggests so much more than that. Nearly 2,000 years ago Italian cuisine established its reputation during the Roman Empire. There are records of food preparation dating back to the first century B.C. but those are scarce because today there is only on surviving cookbook from that time period.

When the Roman Empire fell, the diversity of Italian food spread because as individual states, the fallen empire had more leeway to establish traditions and identities. These states quickly began to develop their own cooking styles, for example one region established their own way of forming a meatball.

What the Different Regions Developed:

In the south they developed mozzarella and provolone and many different interesting citrus fruits. People from the southern region embraced hard boiled spaghetti much like the spaghetti we all know and love.


The north developed Tuscan beef which is simply beef grown in the Valdichiana region of Italy. Opposing the southern region, the northern preferred to cook their spaghetti as soft egg noodles.

Naples is famous for pizza, while Milan is known for their risotto which is similar to rice with added ingredients of meats and vegetables. Tortellini has a history in Bologna.

Coastal Region

The coastal regions of Italy developed delicious seafood dishes because the meat was readily available and abundant. A small island off the coast of Italy named Sardinia began to incorporate sea food delicacies in their dishes, while in Sicily, the food was heavily influenced by North African cuisine. Islands in the south other than Sicily were greatly inspired by Arab cuisine especially in their use of spices in sweets. The Sicilian ice-cream cake called cassata was Arab inspired.

Although all of these regions developed and perfected an abundance of foods that we have all come to know and love, they did not do it on their own. Italian cuisine was largely influenced by outside sources, which Italian chefs would consider a gift. It greatly improved their food. At the birth of Italian cuisine, Greek cooking methods were incorporated in the preparation of food. In order to get ingredients that would innovate the Italian kitchen, ships went across the world, even as far as china to bring back edible goods. Ingredients such as wheat, wine, exotic ingredients and spices were all brought back to Italian kitchens and were incorporated to better the flavor and authenticity of Italian cuisine.

Pasta, a trade mark ingredient in many Italian dishes was rumored to be Chinese brought back to Italy by a Vietnamese immigrant. That is false though, it was actually brought back by Marco Polo who rediscovered it. Pasta was first eaten during Roman and Etruscan times. It turns out that this pasta that Polo discovered so long ago is actually similar to the pasta that we eat today. It is made with the same durum wheat except back then it was cooked in an oven and not on top of a stove in a pot of boiling water.

Today each region of Italy has their own distinct cuisine that differs slightly from the other regions. They all have different rich history that made them how they are today.

4 thoughts on “Italian Cuisine: How it was influenced by Region

  1. sjm5861

    I get hungry scrolling through this blog.
    Being Italian though I find it frustrating that people have such a narrow scope of what they consider to be Italian. While this surely isn’t the most in depth exploration of Italian food, its serves as a good summary. To be fair though you would need a lot more than 300 words to talk about the full variety of Italian cooking.

  2. jmh673

    This was so interesting! I’m really interested in history and geography, and I love Italian food, so I really enjoyed this post. It’s so cool that we can taste the influences of hundreds of years of history in food today. This is definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind next time I order pizza! I really enjoy reading your blog. I don’t cook much myself, but I do love food, and I’ve always meant to get more into cooking. I like that you provide information about each recipe too.

  3. Corey Capooci

    I find it funny that when I think of Italian food, all I think of is pasta, pizza, and maybe bread sticks. Through this post, I learned it is much more than that. Italian food incorporates so much more than the commonplace Italian found at Olive Garden, instead the tastes of Italy range from seafood to cheeses to risotto. Also, it is really interesting to hear how much of an impact Marco Polo had on the Italian cuisine, image without him we might not even consider pasta as Italian food.
    The focus on different regions of Italy is also very intriguing. I have some Italian heritage and I always wonder from where they hail because despite Italy being one country, the regions of Italy seem to differ greatly.

  4. kmr5769

    I found this post to be very informing. Last December I visited Italy for a couple of weeks, and although I didn’t get to see as much of the country as I wanted, the food was a huge highlight for me. I stayed in Florence the entire time so I guess I only got a taste of the Tuscany region’s food, but your post gave me a good idea of how the food there differs from the food in other regions around Italy. Next time I return I’ll keep in mind the differences in regional foods and I’m sure it will make for a much more enriching experience.

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