Italian cuisine wows with its depth of diversity. Each region has its preferred ingredients, cooking methods and dishes. We’ve put together a handy regional round-up to help you plan your Italian menus.
Key ingredients: Rice, polenta, butter instead of olive oil, beef, veal
Famous products: Veal, poultry, Blue-veined Gorgonzola Cheese, Gran Padano Parmesan Cheese
Dish: Osso Bucco with Risotto Milanese
Chef Jean van der Westhuizen’s tip: A tender veal shank is at the heart of this dish. Lightly flour the veal, sear, and slow-braise to keep the shank from falling apart.
Key ingredients: Egg-based pasta, cured meats
Famous products: Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Tortellini
Dish: Mozzarella Tortellini Bolognese Sauce
Chef Jean’s tip: Balance out the cheese-filled pasta with a rich ragù Bolognese. The ragù needs to be meaty and hearty, not liquid or loose.
Key ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil, sheep’s milk cheeses, rabbit
Famous products: Pecorino Toscano Cheese, extra virgin olive oil (green gold in colour), unsalted Tuscan Bread
Dish: Tuscan Chicken and Tomato Roast
Chef Jean’s tip: Lightly toast the fennel seeds before cooking, and be gentle with the Balsamic Vinegar. Cook as a one pan dish to extract maximum flavour and juices.
Key ingredients: Meat, pork products, zucchinis, fava beans
Famous products: Artichokes, Spaghetti, Fettuccini
Dish: Angel Hair pasta with Amatriciana Sauce
Chef Jean’s tip: Angel hair pasta cooks quickly; only 6-7 minutes. Alternative pasta shapes that work well with Amatriciana sauce are pasta shells, penne or normal spaghetti.
Key ingredients: Peppers, figs, lemons, eggplant, salad greens
Famous products: Buffalo Mozzarella, Limoncello, San Marzano tomatoes
Dish: Bufalina Pizza
Chef Jean’s tip: A thin, crispy-edged base is essential to any Neapolitan pizza. To keep the base from drying out, cook at high temperature, ideally in a wood-fired oven at 800°F, for approx. 1 minute.
Key ingredients: Fish, especially sea bream, tuna, swordfish, cuttlefish
Famous products: Eggplants, peppers, pistachios, capers
Dish: Eggplant Caponata
Chef Jean’s tip: When creating this vegetarian dish, the aim is a careful balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours. Caponata is great as a side to fish or loaded on crusty bread.