Italian Summer food
When talking about Italy, one of the first thought that comes into people's mind is certainly food, our best export.
Lasagna, pizza and other delicious, but rather heavy foods are the best liked and requested italian dishes abroad. However,they are not what Italians would choose during the summer, when something lighter and fresher is preferable.
Many Italians spend their vacations near the sea or a lake and the summer brings an increase in fish based dishes like pasta alle vongole, grilled fish and seafood, paired with white wine. Any seafood dish is a good summer dish.
This article will focus on non-fish based summer dishes. Fresh ingredients and traditional produce are combined to create dishes lower in calories and easier to eat when the temperature is high.
Some recipes are true musts for Italians, so much so they have become part of everyday summer cooking's inventory. Among the most famous we have pasta con pomodori crudi ( pasta salad), insalata di riso (rice salad), panzanella, friselle con pomodori, bruschetta, carpaccio di bresaola, rucola and parmigiano or macedonia (fruit salad).
La pasta con pomodori crudi is one of those extremely simple dishes that are difficult to make well. Cook the pasta al dente in salted water, in the mean time cut tomatoes (cherry or campari tomatoes) in small cubes, add fresh basil, 3 or 4 large pieces of fresh garlic ( do not use chopped up garlic or the flavor will be too strong), add pieces of grana (parmigiano) and other cheeses as you like (mozzarella di bufala would work just fine), salt and pepper. When the pasta is ready (or almost ready), mix all together with extra virgin olive oil and the dish is ready.
Unlikely the name suggests, the insalata di riso, rice salad, is made up of rice and fresh ingredients but which does not include green lettuce. There are a lot of ways to make it and not everyone uses the same ingredients; some of those that are traditionally added include: ham, pickles, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and tuna. Everything is mixed up with boiled rice, refrigerated for a few hours and served cool. Rice is sometimes replaced with pasta.
The Panzanella is a typical Tuscan dish nowadays made all over Italy. The authentic recipe requires soaked and crumbled stale bread that is then mixed up with other ingredients, such as red onion, basil, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Some recent alternatives include parma ham or eggs.
The friselle con pomodori are croutons served with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil and salt. The bruschetta is similar, but instead of croutons, the ingredients are served on toasted bread.
Beef carpaccio with arugola and parmesan cheese is another simple and easy to prepare summer dish that does not require cooking. Use very thin slices of raw meat, usually veal, arrange them on a platter, sprinkle with arugola and parmesan cheese, then season them with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Make sure that the raw meat is
of high quality (the equivalent of "sushi grade" -- to be eaten raw) and fresh.
Carpaccio was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the famous Harry's Bar in Venice, in the 1950s. He prepared this dish for the first time during an exhibition of paintings by the artist Vittore Carpaccio, to follow the needs of the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, who unfortunately was forced to follow a diet that prevented her from eating cooked meat.
The macedonia is a mixture of fruit, cut in pieces and seasoned with sugar, lemon or orange juice and sometimes liqueur.
These are only some of the most popular summer dishes Italians enjoy during the summer, but there is plenty of other delicious alternatives. Antipasti, starters, with fish or vegetables are preferred to meat, but barbecues in the gardens are also frequent in this period.
Much is left to creativity and to the ability of combining fresh ingredients. Just seek inspiration and buon appetito!