Tomatoes became a staple of Italian food in the nineteenth century. Today, we closely associate the flavor with our favorite kinds of pasta and pizza. Knowing the best classic Italian dishes will help you refine your palate. Beyond the obvious like pizza, there are so many flavorful options to choose from at your local Italian restaurant.
Read on to learn more about seven of the best dishes you can find on the menu!
The Rich History of Italian Cuisine
The rich and vibrant history of Italian cuisine dates back thousands of years. It draws on influences from many cultures and civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Normans. Italian cooking incorporated ingredients and techniques from these cultures.
The cuisine took on a distinct identity in the Middle Ages. Italians became known for crafting simple, yet flavorful, dishes. They used fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as olive oil, without which no Italian recipes would be complete.
Today, people around the world love and celebrate Italian food. As Italian culture made its way to the United States, Italian-American cuisine became a popular culinary experience.
Any lover of Italian food should know these delicious dishes.
Lasagna is a beloved classic Italian dish. Many historians suggest lasagna originates from an ancient Greek dish called laganon, made with layers of pasta and sauce.
It was the Italians who perfected the dish and developed it into the iconic recipe we know today. Classic lasagna consists of layers of pasta sheets, meat sauce, cheese, and bechamel sauce.
The chef boils pasta sheets until al dente then layers them with the sauce and cheese. The dish goes into the oven until the cheese melts and becomes bubbly.
The best lasagna uses high-quality ingredients like homemade tomato sauce and a blend of ricotta and mozzarella. Seasoning each layer with salt, pepper, and herbs like basil and oregano will enhance the flavor.
Lasagna’s rich history, delicious flavor, and versatility make it a favorite among Italian food lovers around the world. Whether you enjoy it at a restaurant or make it at home, lasagna is a dish that is sure to impress.
2. Chicken Caprese
Chicken Caprese is a delicious Italian dish that combines tender chicken breast with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and fragrant basil. It is light and refreshing; perfect for a summer meal.
Chicken Caprese starts with seasoning the chicken breast with salt and pepper. The chef then cooks it in a pan until golden brown on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Next, the chicken gets a topping of fresh mozzarella slices, tomato, and chopped basil. A drizzle of balsamic glaze, which adds a sweet and tangy flavor, finishes the dish. Chicken Caprese typically gets plated atop fresh pasta.
Although simple, the combination of flavors makes this a flavorful and mouth-watering dish.
Polenta is a staple in Northern Italian cuisine that is both hearty and satisfying. Its versatility and simplicity make it a favorite among Italian food lovers around the world.
This versatile dish works either as a side or a main course. It consists of ground cornmeal cooked in water or broth until it forms a thick, creamy porridge-like consistency.
Polenta can be soft, like a creamy mashed potato, or cooled and then sliced and grilled, fried, or baked. It pairs well with stews, ragus, or sautéed mushrooms, and can include butter, cheese, or herbs.
For a sweeter dish with some kick, you can include roasted red peppers in polenta.
4. Frutti di Mare
Frutti di Mare is an Italian dish that translates to “fruit of the sea.” It is a delicious and vibrant seafood dish that includes a variety of shellfish like clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid. Interestingly, Frutti di Mare is a traditional Christmas meal in many regions of Italy.
Frutti di Mare often uses a tomato-based sauce flavored with garlic, onion, and white wine. The chef cooks the seafood in the sauce until it’s tender and flavorful. Fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil finish the dish.
The key to Frutti di Mare is to use fresh seafood and cook it just until done. Overcooking the seafood can cause it to become tough and rubbery. When cooked properly, the seafood will have a tender texture.
5. Eggplant Rollatini
Eggplant rollatini is a satisfying vegetarian Italian dish. It consists of thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese and then rolled up.
Seasoned with basil and parsley and topped with homemade tomato sauce, this dish is rich and delicious. After topping the rollatini with sauce, the chef bakes it in the oven for a crispy outer layer.
The crispness of the baked eggplant and the smoothness of the ricotta gives eggplant rollatini a complex mouthfeel.
6. Shrimp Scampi
Not all Italian dishes use a tomato base for the sauce. Shrimp scampi starts with large shrimp sauteed in a savory butter and garlic sauce.
The sauce uses garlic, white wine, and lemon to give it a distinct, tangy zest. Shrimp scampi usually comes served over linguine with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
Traditional Italian scampi doesn’t actually use shrimp at all. “Scampi” is the Italian word for a small crustacean that resembles a small lobster.
However, since this type of shellfish doesn’t inhabit the waters around the United States, Italian-American immigrants began making the dish with large shrimp.
What Italian meal would be complete without a classic Italian dessert? A cannoli is a delicious dessert made with a crispy fried pastry shell. The pastry dough uses flour, sugar, and butter.
The fried shell gets stuffed with a sweet and creamy ricotta cheese filling. The result is a tasty sweet treat that’s perfect at the end of a hearty Italian dinner.
Classic Italian Dishes Made With Healthy Ingredients
Italian cuisine has a fascinating history, and today cultures all over the world have put spins on it. The classic Italian dishes in this article are perfect for an authentic meal.
At Ron’s Original Bar & Grille, we pledge to use the highest-quality ingredients. We serve organic food and use imported Italian flour for all our pasta.
Get in touch with us to plan your next authentic Italian meal!