Delightful Differences between Northern and Southern Italian Cuisine

The Astronomical clock in the Medieval City of Mantua in Lombardy Northern Italy

The Astronomical clock in the Medieval City of Mantua in Lombardy Northern Italy

red checkered table cloth“Let’s go find a good Italian restaurant tonight.” If you immediately envision pasta with lots of red sauce, you are not alone. Italian cuisine is very often lumped into one red-check-tablecloth-covered category.

Yes, this image is part of the Italian culinary experience, but it is only a small part of the whole picture.

If you were to travel the length of Italy, you would find a vast difference in Italian cuisine. This may be a bit surprising considering Italy is only about 800 miles long and 200 miles wide.

How could the cuisine vary so much in such a small area?

The answer lies in the topography. From snowy mountains in the north to sandy beaches in the south, Italy covers every climate known to man. How does this account for the variations in cuisine? Let’s take a look at a few culinary differences and the reasons behind them.

Meat and Seafood

Northern Italy borders Switzerland, Austria, France, and Slovenia and shares their mountainous topography. Although snowy and frigid in some regions, the seas play a part in keeping other areas rather temperate. These warmer temperatures and an abundance of inland lakes and rivers make the northern region ideal for pasturing several types of livestock.  In addition, the region’s inland waters provide refuge for wild game. These rich northern resources result in meals that feature plenty of meat, cream, cheese, and game.

On the other hand, southern Italy has a drier, hotter climate overall and doesn’t have the rich, green pastures and deep woods needed to support livestock and wildlife. It does, however, have a vast coastline with access to large bodies of water. This makes deep sea fishing possible. Since southern Italy is very narrow and surrounded by large bodies of water, you can see why seafood is a staple in every household and why many meals are designed around fresh seafood.

Butter and Olive Oil

As mentioned, the northern climate in Italy with its rich pastures is perfect for raising livestock. Dairy cows are a natural fit for the region, making butter a mainstay in every household.

Olive trees need a sunny, moderate climate to grow and the balmy southern region is a perfect match. As a matter of fact, southern Italy is one of the world’s leading producers of olive oil. You can see why olive oil is a staple in every kitchen in southern Italy.

Root and Vine

Northern Italy’s summers are short. Whatever can be grown in the ground or in the shade will find its way onto the table. You won’t find a lot of ‘red sauce’ in the northern region because tomatoes are not abundant. What you will find is cheesy, cream based dishes, soups, and stews using root vegetables and oftentimes cured meats.

The southern region in Italy is where you’ll find an abundance of world-famous tomato sauce. Thanks to a long growing season, fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs are easy to find in the south. Therefore, fresh is the name of the game in southern Italian cuisine. Lemon, eggplant, tomato, and herbs all play a part in these fresh dishes and are often just tossed lightly with pasta and a drizzle of olive oil.

Although Italy is a relatively small country, the mountainous regions combined with almost 5000 miles of coastline form countless pockets of unique climates, resulting in extreme diversity in the country’s natural and agricultural resources. From north to south, you can see why Italy offers so many culinary differences… and delights!

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Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Spinach Ravioli Lasagna (2)

This is a meal that will keep cancer away. More about that later.

Here is what you will for Spinach Ravioli Lasagna:

1-6 oz. package baby spinach (if using fresh bunched spinach about 30 leaves)

1/3 cup  pesto sauce

1-15 oz. jar Alfredo sauce

¼ cup chicken broth

1-25-oz. package frozen cheese-filled ravioli, do not thaw

1 cup shredded Italian six-cheese blend

Preheat the oven to 375°

You can opt to make your own pesto sauce, but replace the basil with cilantro or parsley. fresh basil is an herb that works best adding to the dish when it is done cooking, as it turns brown and can change the flavor. You can also use cashews or pecans in place of the pine nuts, to save on cost.

Make your own Alfredo with 1 stick of butter, fresh heavy cream, about 1 cup, and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

cut stems from spinach leaf

When preparing this meal, I opted to used fresh bunched spinach, (30 leaves). With a pair of kitchen shears, cut off stems.

washing and cleaning spinach with Eat Cleaner

You will need to wash the spinach of any unwanted residues or dirt. I do so with Eat Cleaner, which is a food based food cleaner. Generously spray the vegetable leafs and let sit for a few minutes than wash off with water. Eat Cleaner cleans all of your produce, including bacteria that could reside on your meats, such as poultry.

cutting spinach for Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Once spinach is dried began to cut spinach leaves into small pieces with a pair of kitchen shears. Set aside.

preparing ingredients for Soinach Ravioli Lasagna

Combine chicken broth with pesto sauce. Stir in the Alfredo sauce until will combined. Next drop in the cut spinach leaves and mix into the sauce.

layering ingredients for Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Spoon one-third of Alfredo sauce mixture, about ½ cup into a lightly greased 2.2-qt. or 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce. Top that with the shredded cheese.

fresh cooked Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Garnish, if desired. Plate and serve.

Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

As we stated at the on set, this is a great meal to ward off cancer. Spinach is a cruciferous vegetable that kills cancer cells. The salad we have on the plate is a mixture of kale , broccoli, red cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, all which are also cruciferous vegetables.

Just 4 servings a week from this class of vegetables equals the power of eating 10 servings per day of any other vegetable. For more information how food correlates to a healthy you, visit our Health News Library by linking here.

 

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Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

This is a real simple Italian soup to prepare. The chicken sausage used is Al Fresco all Natural Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage. The canned tomatoes are stewed with basil and oregano as well as the spices in the sausage, there is no need to add any other flavorings. The pasta is a 3-cheese tortellini. This soup is full of flavor.

While looking at other bloggers blogs who have visited Splendid Recipes and More, I found this recipe at The Skinny Fiber Blog, though I did make a few changes.

Just roast the potatoes, cook the pasta, chicken sausage and cut the green beans and mix all together in the sauce pot. Enjoy!!

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

9 oz. of Barilla three cheese tortellini

3 cups chicken broth

2 – 14.5 cans diced tomatoes basil, garlic & oregano

1 lb. of frozen cut green beans, cut to 1 inch

1 lb. fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced

½ lb. small red potatoes, diced

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Wash potatoes, quarter and dice, do not peel. Roast in oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cook sausage, let cool, slice and set aside.

Meanwhile in a large sauce pot over medium heat add broth, cans of tomatoes, chicken broth, cut green beans, and mix in well.

Next add pasta and cooked chicken sausage, and stir to incorporate well.

Let mixture in sauce pot simmer over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Plate and serve. Top with Parmesan cheese.

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Anti-Pasta International Lasagna

Anti-Pasta Asian Lasagna

If you like Italian Food or Anti-pasta Italian Food…then you came to the right place.

I called this recipe an International Lasagna as food items from other cultures were added in. Like goat cheese from the Mediterranean, sesame seeds and oil, including soy sauce and fresh ginger from Asian cooking. Not to forget tortillas from the Mexican cuisine. Though we did use 100% whole wheat tortillas.

Here is what you will need:

First though preheat your oven to 350 F degrees.

ingredients for Anti Pasta Asian Lasagna

1 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. molasses

3 tbsp. sesame seeds

3 tbsp. sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

3 tbsp. soy sauce

2 -14 oz. cans stewed tomatoes

Mix together in a small bowl: honey, molasses, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, minced ginger and sesame seeds. Set aside.

ingredients for Oriental Chicken Wraps

This is an image from another recipe, so ignore the peanut sauce on the cutting board. But you can check out that Splendid Recipe here: Oriental Chicken Wraps 

But you will need the following:

1 cup frozen string green beans

1 cup frozen mix peas and carrots

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1 large breast chicken, cooked and cut into small chunks

2 green onions, diced

1 cup chicken broth, no salt added

6 (7-8 inches) whole wheat tortillas

2 – 6 oz. can tomato sauce

Cook rice according to package instructions with 1 cup of chicken broth and 1 cup water. When rice is done add the diced onions and frozen vegetables and simmer 2 to 3 minutes allowing frozen vegetables to thaw and warm up. Turn off heat and set aside.

Cut up chicken breast in small chunks and mix in with rice mixture along with the honey mixture and one 6 oz. of tomato sauce till all mixtures are well incorporated. Set aside.

Next take your stewed tomatoes and pour them into a strainer and strain off liquid. Put the tomatoes into a food processor and puree them.

preparing Anit Pasta Asian Lasagna 1

Take a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and pour 1/4 cup of the pureed tomatoes and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Place two whole wheat tortillas over the sauce.

preparing Anit Pasat Asian Lasagna 2

Now pour 2 cups of the meat mixture over the tortillas. Spread a hand full of the two cheese(goat cheese and mixed Italian cheeses)over the meat mixture. Repeat this process two more times. Top with one 6 oz. tomato sauce and cheese. Place the prepared pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Plate and serve.

Anti-Pasta Asian Lasagna (2)

Anti-Pasta International Lasagna served with a cool glass of lemon-ginger juice.

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Different Ways to Organize Your Spice Cabinet

Organizing the Spice Cabinet

Spices are the main attraction of a food preparer’s kitchen as spices are used for all types of foods, from baking, cooking, broiling and barbequing. Spices are even used to make teas, like Spiced Chai tea.

Organizing your spice cabinet according to the way you cook would ensure the spices are always at hand or easily available. Your cooking will also improve with your spices easily at hand and wasting no time sorting through the cabinet looking for the right spice.

When acquiring new spices already in their own packaging or buying in bulk and you adding them to spice jars, it is best to write the purchase date on them so you know when it’s time to go and buy some fresh spices. The rule of thumb to stock fresh spices is every 6 months.

You should clean and organize your cabinet biannually, which is every six months. Dried spices hold their flavor as long as they are stored in the dark, no humidity and not next to or above the stove. Heat from the stove will only cause the spices to expire faster, as well as humidity.

To maximize your cabinet space, why not store your spices in similar shaped containers that match and coordinate. If you decide to do this, you can buy from 2 to 6 ounce spice jars at your local market that sells bulk spice or at the local organic markets. I did that and paid $1.99 each. They have plastic lids and shaker top and they are a glass jar. They have no labels though. But not to worry just link here Martha Stewart Spice Labels and download her free spice jar label template. There are 25 assorted labels with the spice name already printed on them, like cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, etc., with additional blank labels. Print out the template onto 8 1/2 x 11 card stock or self-adhesive paper.

Different Ways to Organize

Type of Meal

What sorts of meals do you make often? The spices you use for these meals can be organized in one section. Arrange barbeque spices and rubs in one section, and sweet spices for baking in another section.

This method of organization will help you to easily grab all of the spices needed to prepare the recipes that are popular and made most often in your kitchen.

Alphabetically

If you are the type of cook who doesn’t make the same recipe twice, then organize your spices alphabetically to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily. Your spices should be stored in such a way that you can easily see all of the jars with their labels facing forward as well.

Country

Are you the type of recipe creator that likes to prepare meals of different countries? Like Indian food, or Mexican food and even yet Italian food?

Then organize the spices according to the area they originate from as your guide. If you decide to use the Martha Stewart spice template, just mark the country of origin.

As an example: If you like cooking Mexican food, then when you label the paprika, cumin, oregano or any other spice related to that type of food, below the spice name pencil or pen in “Mexico”. This way when you return the spices to the cabinet, they stay grouped together.

Do you have a way you organize your spice cabinet? Leave us your idea in the comment section so other readers can know about your organizational spice cabinet ideas. Thanks!!

Image credit: ronyzmbow / 123RF Stock Photo

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Fresh Mexican Salsa

Fresh Mexican Salsa

Salsa is good nutrition and a condiment . The tomatoes, provide Vitamin C and significant amounts of Vitamins A and B which includes niacin, and riboflavin. The minerals to consider are magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, chromium, and foliate.

Chilies play a prominent role in Mexican cuisine and there is much more to them than just being hot or spicy to the palate. They contain anti-oxidants and are high in vitamin C, B-6 and other trace minerals.  Chilies naturally raise metabolic rate. Its active ingredient, capsaicin, generates heat and also increase heart rate when consumed, both of which help to burn calories. Medical studies done with capsaicin  using red bell peppers and chilies, reported that capsaicin can suppress the appetite.

The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of onions for the treatment of poor appetite, the prevention of atherosclerosis, the treatments of coughs, colds, asthma and bronchitis. To finish it off, limes or lemons have high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, potassium, folic acid and flavonoids.

Salsa is a meal in itself with all that nutrition. Enjoy the video!!

Fresh Mexican Salsa

5 red tomatoes chopped, medium sized

½ medium yellow onion, diced

3 Serrano peppers, diced

½ cup cilantro, chopped

¼ cup lemon juice

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and Serrano peppers (leave ribs for a mildly hotter salsa, if not remove ribs as well). Chop and dice the onion, tomato and peppers. Mix in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and mix in until well incorporated. Fill two mason jars and store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Enjoy with tortilla chips or any Mexican meal.

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