Most traditional Italian recipes will differ from one region or part of Italy to the next. There are twenty (20) separate regions in all and there are provinces within each region which means many different styles and flavors of cooking. This regional variation is what Italy is known for; it is the local ingredients which give each unique flavor – the spice of life.
Pesto is a great example of how a basic recipe is modified by each region. The basic most famous green pesto comes from the Liguria (northern) area where the fresh basil is crushed into a paste and mixed with olive oil, Parmigiano (cheese) and pine nuts. More currently introduced, the red pesto has sun-dried tomatoes added to the traditional mix in the Cinque Terre area, while the spicy Sicilian variation can contain chilies, cappers, raisins, anchovies, fennel and mint. Is your mouth watering yet!
The Northern regions’ recipes also tend to use less olive oil, pasta and tomato sauce in favor of more rice, polenta and cheeses for cream sauces. The local recipes seem to express a pride of the unspoiled countryside with the inclusion of local game or wild fowl like rabbit or quail. The overall rule is if it grows well in the area, it will usually end up or be on the plate.
Italian cooking has two sides with one being tradition and the other innovation. Most regional variations take a traditional Italian recipe and add local flavor or develop a new use to create a taste unique to that region. Unlike typical Italian restaurant food found in North America traditional Italian dishes offer much more variety. While you can find the well known offerings of pizza and spaghetti you will find that taking time to sample local recipes cooked by local chefs worthwhile as it enhances the enjoyment and memories of your experience.
To us, when you refer to traditional Italian recipes the picture or image of making age old family recipes in the kitchen with your grandmother or mother spring to life. This type of cooking not only is delicious but is also the ultimate comfort food.
So when considering replicating or creating traditional Italian recipes in your own kitchen you must take into account the region of Italy that the recipe originated and the specialty ingredients. It will still taste great but may vary as a result of the type of ingredients and of course the experiences of the chef.