As I grew up and was introduced to ‘real’ (dried) spaghetti I was amazed by it, you can’t break dry spaghetti into two pieces it will always break in to at least three pieces, try it. It’s so easy to make a meal with it, to be fair dry pasta and Dolmio kept me fed when I started living on my own, in fact my weekly diet would include a few pasta dishes (spag bol, Lasagne from the freezer cabinet etc.), a frozen pizza or two and a fry-up that was the extent of my cooking abilities, or so I thought.
When I started to cook ‘proper food’ the first dish I attempted was pasta and meatballs in a Tomato sauce and after my first visit to Italy, apart from having to try to make my own Pizzas in the Italian style, I discovered that the same dish tastes completely different in different parts of the country.
The reason for this is simple, Italians have a passion and love of food that is second only to their pride in the local produce, their cooking is very traditional in that the recipes are passed down between the generations and they all came into being as a result of what food was available locally. This traditional approach is also responsible for the different tastes of the same dishes, even today Italians will cook from local ingredients with Mama’s recipe whenever possible.
This food tradition (and cooking style) has been traced back as far as the 4th century BC, even though the country of Italy as we know it only came into being 23 centuries later. The Wikipedia entry on Italian cuisine makes for fascinating reading and from it you can see clearly how the Italians embraced different food cultures and took what they liked and incorporated it into their everyday cooking.
Italian dishes form a great base for learning to cook, not only because they have been influenced by many different styles but also because they teach us to use what’s available and show us that fantastic, complex flavours can be created using what’s at hand and it can be done on a tight budget.
Also the techniques used in Italian cooking form the basis for an awful lot of European cooking styles. I’ve heard it said that the Italians taught the French how to cook. If that’s the case then the French took what they had learned, made it their own and expanded upon it, the greatest compliment a teacher can receive.
All that having been said, a number of people included feedback on our recent survey that (amongst other things) they would like something other than Italian recipes, so we’re listening (the Spag Bol and Lasagne recipes will have to wait 😉 ) and I have been experimenting with all sorts of things recently, including a recipe for a dish I had never eaten until I cooked it myself.
More variety is on the way, some middle-eastern, some Indian, maybe some oriental, maybe some American. I also want to add some more basic things as well. If you have any preferences let us know in the comments below.