Simple Ingredients, Loving Preparation, Endless Variety
Most of us know that Italian food is intimately tied to Italian culture, with meals typically being eaten slowly and shared amongst friends and family. However, you may be surprised to learn that there is no such thing as typical “Italian food” – at least not in the way you probably think about it. Italian food is highly regional, with dishes and preparations changing drastically depending on which part of the country you’re in. However, no matter where you are in Italy, fresh, local ingredients are the building blocks of every meal. In fact, the incredible importance placed on fresh and local ingredients in Italian cuisine is the exact reason for such regional variety. The culinary traditions of each region in Italy have been heavily influenced by the availability of local produce and livestock as well as proximity (or lack thereof) to fresh seafood. Everything from ingredients to pasta shape to consistency of sauce changes depending on the region you’re in! The sheer variety can be overwhelming, so we’ve curated a list of the top five best Italian recipes to try at home. We recommend starting with one that calls for ingredients you have access to locally – fresh ingredients will help you get that authentic Italian taste! And of course, don't forget the true secret to Italian food: it’s lovingly prepared. Ready to create your own lovingly prepared Italian feast? Let’s get started!
#1 Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is thought to have originated in the Italian region of Lombardy, where rice is grown as a crop. Because of this, the grain plays a significant role in the local cuisine and is often served in lieu of pasta. The quality of the broth, the right type of rice, and near-constant stirring all key for a successful Italian risotto. In fact, making risotto is a great mindfulness activity because it requires such careful attention! There are many versions of this recipe – for example, some add parmesan cheese, while others add various fresh herbs. We recommend trying your hand at a mushroom risotto because it’s extremely flavorful and satisfyingly filling. It’s simple yet impressive, making it a great dish for date night. Want to try this Italian classic for yourself?
No list of the best Italian recipes would be complete without ravioli! It is truly an Italian classic and one of the first dishes that many people think of when Italian food is mentioned. The chewy pasta exterior paired with a savory filling and a delicious sauce makes this Italian dish a fan favorite. Different regions tend to use different fillings, but all are delectable. You may have had a restaurant version of this dish before, but trust us – there’s nothing quite like making your own ravioli from scratch! Ravioli making can take a while, but the results are well worth it. Since there’s a lot of labor involved, we recommend getting your family or a few friends together to help out. Plus, there’s nothing more Italian than spending time with loved ones over a good meal. Open a bottle of wine and have a ravioli-making party! Ready to get started?
If you’re not quite ready to make your own ravioli from scratch, gnocchi is a great alternative! This potato-based pasta is actually fairly easy to make and only requires a few basic ingredients. However, the resulting pasta is anything but basic! It’s chewy, filling, and warms you up from the inside out. Once you’ve made your gnocchi, cooking them is easy – simply place them in boiling water. When they float to the top, that means they’re ready! Gnocchi is most commonly served with a simple tomato sauce, but you can also ladle on some pesto, a cream sauce, or even just some butter or olive oil! This versatile dish is accessible, fun to make, and will give you a taste of Italy in your home kitchen! Ready to try your hand at it?
It wouldn’t be a list of the best Italian recipes without lasagna! The name of the dish refers to the wide, flat pasta noodle used. While the origins of lasagna are often debated, it has a clear stronghold in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Interestingly, lasagna was not traditionally made with tomatoes, as they weren’t introduced to Italy until around 16th century. Instead, the original recipe called only for ragù, béchamel sauce, and cheese. Today, lasagna in Italy is still made using only a small amount of tomato sauce, setting it apart from Italian-American versions, which tend to use large amounts of tomato sauce and often call for a longer list of ingredients. Even if you love Italian-American-style lasagna, we highly recommend trying it the Italian way, as the reduction in sauce really highlights all of the other flavors in the dish, especially the meat. Ready to make this classic Italian recipe yourself?
#5 Escarole and White Bean Soup
Escarole is part of the chicory family and is often used in Italian cooking, especially in the southern regions. When cooked, it has a somewhat bitter flavor that is perfectly balanced by the creamy cannellini beans, sharp lemon juice, and fragrant garlic in this soup. This soup is a lighter alternative to many of the heavy pasta dishes so often associated with Italian cuisine and proves that there are plenty of healthful and plant-based options in the Italian repertoire. It’s vegetarian-friendly (provided that you use vegetable stock) and vegan-friendly, too, as long as you skip the cheese. This escarole and white bean soup makes a great accompaniment to a larger Italian feast but is just as satisfying served on its own. Want to try it for yourself?
You can’t have an Italian feast without dessert, and you can’t have a list of the best Italian recipes without tiramisu! Tiramisu is one of the most famous Italian desserts out there. The dish was born in Treviso, a town located near Venice. The traditional dish features savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers) soaked in coffee along with a cream filling made with mascarpone and eggs. The dish is layered similarly to a lasagna and is absolutely bursting with quintessential Italian flavor! Always choose the freshest ingredients possible and approach assembly as a labor of love – these two tenets form the best Italian recipe of all! Ready to make your own authentic Italian tiramisu?