The most widely recognized element of Italian food today is pasta. Pasta is a signature of Italian food in all parts of the globe. It is easy to store and prepare and therefore became the ambassador of Italian food to the world.
Pasta has a much older history than other common dishes in Italian food like pizza and tomato sauce. The reason that Italian food in Italy tastes different than the Americanized Italian food is because pasta makers in Italy take more care in making quality pasta. Dried pasta is meant to hold onto the sauce with which it is being served. After all, Italian food wouldn't be Italian without the sauce. The pasta is made with ridges or into complex shapes in order to grab onto the sauce.
These ridges are formed during a process known as extrusion. This is the step in pasta making where the pasta is forced out of a copper mold and then cut into the desired length before being dried. The copper molds are the key. They are expensive and likely to wear, but they make the best pasta. Unfortunately, most of the pasta used in American Italian food is made with steel molds that make the pasta too slick to hold onto the sauce. However, more and more pasta makers outside of Italy are beginning to use the copper molds in an effort to make better quality Italian food.
The drying process also greatly affects the quality of the pasta and the resulting Italian food. An important phase of pasta's development in Italian food was the introduction of the tomato of course. Today pasta and tomato sauce go hand in hand when thinking of Italian food, but the marriage wasn't made until 1839.
Prior to this time tomatoes were just being introduced to the world from the Americas and many Europeans believed them to be poisonous. It took a long time for people to trust the tomato enough to eat it and include it in Italian food. However, once the tomato was accepted it was welcomed with open arms and took off in Italian food, especially in the southern regions of Italy.
Pasta is big in Italy, and you can and will find the best pasta in Italy then any other country in the world. The pizza Pizza is one Italian food that has been around in one form or another for centuries. It has a long history in the Mediterranean where it began as a seasoned flatbread that was used more as an edible plate to hold other food, rather than as a food by itself. However, these earlier pizzas established a name for Italian food very early on and were eaten in Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon and were emphatically praised by many historians of the day. So for real Italian food pizza it is necessary to step out of the confining ideas of just a few types of pizza and open your mind to the different possibilities.
Italian food is full of variety and you could literally spend a year in Italy just trying all the different styles of pizza that made Italian food so universally popular.
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