To make sure I was headed in the right direction and that I didn’t omit any recipes belonging to Italian family and regional traditions, I created a short survey.
It was wonderful to observe the enthusiasm that Italians expressed for the topic.
I entitled the survey SAPORI&RICORDI (Flavors & Memories), and all it took was a few shares to collect more than 300 responses in just a few days.
I asked, "In your opinion, what food best represents Italy abroad?" In addition to pasta and pizza, which were much cited, what struck me the most were the mentions of typical products, rather than dishes, such as Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Salame Bresciano, Mozzarella di Buffala, Vino, and some territorial dishes such as Polenta.
But the questions that really touched the hearts of Italians were the last two: "What dish, representative of your region, would you like the world to know about?" and "What is your favorite dish belonging to your family tradition?"
The two answers didn’t usually overlap because dishes from other regions, or the so-called "national" recipes, were often incorporated into familial culinary traditions.
With these last two questions, the participants went all out, providing me with a valuable list of traditional and authentic dishes.
Spiedo, Pizzoccheri, Risotto con l'Ossobuco, Rabaton, Mostarda, Frico, Polenta, Cacio e Pepe, Struffoli, Parmigiana di Melanzane, Brasato, Seadas, Fave e Cicorie, Casoncelli, Ziti alla genovese, Cjarson, Bruscitt, Pappa al Pomodoro, Culurgiones alla Ogliastrina, Tortelli di Zucca Mantovani, Sartu, Salsiccia e Friarielli, Manzo all'Olio, Tortellini, Caponata, Gnudi, Pane Casareccio, Cassata Siciliana, Capú, Agnoli in Brodo and more….Risi e Bisi, Cappelletti al Ragú, Pinza Triestina, Risotto ai Porcini, Polenta Taragna, Chifeletti di Patate, Peperoni di Pontecorvo sott'vineto imbottiti, Zighini, Riso Plov, Gallina Ripiena, Salsa Verde, Vitello Tonnato, Tortelli Amari, Pollo con i Peperoni, Sopressa e Spinaci, Zuppa di Pesce, Seppie Ripiene al Forno, Torta di Patate, Mustazzeddu....and I could keep going!
The answers I collected were immensely inspiring. They reminded me of my travels and my friends. Some dishes I've tasted before, and others I can't wait to prepare so that I can experience the aromas and flavors of the places I’ve never visited.
I’m more and more convinced that traditional Italian cuisine is composed not only of a vast collection of small, valuable, anchored regional and territorial traditions but also of family traditions.
In fact, it’s no coincidence that many different versions of historical and traditional regional recipes abound. Over the years, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters have made small changes to their traditional family recipes, which in most cases makes them even more delicious and characteristic.
For Italians, Italian cooking is not only about eating.
First of all, there’s the care in the preparation. Every Italian pays extra close attention to the raw material when preparing a meal for the family, particularly for special occasions. They seek the best ingredients possible and call the butcher and/or greengrocer days or even weeks before. Then, among all their commitments, they manage to find the necessary time to pamper the chosen raw materials.
Then there is the preparation of the table and dessert—the latter is never missing unless someone else in the family offers to prepare it.
When we sit down at the table, we join a ritual that’s been occurring for hours.
Finally, we eat, and guess what we Italians discuss at the table most of the time?
Obviously, food—and rarely what we’re currently eating, but rather what we might eat next time or dishes that we recently enjoyed.
Caponatina Lab wants to bring this touch of Italianità into American homes not only through healthy, quality food prepared according to traditional regional Italian recipes but also through sharing the spirit of conviviality and joy that distinguishes us both when we cook and gather around the table.