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Gourmet Food WorldGourmet BlogFall and WinterColumbus Day Celebration: Our Top 5 Italian Foods

Columbus Day Celebration: Our Top 5 Italian Foods

by Gourmet Food World
A Columbus Day Celebration With Our Top Five Italian Foods

Monday is Columbus Day, the holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus, the famous Italian explorer with a thirst for adventure and Italian-American traditions. Columbus famously set sail on October 12, 1492 towards India, but discovered instead a brand new world, the Americas.

Although the expedition was financed by Spain, Columbus was Italian and on this holiday we celebrate him and Italian heritage. Being food-lovers, we of course really want to showcase one of our favorite things about Italy: delicious Italian food! Olive oil, Aceto Balsamico balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma – there’s such a rich and delicious culinary tradition in Italy – some of our store’s most popular products hail from this country. So let’s do like Columbus and explore our top five favorite Italian foods and dishes. Plus, we have some great Italian recipes below for your Columbus Day menu!

Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Some of the best olive oils in the world come from Italy. Olive groves thrive in the gentle climate and rich soil of Italy’s Mediterranean region, much like grape vines, and there’s a long and cherished tradition of olive oil making. In Italy, olives are picked by hand, carefully, gently, allowing for selection of the best and ripest fruit, with minimal damage. Olive oil production is still in many ways a family tradition, continued in small, family-owned farms. This golden liquid is the star of Italian cooking, where you can find olive oil drizzled over cheeses, salads, antipasto, appetizers, pastas, meats, even desserts.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Italian Balsamic Vinegar – Aceto Balsamico

There used to be a tradition in Italy where when a baby girl was born, barrels of fine aceto balsamic were selected for aging, stored until the child grew up and married, whereupon these now aged barrels were presented to the groom’s family as part of her dowry. Such is the value and the importance this rich dark liquid holds in Italian gastronomic tradition that there’s even a consortium that oversees and controls the production of Italian balsamic vinegar. Authentic Italian balsamic vinegar is hand produced, following strict traditions and production methods (overseen by the consortium), and aged in wood barrels for at least 10 years. Like wine, the longer the aging, the finer the balsamic. Italians save their best balsamic for special occasions, drizzling it over a wedge of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh mozzarella, or over gelato or fresh strawberries.

Aceto Balsamico

Buy Aceto Balsamico Balsamic Vinegar

Mozzarella and Mozzarella Buratta

There’s nothing more traditionally Italian than a soft, plump ball of fresh mozzarella di bufala cheese. Whether drizzled with olive oil and served with some olives, salumi and other charcuterie in an antipasto platter, paired with juicy tomatoes as an appetizer, or melted in a Panini or pizza, this white watery cheese is one of Italy’s favorite foods. The history of fresh mozzarella originates in Southern Italy, in Naples, but the recipe is said to go way back to Roman times. The cheese is made with the milk of the female water buffalo, plentiful in that region, and using the pasta filatta method, which gives mozzarella that famous stringiness. Authentic mozzarella is made with buffalo milk, but you’ll also find cow’s milk versions, but they lack that sweet, characteristic taste of true mozzarella di Bufala. A more modern version of Mozzarella was developed in the 20th century as a way to make the most of mozzarella bits and scraps – and then taken to the next level of tasty – Mozzarella Buratta. It’s a food lover’s dream: an outer, shell or “pouch” made from fresh mozzarella, injected with fresh cream and stracciatella (bits of shredded mozzarella) that bursts with deliciousness when you bite into it. The name says it all: burrata is Italian for “buttered”, and this cheese is superbly buttery, rich and decadent.


Buy Mozarella Cheese

Prosciutto di Parma

Buttery, salty and even a bit sweet, there are no words to describe the delectableness that is Italy’s foremost and most famous ham. To even call it ham seems to be an insult to this delicacy, putting it at the same level of the fat-riddled salty pink supermarket varieties. Richly rose, veined with succulent fat, Prosciutto is on a league of its own. To earn the name, Prosciutto di Parma must fulfill certain strict requisites: it must come from Parma, from special breeds of pigs – Duroc, Large White and Landrace-, that are raised 9 months and to 300 lbs., and also fed a special diet that includes Parmigiano whey, and then aged 12 months at least. Like Aceto Balsamico, the production of Prosciutto di Parma is ruled by a Consortium (yes, the Italians take their food that seriously), which oversees and tastes the final production. Each ham that’s been approved by the consortium bears a crown seal on their flesh. Italians love to savor their Parma ham before meals served with a variety of cheeses and drizzled with their olive oil, or over a wedge of sweet honeydew melon for a sweet and salty contrast. We adore prosciutto in a delicious panini, for a quick yet flavorful lunch.

Prosciutto di Parma Italian Ham

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Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

No list of top foods from Italy can ever be complete with one of it’s most beloved and popular exports – Parmigiano Reggiano or as it’s known in the US, Parmesan cheese. This grainy, crumbly, salty and uber-meltable cow’s milk cheese is staple in Italian cooking, grated over pasta or casseroles, or simply eaten with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of rich aged Balsamico di Modena, or paired with a slice of Prosciutto di Parma over fresh bread. Like most of the other prized gems of Italian foods, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a protected product, and production must abide by certain standards and requisites to be considered authentic. First of all, a true Parmigiano-Reggiano must come from Parma, Mantua, Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Modena. It’s made out of cow’s milk and it must be aged for at least 12 months, and a maximum of 36 months. It’s overseen by (yet another) Consortium, that oversees the production of a cheese that’s been made essentially the same way for 9 centuries – yes, 900 years!

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Buy Parmigiano-Regiano Cheese

All ready to celebrate Columbus Day? We have some delicious Italian recipes that are sure to be a hit with the Italian AND American crowd!

Fresh Truffle Crostini Appetizer Recipe

Fresh Truffle Crostini Appetizer Recipe

This sophisticated appetizer is filled with the earthy aroma and flavor of luxurious black truffles, but it's still simple to make - not too mention super quick!
Truffle Risotto Recipe

Truffle Risotto Recipe

Creamy risotto is paired with aromatic truffle oil and topped with crunchy Parmigiano "crackers" in this elegant and delicious recipe that works just as well as a weeknight dinner or when you have guests over.
This entry was posted in Fall and Winter, Gourmet Blog and View All Posts on October 8, 2015 by Gourmet Food World

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