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difference between north italian and south italian cuisine (styles/dishes/decor etc)

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What is the difference between north italian and south italian cuisine (cooking styles/dishes/decor etc)

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  1. This is very general, and of course, there are always variations within every region, but here goes:

    Sauces: Southern=Tomato-based
    Northern=Pesto or cream-based

    Pasta: Southern=Ziti, Rigatoni, and other "tubes"
    Northern=Angel Hair, Spaghetti, Fettuchini,
    and other types of the thinner pastas

    Wine: Southern=Almost exclusively red wine
    Northern=White wine and red wine are used

    Other differences:
    Southern=Olive Oil predominantly used
    Northern=Butter or Olive Oil used

    I'm sure that others can add to this list of generalizations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JB

      Also, I believe pasta in the south is usually dried and in the north it's fresh. In the south they tend to use more garlic.

      1. re: JB

        Southern Italian pasta is almost exclusively made without egg - water, a little oil and semolina only. The southern native cooks like a thicker, chewier pasta, too, such as the Pugliese orrechiete, whereas northerners prefer egg noodles, from angel hair to pappardelle. There's more emphasis on quickly-made, more highly-seasoned sauces in the south, more elaborate, richer, and longer-cooked sauces in the north, as per Bolognese. The northerners eat a fair amount of beef steaks and roasted pork, while in the south it's thin-cut pork chops and braised stuffed rollups of thin round steak, reflecting a less prosperous culture in general. Northerners eat beans, polenta, cream and butter; southerners eat more ripe tomatoes, olives, garlic and olive oil.

        This is all off the top of my head, and necessarily both incomplete and not universally true.

      2. Another difference is that rice/risotto is commonly eaten in NI and rarely eaten in SI.

        In fact, the regional cuisines of Italy are far more segmented than north vs. south. The food in Tuscany is different from the food in Emilia-Romagnia and is MUCH different than the food of Piemonte or Alto-Adige. Likewise, the food of Sicily is different from Puglia or Campania.

        Fred Plotkin's book, "Italy for the Gourment Traveler," gives an excellent description of each of the various regional cuisines of Italy at the beginning of every chapter in the book. Waverly Root wrote a book on this subject many years ago. I don't know if it is still in print.

        1. The differences in Cuisine are regional due to geographic conditions, product availability, foreign influences and economics.

          Northern Italy has always been rich and prosperous. Formerly rare ingredients and spices were used for their luxury status.

          The South was always poorer, with a more rugged climate.

          In general, Butter is used in the North, rarely in the South, while Olive Oil is used in both.

          The starch staple in the North is rice and polenta and fresh pasta made with eggs. In the South it is dried pasta.

          The bread in the North can be enriched with spices,raisins and fruit, while the bread in the South, is usually simple and rustic.

          The rich cuisines of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna are considered to be the best .

          I find Guiliano Bugialli's books on the Food of Italy to be wonderful. He is an historian as well as a great cook.

          1. THis might be just an impression, but in addition to all of the other differences, I've usually found that the foods of the north are more subtley flavored, or more flavored by a more gentle melding, whereas in the south, bold, contrasting flavors (tomatoes, garlic, strong olive oil, lemon, vinegar, olives, capers, anchovies) are more prominently featured in dishes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bunny-Bunny

              Are you talking about the food served in restaurants in the US or the food served in the actual regions of Italy and eaten by Italians?

              People from one region in Italy very rarely, if ever, eat the cuisine or drink the wine of another region.

            2. To add to the generalisations: southern food tends to be simpler -- a more "composed" dish is more likely to be Northern.

              Strong flavours are the hallmark of the south -- anchovies, garlic, olives, fennel, capers, chile peppers, much heartier tomato sauces. Sicilian tomato sauce is often made with dried or roasted tomatoes to concentrate the flavours.

              Oregano is a very Southern herb; sage a more Northern herb. Chervil in the north; fennel in the south.

              Northern desserts tend to be creamier and sweeter (though very few Italian desserts are puckeringly sweet); Southern tend to be drier and more tart. The use of candied fruit is common in the South; fresh fruit (other than citrus) is often a hallmark of Northern food.

              Northern food is OK, but I grew up on Southern food for the first twenty years of my life and so that's "real" Italian food to me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Southern food comes from the garden and the market more than the pantry or fridge. Sauce is something you throw together from what's on hand - squeeze the tomatoes dry, chop them up, throw them in the hot oil with the garlic and some dried herbs, fry a bit and there you are. Nonna's too busy to stir a simmering pot all Monday and serve it Tuesday, even if she could afford the three kinds of meat and the cream and all...

              2. Curiously enough, I find echos of all the preceeding comments in the differences btw wines from north & south. But I guess that's subject for another thread...

                1. This discussion has been fascinating! I've never thought too much about it and knew there were differences, but chalked it up more to to geography, but looks like it's more of a socio-economic thing too.

                  Thanks to all posters!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: toodie jane

                    The differences are not the socio-economics of the people, but of the region.

                    The North being a richer, more prosperous region open since the Middle Ages to foreign trade. The South is poorer with a different climate.

                    Rich Floretines eat beans cooked in a flask in olive oil, as do poorer Florentines.

                  2. I'll just add that the northeastern parts of Italy (like Trieste) that brush up against Austria, Slovenia & Croatia see dishes like strudel, goulash, and ingredients like sauerkraut mingling with Venetian cuisine.

                    1. In addition to all the contrasts and comparisons listed below, I've known Southern Italian cuisine to distinctly feature red peppers in its cooking and the meat-favoring Northern Italian cooks to utilize wild game among its array of meats.

                      1. . . . and let us not forget the Arabic/N. African influence on the South, which helps explain the use in many dishes of almonds, raisins and other dried fruits, sweet spices . . .

                        By the way, earlier someone mentioned that Southerners produced primarily red wines, but let us not denigrate the wonderful whites of Sicily, Umbria (Orvieto), and Lazio.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jbw

                          It's interesting to note that Sicily is closer to North Africa than Milan.

                          1. re: Rob

                            I would add that one of the main differences is the fact that the food in the South is very SIMPLY cooked.
                            Puglia, Sicily etc are among the biggest producers of vegetables, tomatoes, durum wheat (in Puglia), fish etc. Because all the ingredients are locally produced (and not imported) and so TASTY, in the South we don't need to add creams or sauces to enhance our dishes flavors.
                            All the recipes are very simple but still very delicious because made with very tasty ingredients.
                            The second main difference between the food in the North and in the South, is the fact that because of the sunny and warmer weather, the cuisine in the South is much lighter and healthier, based on lots of fish, vegetables, durum wheat bread, legumes and pasta and of course extra virgin olive oil. In fact, the cuisine of the South is the authentic Mediterranean cuisine which is a peasant cuisine in its essence.
                            Proteins come from legumes and fish....more than from meat!
                            The third main difference is that the cuisine of the South is a home made cuisine. There are no famous chefs. It is a cuisine that has been passing down from mother to daughter for generations. It is a cuisine which has been influenced by many dominations.....if you think that Puglia (the eastern region in Puglia) was dominated by the Greeks, Romans, Turks, French, Spanish....