The origins of Italian products famous worldwide

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“… ah Italy! Pizza, pasta and mandolin” this is the stereotype that has long accompanied Italy all over the world and basically, without the intention of reducing the many Italian qualities, it tells something true: our love for food and for the art.
Italian cuisine is itself an art: the variety of products that our land offers, combined with the imagination of Italians in putting them together for creating extraordinary recipes, are some of the characteristics of the territory that have contributed to making us appreciated in the world.
But what is the origin of these succulent products? Let’s find out together!
Pizza is, without any doubt, the queen of Italian cuisine. The first written mention of the word “pizza” is dated 997 AD. and goes back to the vulgar Latin of Gaeta.
Initially it was a flat focaccia made with lard, seasoned with cheese, basil and sometimes with fish leftovers; later the olive oil replaced the lard and in 1700, to satisfy the Neapolitan sailors, the tastiest tomato-garlic dressing was added. The classic pizza Margherita was born in 1889 from the recipe of the chef Raffaele Esposito, in honor of the Queen of Italy Margherita di Savoia; tomato, mozzarella and basil represent the colors of the Italian flag.
Spaghetti is described in 1154 when the Arab geographer Edrisi, at service of Roger II of Sicily, speaks of Trabia, a town near Palermo where was defined: “a flour food in the form of yarns”, or so-called “tria vermiceddi” which were shipped in abundant quantities throughout the Mediterranean area, both Muslim and Christian. According to historians Alberto Capatti and Massimo Montanari – authors of the book “La cucina italiana” – dried pasta – probably the short pasta suitable for abundant stocks and long journeys – it has been present in Arab cookbooks since the 9th century and was subsequently transplanted to Sicily during their domain; by Sicilian hand was then remodeled into new forms.
The Buffalo Mozzarella, the name “mozzarella” derives from the cutting operation carried out to separate the individual pieces from the dough, during manual processing. It is a dairy product produced only with fresh and whole buffalo milk from the Italian Mediterranean breed. Its origin coincides with the introduction of buffaloes in Italy, one of the most accepted hypotheses dates back to the Norman era at the end of the X century. The first historical documents appeared in the XII century and testify to the habit of the monks of S. Lorenzo di Capua to offer wayfarers and pilgrims a piece of bread with a “cut” or piece of cheese, thus determining the origin of the Campania region.
The Genovese Pesto birth bears the struggle for hegemony between the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa in the XIII century; the latter was defeated and among the treasures was forced to give to the rival even the pine nuts of the nearby pine forest of San Rossore; in the meantime, the cultivations of the Ligurian city developed on terraces where luxuriant olive trees and basil plants still grow.
The mix of these raw ingredients gives rise to pesto. The recipe derives from the Roman “moretum”, a mixture of herbs, garlic and cheeses that was pounded with a mortar and spread on bread. In 1863 Giovanni Battista Ratto published the book “La Cucina Genovese” containing the official recipe for pesto: garlic (alternatively marjoram and parsley), Dutch cheese, parmesan and pine nuts to be crushed in a mortar with a little butter, all dissolved in a bath in the ‘olive oil.
Prato Biscuits (today also known as Cantucci or Cantuccini), are dry biscuits whose first documented recipe is contained in a manuscript of the 18th century scholar from Prato, Amadio Baldanzi, preserved in the State archives of Prato; in this document the biscuits are called “Genovesi”, probably for the use of almonds, typical of Genua area at that time.
The name seems to derive from “canto” (as part of a whole) or from “cantellus”, that is a piece or slice of bread in Latin; because the dough is baked in the shape of a loaf and subsequently cut perpendicularly into slices of about 2 cm to shape the biscuits.
In 1858, while the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was preparing for the war for independence, in Prato Antonio Mattei opened his Biscottificio and perfect precisely the recipe for traditional Tuscan biscuits; which includes soft wheat flour, sugar, fresh eggs, almonds and pine nuts. A delicacy whose fame crossed territorial boundaries, earning numerous awards at trade fairs in Italy and abroad, including a special mention at the universal exhibition in Paris in 1867.
Even today, Antonio Mattei’s Biscottificio continues to churn out Biscuits from Prato, faithful to the original recipe and enclosed in the iconic Blu Mattei bag, but the innovative soul that reigns in the over time, the laboratory has created three delicious variations with chocolate, pistachio and hazelnut.
All the products of the Antonio Mattei biscuit factory can be purchased in our stores in Prato and Florence and in the Online Shop.
A hug to everyone and to the next appointment with the taste in our Blog!