Chef Anne Burrell on how she fell in love with true Italian flavors.
After culinary school, I lived and worked in Italy for a year. When I first got there, I realized that what I had thought of as Italian food, like chicken Parmesan, sort of doesn’t exist in Italy and that is a good thing. Once I really started to understand the Italian kitchen, I LOVED it even more than I thought was possible!
The beauty of Italian flavor is that it is all about locality, seasonality and tradition. All three of these are tied very closely to one another. The people of each region truly believe that what they make there—with their area’s ingredients—is the best. Everywhere you go, there is ALWAYS some amazing, delicious, something to be found!
Cuisine in Italy is very regionalized. In places far from the water, the locals don’t eat fish. Food doesn’t travel. When artichokes are at their peak, Italian cooks go crazy with artichokes, and then you don’t see artichokes again until the next artichoke season.
All through the year, there are recipes that highlight in-season freshness. Selecting the very best possible ingredients and showcasing them is what’s important. Respect the ingredients; don’t overpower them.
In Italy, cooking is also about tradition. Italians know what their mothers did, and what her mother did, and all up the line. That is what they love. It’s also what I just LOVE!
Italian cooking is more than feeding your body—it’s feeding your soul as well. It means enjoying picking vegetables from the garden or going to the farmer’s market, and enjoying preparing the food too. It means treasuring the time that you’re at the table and the people that you’re with. It’s a lifestyle, not just a dinner.