Italian food has a rich history. It draws on the influences of many different cultures and time periods. It is a great melting pot of different ideas all brought together by a distinctly Italian flavor that makes it Italian food, the most sought after cuisine in the world. The region of Trentino-Alto Adige is a great example of how history has affected and influenced Italian food.
Prior to 1550 the food in this region was known for its simplicity. Food was simply meant for sustenance and a distinct regional flavor had yet to emerge. However, that all changed in 1550. That is the time of the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent was an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church. The council was held in response to the growing Protestant Reformation in an effort to counter it. It is hard to imagine that such a religious and political event would have any affect whatsoever on the local Italian food. However, when all of these high ranking church officials came to the area, they brought with themselves a taste for fine food. It is this event that first taught the region to appreciate the art of fine cooking. This is a great example of how history has shaped the current state of Italian food.
The cuisine here was also influenced by the Republic of Venice and the Habsburg Empire. Other influences include that of the Slav, Austrian, and Hungarian cuisines. It’s hard to imagine now that Italian food was shaped by these cuisines that many people think of as distinctly different than Italian food. This region is known for its use of fresh water fish in contrast to much of the rest of the country that uses salt water fish in much of their cuisine. It’s also interesting to note that despite the foreign influences, it is this area that most popularizes the dishes that are traditionally thought of as Italian food such as pasta, tomatoes, and olive oil. However, in addition to these commonly thought of Italian food dishes is a host of other foods such as potatoes, dumplings, and sauerkraut made from scratch. Goulash is the most commonly served Sunday meal.
Health conscious travelers should also note that lard is still a very popular ingredient in the area. Those concerned with saturated fat should be sure to enquire about the ingredients of the Italian food they are enjoying in this region. But it is important to note that many chefs find that lard is the best ingredient for certain situations and the Italian food chefs in this region certainly feel that way.
There are some specific dishes that are unique to this region. One is potato dumplings with ricotta. You might not think of dumplings when thinking of Italian food, but they are quite common to the area. They even have canederli, a specific dumpling unique to the area that is made with leftover bread. This region also boasts its own regional sauerkraut as well as a stuffed chicken dish.
This region of Italy is a great example of how external forces have shaped Italian food. The style of cuisine here is an excellent blend of the popular Italian food and the unique authentic flavors of regional Italian food.