Many non-Italians identify Italian cooking with a few of its most popular dishes, like pizza and spaghetti. People often express the opinion that all Italian cooking is pretty much alike. However, those who travel through Italy notice differences in eating habits between cities, even cities only a few miles apart. Not only does each region have its own style, but each community and each valley has a different way of cooking as well.

Every town has a distinctive way of making sausage, special kinds of cheese and wine, and a local type of bread. If you ask people, even in the same area, how to make pasta sauce, they will all have different answers. Variations in the omnipresent pasta are another example of the multiplicity of Italian recipes: soft egg noodles in the north, hard-boiled spaghetti in the south, with every conceivable variation in size and shape.

Perhaps no other country in the world has a cooking style so finely fragmented into different divisions. So why is Risotto typical of Milan, why did Tortellini originate in Bologna, and why is Pizza so popular in Naples? This is so for the same reason that Italy has only one unifying Italian language, yet hundreds of different spoken dialects. Italy is a country of great variety, and Italian cooking is just another aspect of the diversity of Italian culture. This diversity in Italian food stems largely from peasant heritage and geographical differences. Italy is a peninsula separated from the rest of the continent by the highest chain of mountains in Europe. In addition, a long spine of mountains runs north to south down through this narrow country.

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