Italian vs French Cooking: Which Cuisine Is Better?
Author: Chef George Krumov
I have often wondered what cuisine is better, French or Italian. There is no question that Italian cuisine is more popular, but is it better? As a chef my mind tells me the French cuisine is the best, as a person my heart tells me that if Italian cuisine is more popular around the world than it must be better. However, it may be the simplicity of the Italian cuisine that makes it more popular, or even the bigger number of Italian immigrants around the world.
I still don’t know the answer to this question, I guess it’s up to personal taste, however, after visiting my favourite Italian store today for umpteen time here in Southwestern Ontario, I realized why the Italian cooking is the most popular in the world.
It is the unique Italian products.
There is hardly a kitchen in the Western world that doesn’t use at least one Italian product or has an Italian menu item such as pizza, pasta, chicken Parmesan, lasagna, manicotti, ravioli and so on.
Everybody have heard about the benefits of Mediterranean diet and most of the products that are associated with it originate in Italy.
I can hear you saying that this is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps, perhaps!
Below are some of my favourite Italian food products, so you can make your own conclusion.
So, here it goes:
Sun-Dried Tomato - They are one of my favourite Italian food ingredients. I love the sun-dried tomatoes that have been marinated in olive oil, garlic and herbs. I use them for pizza, pasta, salads and dressings. If you buy the kind of sun-dried tomatoes that are sold dry, slice them and store them in oil.
Artichoke - The canned artichokes are good for pizzas, pastas, dips, antipasto platters and so on. If you want to try fresh artichokes, peel and slice them, than dip them in cold water, where you have added little lemon juice to prevent them from getting dark. Grease the fresh artichoke with oil, season and grill it over charcoal or in a cast iron griddle pan.
Bocconcini Cheese - This is the soft, un-ripened mozzarella cheese. It is sold in brine, in the form of little balls, from where the name comes. Bocconcini is very good for salads, panini and original Italian pizzas.
Provolone Cheese - Provolone is a semi-hard flavorful table cheese, made similarly to mozzarela, but is much more tasty. Tastes can vary from Provolone Piccante to Provolone Dulce. The first one is aged longer and has harder texture and sharper taste. If you see Provolone entirely encrusted in a wax cap and wrapped around with strings, you may be sure that this is a good quality, original Provolone cheese.
Sopressata - It is an Italian dry-cured salami, sometimes pressed with a weight while curing, hence the name sopressata. The pork meat is coarsely ground, flavoured with spices, filled in the casings and hung to dry. Sopressata is very flavourful; I love it on pizza and in panini.
Prosciutto - It is an aged, salt-cured, air-dried Italian ham, which is usually sliced very thin and served as antipasto or in panini, but is also very delicious sliced and chopped in pastas or on pizzas. Can also be used for stuffing or wrapping chicken breast, wrapped around fruits such as melon or figs, or in recipes such as prosciutto-wrapped salmon fillet and so on.
Olives - Olives are very good for your health because they have high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Eating olives benefits your heart and your cholesterol level. The same goes for the extra virgin olive oil. Not to mention that they are so tasty, as well. Olives can be enjoyed in pastas, pizzas, salads, antipasto, panini, wraps and many other cooked dishes.
Pesto Sauce - Pesto sauce is made from blending fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, hard table cheese such as Parmigiano Regiano, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. It is excellent sauce for cooking any kind of Mediterranean food - pizza, pasta, salads, panini, on top of fish fillets, lamb chops encrusted in pesto and so much more.
Olive Oil - Olive oil comes in 4 varieties - extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, pure olive oil and pomace olive oil. The first one is the best, because it comes from the first press of the olives. The last one - the pomace oil - is chemically extracted from the stuff left over after pressing the olives, and is of lesser quality. There are, also, many kinds of infused gourmet olive oils - infused with garlic, chili flakes, onion, truffle essence and so on.
Capicollo - Capicollo is a kind of cured Italian ham. It can be mild or hot. The hot variety is simply brushed with hot chili paste on the outside. Capicollo is very good for Italian panini and pizza, as well as, for antipasto.
Parmigiano Regiano and Grana di Padano are grainy aged cheeses with sharp flavour and hard texture. Both are excellent grating cheeses for pastas and risotti, and are very good table cheeses, as well. Freshly grated Parmesan is way better than the store bought grated product, which is a dairy product, but not a real Parmesan.
Pecorino Crotonese - Pecorino Crotonese is a hard cheese made of sheep milk, with a very pleasant rustic flavor. It is an exceptional grating cheese, a nice substitution for Parmigiano Regiano, but can be enjoyed in a cheese platter as well.
Asiago - It is a wonderful Italian table cheese with a hard texture and sharp taste. It is very well regarded in North America and is widely used in Italian restaurants around the world. The name of this delicious cheese comes from the alpine town of Asiago.
Now, don't get me wrong. By no means the list above is saying that Italian cooking is better than French. I may be biased because I worked for four years as Executive Chef in Italian restaurants and only cooked for a year in a French restaurant. No doubt that there are tons of delectable French food products, however, they must be hard to find over here or are way too expensive.
Please feel free to send me a comment and tell me about your favourite Italian products, or French food products alike. I’ll much appreciate your input on what cuisine is better, French or Italian.
Enjoy your day....and check those chicken Parmesans in the oven. I think they are burning.
Comment: Hello Chef,
Yes, for \"haute\" cuisine and approaching cooking from an academic perspective, French food is unrivaled. But Italian genius lies in the focus of simplicity. Both are wonderful, and have influenced each others respective diets and cuisines, but for my money, Italy always leaves me content and satisfied. I visited the SIAL back in 2004 in Paris and got to see the sheer breadth of ingredients, foods, and what not of Italy which pretty much dwarfed everyone including France. It made be appreciate Italian food still further. In fact, I\'m still discovering new Italian recipes. So, the next fun question becomes - who makes the best olive oil? Probably impossible to answer I reckon and recognize but fun to ask nonetheless. I know Spain and Greece make excellent oil, but I think Italy possesses the technology to probably produce intriguing oil. I may be wrong. Cheers, Alex
PS: Did you mention gelato in your post?