Antonio Carluccio, Gennaro Contaldo and Jamie Oliver have spent years telling us about the subtle and stark differences between the Italian food traditions.
From the mountainous north to volcanic, sun-soaked Sicily each region has its own food treasures and culinary styles.
But despite the messages from telly chefs, we still tend to put Italian food neatly into one convenient box.
Stefano Leone, owner of Dolce Vita Italian market, hopes that visitors to his stalls discover more about the variety and range on offer in Italy’s regions.
‘We have specialities from the regions – Sicily, Campania, Lombardia and many others. We have fantastic products imported from Italy. People can talk about them and taste them. And then they can take a piece of Italy home,’ he says.
Visitors can get their fix of the Mediterranean now. The market comes to Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays today and stays until Sunday.
Stall-holders are selling a range of cheeses, meats, fruit, nuts, breads, olive oil and other traditional Italian foods. Customers will be able to find out which regions have produced the different foods and try more unusual specialities.
Stefano believes that’s important. ‘It is good for the customers to be able to ask questions about the products. And people who have been travelling in Italy might be able to find things from a region they have visited, Sometimes it can be difficult to find things in this country.’
Stefano is a native of Sicily so he’s eager for people to try the arancini that come from the Mediterranean island. These fried or baked rice balls are covered in breadcrumbs and have different fillings like mozzarella and ham.
Stefano recommends taking them home, heating in the oven at 200 degrees and enjoying them as a snack.
Or you could pick up some Italian ingredients for your home cooking. Why not mix a taste of Italy with one of Hampshire’s own specialities watercress with this recipe from the Watercress Alliance?
Delicious gnocchi with pancetta and watercress
15ml/1 tbsp olive oil
75g/3oz cubed pancetta or streaky bacon
1 clove garlic chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2.5ml/1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
60ml/4 tbsp dry white wine
pinch of sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (500g) bag fresh potato gnocchi
1 (85g) bag watercress
watercress and parmesan cheese to serve
· Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the pancetta and sauté for five minutes or until golden and the fat has run out. Add the garlic and tomatoes, sauté for two minutes, then add the chilli, wine and sugar. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
· Place the watercress on a board and use a knife to very roughly chop it; place the watercress in a colander.
· Cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain the gnocchi in the colander pouring it on top of the watercress. Leave to drain for one minute before tossing into the hot sauce. Serve topped with a little more watercress and Parmesan shavings.
Recipe from watercress.co.uk