Italy, better known to foodies at eat-ily, has unarguably most popular food on the planet. With it’s savory pastas and delicious wines, Italian food pleases almost every picky palate and can be found offered on almost every menu around the world. But, there are quite a few “Italian” foods that aren’t actually Italian at all. While in Bologna, I learned about a few of these marketing imposters. Here’s a list of 5 Fake Italian foods you should be aware of.
1) Spaghetti Bolognese
This is probably the biggest offender of them all. While there truly is a meaty savory-tasting Bolognese sauce simmered with fresh-from-scratch ingredients and wine, it is never, ever, served over spaghetti. The true “pasta Bolognese” is served over fresh tagliatelle noodles. If you’re wondering why it makes a difference, it’s because the tagliatelle holds the sauce and spaghetti noodles do not.
2) Italian Wedding Soup
I must confess, this is one of my favorite soups and I was disappointed to discover that it’s not really Italian. Now I’m not sure what to call it. Meatball spinach soup? Since you can’t throw a stone without hitting a church in Italy, I’ve walked by quite a few Italian weddings. And each time, even though I already know the answer, I’ll look to my Italian friends and ask, “you think they’ll be having some Italian wedding soup at the reception?” And the answer is always, no. Which brings me to my next fake Italian food …
3) Italian Wedding Cake
We have a local grocery chain here in Florida that bakes these as an everyday dessert. And I swear, I think they put some sort of secret addicting ingredient in it because it’s sooooooo good it’s gone. It doesn’t last a day in any household. But no matter how good it tastes, this cream cake with a hint of rum, coconut, and toasted nuts such as walnuts or pecans is no where close to being Italian. If anything, it’s Southern-American or Caribbean. The ingredients alone should give that away. Now, I know you might do a google search for “Italian Wedding Cake” and find loads of recipes. Just know, it’s a cream cake with nuts, not an Italian wedding cake. Italians traditionally have modern wedding cakes just like Americans, with lots of fondant and funny cake toppers.
4) Alfredo Sauce
No Italian in Italy will admit to making, serving, or even hearing of Alfredo sauce. They say it’s an American made-up concept. While living in Italy, I never saw it on a menu or offered at local grocery stores. I did a bit of research and did find that in the early 1900s there was a restaurant owner in Rome named (you guessed it) Alfredo, that created a simple sauce of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano on noodles as a cheap dish for tourists. The restaurant is still in business and is called Il Vero Alfredo. But, it is not the heavy, thick, creamy sauce that Americans have grown to love. And, no Italian will ever acknowledge it as being truly “Italian.”
5) Risotto Mix
Now, risotto is very Italian. But, it’s not a type of rice, it’s a method of cooking. So it irks me to no end to see “risotto mix” at the grocery store for sale at $5-$8 right next to a $ .99 bag of short grain rice, which is really all you need. In reality, it takes no longer to cook risotto then the 20 or so minutes it takes to just make a plane pot of boiled white rice. It’s just that you have to attend to it the whole time, slowly adding in spoonfuls of broth and wine and adding in cheese and butter to give it that creamy gravy-like texture it’s famous for. It does take some effort, but it’s so worth it. And no box mix with powdered ingredients is going to give you that awesome flavor. Spend that same $8 on a bag of short grain rice, chicken broth, a cheap bottle of white wine, and some parmigiano reggiano cheese and you’ll have a great risotto.