The Truth about Italian Cooking

Italian food’s not heavy!

The best Italian cooking uses simple, fresh ingredients, says chef Jason Bartner. (photo by Leah De Graaf)

It’s true, Italians do eat a large amount of pizza and pasta, but authentic Italian cuisine is much more than boiled noodles and tomato sauce.

“It’s not spaghetti and meatballs,” said Jason Bartner, co-owner and chef at La Tavola Marche Organic Farm, Inn, and Cooking School.

“Everything in general, it is just much, much lighter than what you find in the States,” says Bartner, whose agriturismo is located near Piobicco, Italy, in the Apennine Mountains of Le Marche. Traditional Italian food uses very few ingredients, he says. Instead of soft pasta smothered in sauce, most dishes are prepared with three or four ingredients: olive oil, salt, and herbs.

The perfect example, according to Bartner, is lasagna. In the States, lasagna is stacked two to four inches high with thick pasta and ricotta cheese and topped with a thick red meat sauce and mozzarella. In Italy, lasagna stands only an inch-and-a-half high with fresh, paper-thin pasta, just enough tomato sauce and béchamel to cover the layers, a bit of sausage sprinkled within, and a dusting of parmesan.

Simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients are the stars of Italy’s traditional dishes.

“You must think of what season you are coming to Italy,” says Jason. “If a dish is in season, you can’t go wrong.”

This is a “Website Extra” article for Urbino Now magazine’s Mangia Bene section, which explores the ingredients, cuisine, and food traditions that distinguish Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.