The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world because it promotes balanced eating. This includes Italian cuisines that apply this principle such as using fresh fruits and vegetables as well as complex carbohydrates. Besides, as you can see that Mediterranean countries are close to the sea which also influences the cuisines. Therefore, it is no wonder if you see many Mediterranean diets use fish more, although meat is also used on some occasions. Italian Mediterranean diet involves fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and sometimes meat, making it ideal for your daily meal planning.
Then What Makes the Italian Mediterranean Diet Healthy?
Knowing that Italian cuisine is a part of the Mediterranean diet, let’s analyze what makes it so healthy and pick the important elements.
According to the American Heart Association, the Mediterranean diet includes certain characteristic which is as follow:
- Olive oil
- Small amounts of dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Small amounts of fish
- Very small amounts of red meat
- A small amount of poultry
- A very small amount of eggs
- And moderate amounts of wine
Furthermore, the American Heart Association explained that the Mediterranean diet is typically high in fats. It is contrary to the representation of fat in America which is bad. However, we should underline that most fats that are consumed by most Americans are transfat and saturated fats. Besides, these fats are consumed in a high volume.
Meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet uses different types of fat and the type of fat is monounsaturated fats. These fats are essential to our body to maintain a healthy body.
Are We Consuming The Italian Mediterranean Diet?
Many Italian foods that we consume are not traditional. Most of them are prepared in a way that makes the important nutrients decrease. Typically, the products are greasy and deep-fried. For example one of the most popular dishes is Alfredo sauce. It is not a traditional Italian food and in fact, it is not served in the country.
Finding authentic Italian food is possible, but it is more common in medium to high-level restaurants. Another thing that differentiates authentic Italian food and the common Italian ones is the use of extra-virgin olive oil. It is commonly used as salad dressings or other ingredients.
Sometimes we indeed find eggplant parmigiana in certain restaurants but it is mostly greasier and most often they use meat as eggplant replacement. Also, excessive cheese and deep-fried methods are used pretty often.
Italian Mediterranean Diet Recipes
The extra-virgin olive oil is the foundation of many Italian recipes below. As we know, high-quality olive oil helps protect the body from heart disease. Other superfoods included in the recipes are garlic, seafood, tomatoes, whole grain, nuts, beans, and dark leafy greens. Learn more about Italian Mediterranean foods here.
Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms
When you hear about Italian cuisine, you must have heard about risotto. The risotto with pumpkin and mushroom recipe is a perfect dish used for autumn and the colder season. The nutty and sweet flavors blend perfectly, creating an umami flavor.
This recipe comes from the northern region of Italy. During autumn, it is easy to find this dish in many taverns in Italy.
If you want to be quick in creating this dish, you can buy pumpkin puree, but you have to make sure it is 100% pure without sugar. Check the recipe!
- 4 cups chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock)
- 8 ounces pumpkin
- 8 ounces mushrooms (any mushroom you like)
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 rosemary, whole
- Salt and pepper
- 2/3 cup risotto rice
- 1/3 cup Pecorino (you can use Parmesan cheese), grated
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Chopped parsley
- Bring the broth to a simmer using a small pan.
- Prepare the pumpkin by removing the seeds and their rind, then cutting them into slices. Make it thinner to make it easier to dissolve.
- Wash the mushrooms and trim the ends.
- In a large skillet, cook the shallots with oil until translucent.
- Add the pumpkin to the pan along with rosemary, pepper, and salt. Cook until the pumpkin start to soften and then remove the rosemary.
- Next, add the risotto rice and then stir it for around 30 seconds, Then add white wine.
- As the white wine has been absorbed, add mushrooms and pour the broth into the pan. Stir it frequently and wait for the liquid to almost evaporate completely.
- After 20 minutes, you will see the rice is ready and the pumpkin is tender. Remove it from the heat and then add cheese. Stir vigorously so the cheese can melt with the remaining heat. It will give a creamy consistency.
- Enjoy the risotto immediately with parsley as garnish.
Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana
The eggplant Parmigiana is one of the most popular traditional dishes from Naples, southern Italy. It is a vegetable lasagna that uses eggplant that is combined with mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, and tomato sauce. It is a satisfying comfort food that is easy to make. Even, this recipe is customizable such as using zucchini instead of eggplant.
- 2 pounds eggplants
- 1 onion
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cups tomato puree
- Salt and pepper
- 15 basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 mozzarella balls, diced
- Set the oven to 400 F and preheat it.
- Cut the eggplants about 1/3 inch thick, then grill them until charred on each side.
- For the sauce, mince the onion and saute it in olive oil until golden brown. Then add tomato puree, pepper, and salt. Simmer on low heat. The longer the better.
- Prepare the baking pan and then cover the bottom part with a couple of tbsp of tomato sauce.
- Start arranging by placing the eggplant, then tomato sauce, add basil leaves, and then add mozzarella. The last is parmesan cheese. It should be enough for 5 layers.
- Bake the eggplants for around 20 minutes until it is golden and bubbling.
- Remove the eggplants from the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes before you serve the meal. Add more basil leaves as garnish if you like.
Spaghetti with Mussels and Tomatoes
In Mediterranean Diet, shellfish are an essential element. Unlike clams, mussels are easier to be prepared. Besides, it is affordable.
Pasta and mussels are popular during Christmas. This recipe is simple which you can make in minutes. You don’t need to soak the mussels for hours. However, you need to clean the mussels quickly and remove any “beards” inside.
You need to discard any mussels that have cracks. If you see the shell is open, tap on its bowl or surface. If it closes immediately, it means it is alive and safe to eat. Otherwise, you have to discard it.
To steam the mussels, it is easy. Begin with adding olive oil, then add herbs and garlic. Add fresh mussels along with white wine. Next, cover the mussels and use medium-high heat. Cook them until the shells are opened. Discard any mussel that has the shells closed.
- 3 lbs mussels, cleaned and beards removed
- 3 cloves garlic, 2/3 minced
- 14 oz grape (you can use cherry tomatoes), sliced
- 2 handfuls of Italian parsley, 1/2 chopped and 1/2 minced
- 1/2 red chili pepper
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 7 tablespoon olive oil
- 11 oz spaghetti, cooked
How to prepare mussels
- Discard mussels that the shells are open and have cracks.
- Scrape any dirt and barnacles and then rinse.
- Remove the hairy-looking tail.
How to steam mussels
- Prepare the pan or skillet then add olive oil. Bring it to medium heat and then add 1/2 chopped parsley and 1 whole garlic. Saute for around a minute and then add white wine.
- Add mussels then cover it. Cook it on a medium heat until the shells are open.
- Discard any mussels that the shells are not opened. Remove the mussels meat and transfer it to a bowl.
- Strain the broth and add it to the mussel meat so it will not dry out.
How to prepare pasta sauce
- Add olive oil to the skillet. On medium heat, add minced garlic, parsley, and chili pepper. Saute for around 10 seconds. Then, add tomatoes and stir. Next, add 2 ladles of mussel broth.
- Cook the sauce on a medium-low heat for around 5 minutes. Then, add the mussel meat and some mussel broth. Cook the sauce without covering it.
How to finish the pasta
- Add the partially-cooked spaghetti to the skillet. Next, add the sauce and also the pasta water. Mix until combined.
- Cook the spaghetti on a medium heat until it is al dente.
- The sauce will be thickening naturally.
- At the end of the cooking, add the mussels that you have saved for decoration. Add salt to taste.
- Before serving, add minced parsley, then serve!
Is Italian Food Considered Mediterranean?
Italian food is typically Mediterranean which includes vegetables, fruits, fish, a little portion of meat, and olive oil.
Is Hummus A Mediterranean Food?
Hummus is an essential thing in the Mediterranean diet. It is beneficial for the body which helps prevent various diseases. It will add more flavor to the vegetables and pita slices.
Check also our article about autoimmune diet here.