Throughout the Italian peninsula, very few regions in Italy have match the bounty that Campania brings to the table. The “shin” of Italy is made of up five different provinces that consist of Salerno, Caserta, Beneveto, Avellino and Naples. Throughout the history of man, Campania has been inhabited by a variety of different cultures that have brought a rich diversity to the land. From the ashes of war, Campania has blossomed into a land filled with a variety of In the early dawn of Campania, three major groups (Osci, Aurunci and Ausones) settled the area. During the 8th century B.C., Greek settlers called the Cumaeans, came from Euboea to establish the modern province of Naples. As Naples began to grow with trade and the city expanded, the Samnite tribe from Central Italy took notice of the gem that was growing. This tribe from the Central region of Italy were warlike in nature, and engaged in a series of Samnite Wars that secured the fertile Northern and Southern lands of Campania. Ancient Greek temples, such the Temple of Hera, can still be found all over the region.
Roman legions came into the region around 4th century, and the region of Campania was a major target for outside invaders from the Northern Africa region. During the Punic Wars, Hannibal tried to capture the city of Naples, but he was resisted due to the high walls of the region. After the wars had ended, the region had been a relatively peaceful land. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. brought about the destruction of the city of Pompei and Herculaneum, and Campania was again in a state of uncertainty. The fall of the Roman Empire brought about short takeovers from the Byzantine Empire and the Lombards for a short period of time during the Middle Ages. During this time, French, Spanish and Aragonese culture were brought to the Campanian region. Later, the region was established as the Kingdom of Naples
As the Renaissance came about in Campania, education started to fuel the growth of culture and trade in the region. The University of Naples Federico II was founded in 1224 and housed some notable alumni such as philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas, scientist Umberto Nobile and Prime Minster Giovanni Leone. Founded by Federick II, Holy Roman Emperor, the state university is one of the oldest in the world.
The region’s economy is heavily based around the volcanic-rich soil that runs like a vein from the foot of Vesuvius through Campania. The volcanic run off from Vesuvius creates what is known as the San Marzano region that houses some of the most delicious tomatoes in all of the world. The San Marzano tomato has become the most popular cooking tomato and are protected by the Italian government. Government regulation has given labels such as DOP to this product to ensure the origin of the tomatoes (read San Marzano Tomatoes: Label Regulation and Keeping Small Region Alive) Campania produces over 1.5 million tonnes of these tomatoes and is Italy’s leading producer. Surprisingly, Campania also produces over 50% of Italy’s nut production. Chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are the most popular nuts. Farms are small in size in the region. Italian Water Buffalo produce some of the finest mozzarella cheese in all of the world. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is known as the “pearl of the table” by Italians. Ricotta and provolone are very popular cheeses found in the city of Sorrento
The food is something that most Americans identify with when it comes to recognizing Italian food in the United States. Many dishes are served with pasta, tomatoes, vegetables and a variety of cheeses such as mozzarella. Popular pastas like spaghetti, linguine, and Paccheri are the most abundant. Like most things in life, the pasta dishes were separated by wealth. Many dishes were known as rich or poor pasta dishes based on their contents.
Spaghetti Puttanesca is a very popular dish for the poor and received its name from Italian folklore. The story goes that a prostitute who lived near the port used to lure sailors to her apartment by cooking up a spaghetti dish filled salty black olives, capers, cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce. She would leave her windows open, and the smell of the dish would bring in new customers. The salty taste of the dish would mimic a seafood dish. Other poor pasta dishes combine legumes such as lentils and chickpeas along with potatoes, pumpkin and cauliflower together with a traditional spaghetti pasta.
The method of cooking the pasta comes under harsh scrutiny from locals. Al dente pasta is the standard. Soft pasta is unacceptable. Tomatoes in the region are known for their rich, sweet and flavorful taste as they come from the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. Most tomatoes exported out of the region are peeled. Seafood is a very popular item given that most of the population of Campania lives near the coastline. Calamari (cuttlefish, octopus or squid), red mullet, anchovies, mussels, clams and European seabass are the most popular dishes that are served with in a ragu (tomato sauce). Many sauces combine clams together for popular linguine pasta dishes.
The rich pasta dishes include a variety of dishes such sauces like Bolognese sauce that include minced carrots, ground beef and tomatoes are dishes that are associated with people with wealth. Also, Genovese sauce (not to be confused with Genoa) is known as a dish of the noble. The dish is composed of by sauteing beef, veal or pork with a large number of onions, minced carrots and celery for hours. The sauce comes out rich and brown in appearance. Combining the sauce with a large, cylindrical pasta is the best for capturing all the sauce. Also, pasta dishes that combine seafood are also viewed by the locals as being the food of rich. Squid, clams, mussels and a variety of fish are combined with thin pastas to create delectable dishes.
Don’t run away from your screen yet, because we haven’t even dove into the pizza. Pizza became popular during the 19th century when it was a present to the Bourbon court to King Ferdinand I. In 1889, the pizzaiolo was created by Raffaele Esposito to honor queen Margherita of Savoy. This creation was a nationalistic piece that laid the foundation for the Kingdom of Italy’s flag. The white represented the mozzarella. The red represented the tomato sauce, and the green represented the basil.
We could go all day about Neapolitan cuisine. It’s the most popular in Italian American culture, and represents what Americans view as true Italian food. Now that we’ve got the attention of your tastebuds, check out some of our products that will bring to life an authentic and quality Italian dish. Don’t forget to bring the history behind Campania along for the experience as well. Nothing beats a great conversation along with a great meal!