The cuisine of Southern Europe covers many countries, but the food of Italy and Spain clearly leads the way. The food of Italy can take several large books to describe. It is a favorite of people all over the world. Italy is known for its creative use of pasta and different types of sauce.
The diet of southern Europeans differs from that of northern and eastern Europeans mainly due to the regions that influenced it. The ancient Greeks brought the olive tree to southern Europe, and Spain is now the world's largest producer of olives. Chickpeas and fish stew were also introduced by the Greeks. Different adaptations of this fish stew are now popular dishes in France (boullabaisse) and in Italy (zuppa di pesce alla marinara).
Similar foods are used across southern Europe. It is mainly the method of preparation and presentation that differs from country to country. Italian cuisine can generally be divided into that of northern and southern Italy. In the north, pasta is made with eggs and shaped in ribbons, while in the south, which is generally poorer, it is made without eggs and in hollow tubes, like macaroni. Northern dishes are served with cream sauces and stuffed with meats and cheeses, while southern dishes are served unstuffed with tomato sauce. People in the north use more meats, dairy, and rice than those in the south, which is known for its use of olive oil, vegetables, and little meat.
The Spanish include a lot of seafood in their diet. Meats are served alongside plenty of vegetables. Soups and stews are staples and are flavored with garlic and tomatoes. Red wine and crusty bread accompany each meal. Portuguese dishes are very similar to those of Spain, but generally include more spices.
Common food choices associated within cultural group.
Grain group: cornmeal, rice, wheat products.
Vegetable group: arugula, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cardoon, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, endive, escarole, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, mushrooms, mustard greens, olives, pimentos, potatoes, radicchio, Swiss chard, turnips and zucchini.
Fruit group: apples, apricots, bananas, cherries, citron, dates, figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, medlars, peaches, pears, pineapples, prunes, pomegranates, quinces, oranges, raisins, tangerines.
Milk, yogurt and cheese group: cheese (made from cow, sheep, buffalo, goat milk), milk.
Meat, fish, eggs and nuts group: beef, goat, lamp, pork, veal; chicken, duck, goose, pigeon, turkey, woodcock, a variety of fish, shellfish, legumes and nuts.
Fats and sweets group: butter, lard, olive oil and vegetable oil; honey and sugar.