Now, all of the important “don’ts” when it comes to traditional Italian cuisine
1. Don’t add oil to pasta water
It’s totally not necessary. While your pasta should have salt to flavor it, the oil doesn’t serve any purpose while you’re boiling it. It will help as a sauce afterward, and maybe slightly as a non-sticking agent, though you should be tossing your pasta with your sauce right away after removing it from boiling water.
Stir your pasta occasionally while it’s cooking and your should be okay. Be sure to stir spaghetti and other fine pasta right away when adding it to water to keep it from forming a large spaghetti log.
And have plenty of water in the pot so the pasta can move around.
Add salt after the water has come to a boil.
2. Don’t ever mix cheese and seafood
This is another one right on the money. Never ever add grated cheese to a seafood pasta dish. The restaurant will give you grated cheese if you ask for it, but they’ll look at you as a barbaric tourist.
A lot of adding the cheese to a pasta is a habit we’ve all formed, just wanting to add cheese to pasta before we’ve even tasted it. However, in this case, the cheese just overpowers the flavor of most delicate seafood and we says it’s just not “kosher.”
There are other exceptions here, they really aren’t Italian dishes.
3. Don’t top pasta with chicken
This one’s totally right. Those dishes you see being passed off as Italian at the big Italian restaurant chain, well, they aren’t very Italian.
We couldn’t think of a single pasta dish that even includes chicken. In fact, Italians aren’t really big on chicken in general.
And, by the way, there is no such thing as Chicken Parmigiana here. It doesn’t exist.
4. Don’t serve bread and butter
Very, very true. They may cook with butter up north, but they really don’t do the bread and butter thing.
Bread is set at the table so you have it to act as a Scarpetta — the little shoe — to scoop or mop up any remains on your plate. So don’t go eating all the bread before your meal is even served!
Also, as we’ve said before, there is no dipping your bread in extra virgin olive oil here. Just wait until you get home and enjoy some of our oil with some good crusty bread.
5. Don’t order ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ or ‘Fettuccine Alfredo’
While you might find them in touristy locations, like Rome and Milan, who make Italian-American dishes for the tourists, they aren’t traditional Italian food.
To be honest, we did not know about this Spaghetti Bolognese.
There are certain pastas that do go with certain sauces, as they help carry the sauce better, but in this case I think you are okay.
And we agree that Fettuccine Alfredo, the most famous “Italian” dish in the U.S., is pretty much unknown in Italy. In the words of Madeline Kahn, “It’s trew. It’s trew.”
6. Don’t ever order or eat spaghetti with meatballs
This combination just does not exist in Italian cuisine.
Meatballs can be found in a pasta forno or a ragu, but it’s not something you serve with spaghetti. Ever.
7. Don’t put ketchup on pasta. Never. Ever.
This one happened to us when we had some Swedes visit. We still can’t believe it happened.
8. Don’t treat pasta as a side dish
Pasta is a primi (first course after anti-pasti) or MAYBE a main dish, but it is never, ever just a side dish.
Those big ol’ Italian food chain restaurants serve pasta as a side dish if you order something other than a pasta as your main course.
We eat things separately here in Italy. You usually have only one part of your meal on your plate at a time.
We grew up never letting any food on our plate touch each other and only ate one thing at a time. So we’d eat the meat, then the green beans, then the mashed potatoes. And they could not touch! Maybe we really are Italian.
We also talk about other guests we had that mixed their salad with pasta. Enough said on that.
9. Don’t consume a cappuccino at any time except for breakfast
Italians just think the milk is too heavy to have after a meal. It won’t aid in your digestions.
Now, for breakfast, it’s a whole meal in itself. Especially up north.
10. Don’t ever disrespect tradition
“Nonna knows best. She learned the recipes from her Nonna, who learned from her Nonna, who learned from her Nonna and so on and so forth.”
This might as well be written in stone.
11. Don’t make or eat thick crust pizza
Thick crust pizza is really more of a focaccia.
Here, the pizza is more of a marriage of the thin dough, tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. It’s not all about the bread. And you can really taste every ingredient.
Most of the pizzas are there to fill you up with a bunch of bread, as it’s cheaper than the toppings.
12. Don’t eat your salad BEFORE a meal
The salad, and the roughage you find in the salad, helps you digest after a big meal.
It’s all about digestion in Italy, and this is no exception. You won’t even find many places that will give you a side salad during your meal.
13. Don’t put any dressing on your salad other than extra virgin olive oil and vinegar
Ranch. Thousand Island. French. You just can’t find it here.
This probably goes back to the fact that you are eating the salad at the end of the meal. To add a bunch of heavy dairy or sugar after eating a big meal would just fill you up., where as the vinegar almost acts as a pallet cleanser.