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Italian cuisine is distinctly regional. This is due mainly to the fact that the country was only united politically in 1861. Up until this time Italy was comprised entirely of disparate cities, regions and states. Often warring and always differing greatly from their neighbours in customs, traditions, styles, ingredients and cooking methods. With 1500 miles of coastline seafood plays a major role in Italian cuisine, with those regions bordering the Adriatic and Mediterranean being especially associated with fish and dishes relating to the sea. Inland Italy is composed almost entirely of mountains, with the Apennine range forming the backbone of the country and stretching from Piedmont in the north to Calabria in the south. The sheer length of Italy means that its styles of cuisine differ greatly across the country. In the north food tends to be Germanic in origin and cold weather orientated, butter, rich stews and red wine feature heavily. In the warmer south the foods are more influenced by Greek and North African cuisine utilising olive oils, couscous and salads. French culinary tradition has a heavy influence over many aspects of Italian food. Nice, Genoa and Sardinia were under French control during much of the 19th century. Pesto is an example of a quintessentially Italian classic with deeply French roots, being closely related to the French pistou. Capers, pine nuts and dried fruits are frequently found in Sicilian dishes, this is due to the Spanish Muslims who occupied the island from early in the 9th century.


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