17 Italian foods that aren’t Italian at all

(Copied from a pre-instagram food magazine in 2013)


Fact: Food is better in Italy than anywhere else in the world.
I’m not tempted by starred chefs from other nations or lovers of other types of cuisine – although I appreciate it and often eat it – but simply, in a hypothetical Italy vs Rest of the World match, I don’t think there could be any recipe that compares with a plate of spaghetti and clams cooked as it should be or a well-creamed risotto.

Since my statement – peremptory, arrogant but absolutely unquestionable – is true, I personally assume the commitment to refute all the false beliefs about Italian food and recipes but which are not Italian. You’ll probably hate me by the end of the article.

Spaghetti with meatballs

Although we were moved by the kissing scene in Lady and the Tramp and we found Catherine Scorsese cooking spaghetti with meatballs for her son Martin adorable, they don’t exist in Italy.

Italian-American tradition has fuelled the mythology of this combination as a dish at the base of Italian cuisine, but it is not: there is a sauce with meatballs (but it’s not eaten with spaghetti) and sometimes meatballs can found (like in my home, but much smaller!) in lasagnas, but, categorically, no Italian family will welcome you with spaghetti with meatballs for Sunday lunch.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Same as above. The Bolognese sauce – or rather, ragù alla bolognese – is a typical sauce of the city of Bologna, made with tomato sauce and minced meat, and to say that it is cooked slowly would be an euphemism: we’re talking about hours and hours and hours. No one from Bologna, no one from Emilia, no Italian would eat the ragù with any type of pasta that was not tagliatelle or pappardelle or cappelletti. At the most, short pasta tubes or strozzapreti. But do me a favour, with spaghetti?

Fettuccine Alfredo

This really is the funniest story of an Italian dish that doesn’t exist in Italy. One of the most popular condiments in the world has the merit of being virtually unknown in Italy and suffice it to say that there is not even a Wikipedia page dedicated to it in Italian. In the English version, however, the story of the fettuccine “invented” by Alfredo Di Lelio , a Roman restaurateur in Via della Scrofa, is told very well. Enjoy it!
Small note. Seasoning the pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese is allowed only in the following situations: if you have stomach pain, if you are in hospital, if your fridge is empty or if there’s also sage and you’re eating tortellini.

Pepperoni Pizza

If you go to Naples and ask for a Pepperoni Pizza what you’ll eat, if your waiter is a bit hard of hearing, will be a pizza with peppers, because the word Pepperoni in Italian sounds almost the same – apart from the mistake with the double P – as the word “peperoni” (peppers). In Italy there is no kind of salame called pepperoni (by the way, it’s salame not salami): if you want pepperoni pizza ask for it with sausage, alla diavola (devilled) or with spicy salame.

Pineapple Pizza

Same as above. And then, as everybody knows, pineapple is a fruit that’s very widespread in Italy.

Marinara Sauce

What’s commonly called marinara sauce is maybe what in Italy is the generic tomato sauce that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil. The only marinara known in Italy is the Pizza Marinara, originally from Naples, topped without mozzarella, just with tomato, garlic, oregano and olive oil. (Hence the very common mistake of using oregano in tomato sauce? Don’t ever do it again).

Neapolitan sauce

Again, no one in Italy knows what Neapolitan sauce is. In Italy there may be different variants that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is and is called simply “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re north or south of Rome.

Garlic Bread

Maybe even with the right butter? Too bad, no Italian restaurant will ever serve you it and no baker will sell you it: try instead asking for a bruschetta as an appetiser topped with fresh chopped tomatoes, or bruschetta rubbed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.


Friends of Dissapore have ruled (rightly) that if your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with pancetta (bacon) instead of guanciale (cheek lard) you should leave him. We also add:
if your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with cream, leave him.
If your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with garlic, leave him.
If your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with yoghurt, leave him.
If your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with parsley, leave him.
If then your boyfriend prepares you a carbonara with onions, leave him.
And all this even if he’s called Jamie Oliver!
And if your boyfriend buys a jar of ready-to-use carbonara sauce, ask for a restraining order.

Italian wedding soup

Here we are: it is tradition in Campania at Christmas or Easter to make a soup with green vegetables and meat, especially pork. But don’t try to ask for it out of season or in a restaurant in Rome or Venice, they’ll you a terrible look. And above all, if you really must, order it in Italian, that is Minestra Maritata, which is the translation in Italian/Neapolitan for wedding soup or, better, married soup,

Pasta with chicken

Chicken is not a condiment. Pasta is not a side dish. End of discussion.

Chicken or veal parmigiana

Parmigiana is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese, basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate with layers of eggplant with ham or beaten eggs, just to make it even more digestible.


Pesto is only used to dress pasta (especially spaghetti or trofie – for the purists only, trenette), gnocchi and make lasagna with béchamel sauce. And the only really Ligurian addition that you can make is to put a potato cut into cubes and greens beans into boiling water and cook them together with the spaghetti. Be wary of those who use it to dress salads, bruschetta, chicken or anything else. Anyhow, I’m starting to think that you have some serious problems with the chicken.

Italian dressing

Salad is dressed with: extra virgin olive oil, salt and vinegar, or extra virgin olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar, or extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon. Any other dressing is not Italian.

Parmesan on everything

Don’t use it to top the pizza that you have ordered in the restaurant (the pizza maker has already taken care of your pizza) and above all, never use it on fish-based pasta dishes. I personally use it on pasta with tuna and pasta with cream and salmon, but my boyfriend almost left me for that.

soooooooo true!

Italian food is indeed awesome!

Now I feel hungry (for spag bol sorry!) after looking at all that food.

I feel Aldo and Fleur should do a “Cooking with” series with Italian recipes :smiley:

I did something like that in the past here :slight_smile:


and we have also our peppers stuffed with meat here:


I rather have an Argentinian Stake with Argentinan red wine!