Italian cuisine

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Although pasta is what comes to mind when most English speakers think of Italian cuisine, Italian cooking can be as varied as any other. There is a range of difference in foodstuffs from the north of the country to the south, with many regional variations, even for the same dishes.

Emigration has meant that Italians have brought the rich wealth of their cuisine to many other nations. There are sizable populations of persons of Italian descent in the United States and Australia, and several Italian dishes have become mainstream in those places. Pizza is a standard American snack food, while "spag bol" (from spaghetti bolognese) has been voted Australia's favourite meal.

In Italy, a classic meal is composed of a number of courses in the following order: antipasto (hors d'oeuvre); a first course (primo or minestra) most often pasta but it can also be soup, a risotto or other rice dish, or polenta; a second or main course (secondo) composed of a meat or fish dish; the second course is usually accompanied by a vegetable dish on a separate plate (contorno); the contorno is sometimes a green salad or the second course may be followed by a green salad; and a final dessert course that the Italians call dolce (sweet) although it may well consist of fresh fruit.