One reason Sicilians tend to identify with Sicily first and Italy (a distant) second?
The same goes for Veneto in the north or Puglia in the south.
Italy is a young country - it only celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2011.
Despite the successful export of the "Italian restaurant," the idea of a unified Italian cuisine is something many Italians reject.
Instead there are regional dishes, sometimes with tastes as different as you'd find between countries.
The Feast of Seven Fishes, or the Festa dei Sette Pesci, is the traditional dinner that many southern Italian and Italian-American families will sit down to this Christmas Eve. (It is also one of the few appropriate times to pluralize fish as fishes.)
The significance of the number seven reels in many different theories: Some families say it's for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, others say it's for the seven hills of Rome, and still others say it represents the days of creation or stands as a reminder of the seven deadly sins. Other families' traditions even allow for 10 or even 14 different aquatic dishes.
And just as the numeric explanations are allowed loose translations, so are the types of seafood served. The true meaning isn't in the number or kind you choose, but with whom you decide to share your feast.
This Christmas Eve, Alex Guarnaschelli, chef of Butter in New York City and Food Network star, encourages you to serve the humble sardine atop lightly fried cauliflower, an ode to her mother's Sicilian roots.
Fresh sardines - not the pungent, little canned guys - are delicious, inexpensive and sustainable, three wise choices for this holiday season.
5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman have been friends since childhood - that is after the two of them got past the habit of badmouthing each other every time their rival Catholic schools met on the playing field. Though the duo were born and raised in Memphis, both come from large, Italian-American families that ritualize meals and celebrate their culinary heritage.
The two 2013 Food & Wine Best New Chefs preserve and progress their dual Southern/Italian culture at their restaurants Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy. Their recently-published cookbook, "Collards and Carbonara" shares many of the techniques and recipes, so their ever-growing fan base can explore this soulful, seasonal meld at home.
And you can't nail the Italian half of the equation without mastering fresh pasta. Here are five shapes that - with a little practice - may make you say "Ciao!" to the boxed stuff for good.
Five classic pasta shapes to make at home: Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman
Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes twisting her own soft pretzels, perfecting pineapple upside down cake, tackling English toffee, sharing people-pleasin' pizza dip, sunflower cheesecakes and green soup and cajoling recipes from athletes.
Each year, I can tell by the languor of the tomato vines in our backyard that it’s time. They recline like some exhausted 1940s Hollywood starlet, even though we’ve already relieved them of their burden.
The kitchen countertops become laden with fiery red, homegrown tomatoes. Garlic, onions and bell peppers appear in the kitchen in bulk, while fresh herbs disappear from the garden and local grocery store and take up pungent residence in the refrigerator.
Add a quartet of the largest stock pots to the stovetop, and the ritual has begun. It’s time to capture the last sunset of summer in a jar.