Italy is a small country. Sixty million inhabitants occupy 301,338 square kilometers (think California minus 40,000 square miles). But thanks to its natural resources and historical influences, the local cuisine boasts a staggering wealth of diversity many larger countries can only envy. One constant in the Italian bounty is the use of nuts.
While Americans tend to enjoy nuts as snacks or with drinks, Italians tend to use them as ingredients.
Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts and pine nuts are all typical Italian crops. Though cashews, peanuts, Brazilian nuts, macadamia nuts and pecans are not grown locally, half-a-century of market globalization has given them passport into the Italian diet.
Known as frutta secca—botanically speaking correct since a nut is indeed a dry fruit with a seed encased in a hard, woody shell—nuts appear in all manner of regional dishes.
For nut lovers, here's an alphabetized shortlist of locally grown Italian nuts with notes on how they're used.
Continue Reading In Praise of Nuts as appeared on The American in Italia Magazine