Photo: EM Karuna/Shutterstock

These Are the ‘Unacceptable’ Things to Do to Italian Food, According to New Poll of Italians

News Food + Drink
by Elisabeth Sherman Feb 7, 2022

Italian food in America looks much different than it does in Italy — and for good reason. Recipes and eating habits have adapted since the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived on our shores in the early 20th century, introducing their exquisite cuisine and altering the landscape of American food forever. Of course, we’re grateful to those culinary pioneers but we Americans have since made Italian food our own. Still, both home cooks and professional chefs often try to honor original Italian recipes as best they can — but sometimes we miss the mark. Over in the homeland, Italians are taking note — and a new poll by YouGov reveals which “crimes against Italian food” outrage Italian people the most.

First off, Italians actually don’t disapprove of everything non-Italian do with Italian food. The Italians polled by YouGov for instance don’t mind when people eat pizza for lunch (technically, Italians believe pizza should only be eaten in the evening), or when we add meatballs to our spaghetti (a dish that doesn’t actually exist in Italy, but is in fact the creation of Italian immigrants to America). The YouGov survey also polled people from 16 other countries, including the United States and the UK, and perhaps unsurprisingly, people enthusiastically approved of both these things.

Here’s where things get a little more controversial though: Many Italians find “snapping dry spaghetti before boiling it” and “adding plain pasta to a plate or a bowl and adding the sauce afterwards” much less acceptable.

And then there are the cooking techniques and eating habits that they consider “abusing Italian food.”

For example, eating cheese with a seafood dish is a no-go — in Italy the two ingredients are never mixed. That means that you should not sprinkle cheese on top of pasta that includes any seafood element. What else, you ask? A true carbonara should get its creaminess from egg yolks alone; adding any cream to the dish is forbidden. And don’t even think about boiling pasta in cold water — it’s a big no-no among Italians, but that’s probably pretty common practice in many American households. However, if there’s one thing that Americans and Italians can agree on, at least according to this poll, it’s that pineapple does not belong on pizza.

The absolute worst sin that an Italian person could imagine against their cuisine? Using ketchup as a spaghetti sauce. Most Americans polled agreed that this is an unacceptable way to dress pasta, but this is not a universally held opinion: People from Indonesia and Hong Kong support using ketchup as pasta sauce; in fact ketchup spaghetti is a popular recipe all over Asia. However, if you don’t want to anger your Italian immigrants, you should probably save the ketchup for the French fries.

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