The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
The Most Similar Cuisines to Italian Food
Italian food is celebrated worldwide for its rich flavors, diverse ingredients, and timeless recipes. From the hearty pasta dishes of the North to the sun-kissed Mediterranean flavors of the South, Italy’s culinary heritage is both cherished and emulated across the globe. Four of the five countries with the most similar food also border the Mediterranean Sea.
- France is on Italy’s northwestern border. Both cuisines prioritize high-quality ingredients and emphasize the importance of regional flavors. French ratatouille, a vegetable medley, is similar to Italy’s caponata. Furthermore, French quiche, a savory pie filled with various ingredients, is like Italy’s rustic tarts. Furthermore, both countries often include bread and cheese into their typical meals.
- Greece and Italy do not border each other, but they both have a lot of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Their cuisines celebrate the use of fresh vegetables, olive oil, and herbs. The use of feta cheese and phyllo dough in Greek dishes resonates with Italy’s emphasis on cheese and pastries. Salads are also quite popular in these countries so they tend to eat a lot of lettuce.
- Malta is a small country off the coast of Sicily, so Maltese cuisine has many similarities with Italian food. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, and an array of herbs are fundamental ingredients in both nations. Given their coastal locations, fresh seafood is popular in these countries as well. Both countries consume a lot of pasta as well.
- Spain is located across the Balearic Sea from Italy. Ingredients such as tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and aromatic herbs are essential to both cuisines. While each country has its distinct culinary identity, both share a love for rice dishes (such as paella and risotto), and cured pork meats. Tapas, an assortment of small dishes featuring ingredients like olives, cured meats, and cheeses, closely mirrors Italy’s antipasti culture.
- Luxembourg‘s cuisine is quite similar to France’s. Both countries tend to eat a lot of cheese and dairy products. Bread is popular in both nations as well. In Luxembourg, it’s a meal essential, often accompanied by cheese or spreads. Italy treats bread with reverence, using it as a base for bruschetta, panini, and alongside various dishes. These countries also prioritize fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Italian Food
Four of the five countries with the least similar food to Italy are located in Africa. These countries also have a significantly warmer climate. With the exception of Micronesia, these countries have little coastline. Moreover, these five nations are significantly less developed than Italy. Neither bread nor pork are commonly eaten in these countries.
- Chad is a sparsely populated, landlocked country in Africa that is mostly desert. Chad’s cuisine is also far different from Italy’s. It heavily relies on staple foods like millet, sorghum, rice, corn, and beans, which form the basis of its dishes. Another reason is that its people are mostly Muslim, so they do not consume a lot of pork.
- South Sudan is another landlocked country in Africa. Cassava is its staple food, however the country eats its share of sorghum as well. Porridge is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Unlike in Italy, cheese is rarely consumed in the South Sudan.
- Micronesia is a group of small islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It relies heavily on seafood, tropical fruits, and root crops as a result. The country’s relative isolation has limited its exposure to foreign influences. Micronesian cuisine tends to focus more on the natural flavors of ingredients.
- Central African Republic is a landlocked African country that borders both Chad and South Sudan. Cassava and yams are two of the most commonly eaten ingredients in the country. Furthermore, taro and bananas make a much greater share of the diet in Central African Republic than Italy.
- Democratic Republic of Congo is a former Belgian colony located in the middle of Africa. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country, a food rarely eaten in Italy. The most commonly eaten meat in Congo is freshwater fish, whereas pork and beef are more popular in Italy.
Italy’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Pork, Beef
Fruit: Orange, Apple
Vegetable: Tomato, Lettuce
Starch: Wheat, Potato
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.