Crimes against Italian food!

It turns out that putting cream or fried eggs in carbonara is not actually the worst thing you could do when holding a dinner party for Italian friends.

And, while not ideal, neither is snapping your spaghetti before cooking it, or even serving it as a side dish. (even though, I must say, it gives me goosebumps!)

The many unwritten rules around eating and drinking in Italy are often baffling to foreigners, while Italians themselves are famous for raging against what they see as “disgusting” interpretations of classic dishes.

But in Italy, some of these food-related faux pas are viewed as far more upsetting than others, according to the results of an international study on food.

At the end of last year, researchers compiled a list of 19 ways in which foreigners are often accused of abusing Italian cuisine and asked people in 17 countries, including Italy, whether each was acceptable or unacceptable.

Of these, eight culinary practices were judged as being either fairly acceptable or divisive by Italian survey respondents.

Eating pizza at lunchtime instead of in the evening was deemed wrong by only a minority of Italians; while many also reserved judgment on people combining Bolognese sauce or ragù with spaghetti – which is famously not the done thing in Bologna. 

We use tagliatelle, pappardelle (another kind of tagliatelle) or gnocchi.

Putting sauce on top of pasta, as opposed to serving the pasta coated in the sauce, meanwhile, was seen as mildly controversial.

However, the majority deemed 9 of the listed transgressions to be completely out of order, issuing a clear warning against certain habits which are widespread outside the country – and which, for the most part, were not seen as problematic by the majority of respondents in other countries surveyed.

Here’s the list of the very worst crimes against Italian food according to the study – ranked from the offenses seen as deeply disturbing to those deemed slightly less terrible.

  1. Putting ketchup on pasta – this is by far the most distressing item on the list according to Italians. 

I have to be honest with you on this. When I was a kid, I spent some time home alone, fortunately just every now and then! Because the most “transgressive” thing I liked to do was…. cooking spaghetti with “cold” ketchup on top!! It goes without saying that after the second bite, my poor pasta was a sticky, cold, disgusting mass.

When my mother would come back home it was like “You had it coming, little girl. Don’t you dare doing that ever again!”

I’ve learned my lesson!


  1. Putting pasta in cold water and then boil it. Don’t do this in front of an Italian unless you want them to run screaming from the kitchen. 

You’re supposed to add the pasta to water that’s already gently boiling. 


  1. Putting pineapple on pizza – there’s a reason you won’t see a Hawaiian listed on the menu in many pizzerias in Italy – it’s seen as the third-worst thing you could do to the national cuisine 


     4. Serving pasta as a side dish – think a mound of spaghetti would be a nice accompaniment to your grilled meat or fish? Think again if you’re in Italy, where the idea of having pasta as a contorno ranked as one of the worst possible food crimes. As all Italians know, pasta is served before the meat, fish or other main course, as a primo.

No other country surveyed had a problem with this, though, and the French were especially big fans of pasta as a plat d’accompagnement.

5. Cutting long pasta with a knife while eating – the message is clear: don’t snap it, don’t cut it; you’ll need to learn how to twirl your spaghetti elegantly around your fork if you want to be invited back to an Italian home for dinner. We have many varieties of pasta, which are already “short”. Ask for penne, or fusilli.

Long pasta is long pasta. Period.


6. Putting cream in carbonara sauce – perhaps surprisingly, this famous crime against Italian cuisine – which regularly provokes furious online outbursts and stern warnings from Italian chefs – came in at only 6th place. As any Italian will tell you, there’s no need for cream in the authentic recipe.


7. Topping seafood pasta with cheese – this rule may not seem obvious to non-Italians, but we don’t recommend asking for the grated parmesan after being served a steaming plate of spaghetti alle vongole


8. Rinsing cooked pasta in cold water – while many people abroad may think they need to rinse boiled pasta, Italians wouldn’t do this. Instead, many recipes call for the starchy pasta water to be conserved and used to finish the sauce. 


9. Drinking cappuccino after lunch – Long, milky coffees are for breakfast in Italy,. BREAKFAST! You know? the one with croissants, sliced toasted bread and jam… an orange juyce maybe? Cappuccino with lasagna doesn’t simply exist!

The barista probably won’t refuse to make you a cappuccino at 3pm, but be aware that this might cause confusion and could turn other customers’ stomachs. 



So. Which one is your crime against Italian food??