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Spanish cuisine has developed over the centuries to incorporate a variety of ingredients and cooking styles from many different cultures: French, Italian, and Portuguese, to name a few. Spain also has a history of being a target of numerous invasions from Rome and Greece early on and later, Austria and France. These periods, while under the control of various conquerors, had a significant influence on Spain's unique flavors and culinary techniques, resulting in the recipes we love today.

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anish Regional Recipes Spanish food is much more than fish, ham, and bacon. A lot of travelers are delighted by their experiences enjoying different traditional Spanish dishes from one region to another. In the south, Andalusian cuisine is famous for its olive oil. One of the most popular dishes in this part of rural and coastal Spain is gazpacho -- a traditional cold soup with tomatoes. Primary ingredients needed to make this classic Spanish recipe at home are fresh vegetables, vinegar, olive oil, and bread crumbs. Also popular in Andalusia are salty cured meats, like Serrano ham (roughly translated as ham from the mountains) and jamón ibérico (or ham from the black Iberian pig).

Catalonia is made up of four provinces, including Barcelona. One interesting tidbit about this region is that it's the location of the first cookbook written in Spain. Because Catalonia has coastline, mountains, and flat land, the cuisine here is some of the most diverse. It's known for its seafood, meat, and vegetables. It might sound strange for a region to claim responsibility for making something as simple as bread with tomato, but Catalans are more than happy to do so.

Fortunately, you don't have to live in Spain to make this ultimate comfort food. Just toast a few slices of crusty bread, then rub it down with down with hearty tomatoes and top with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. You also have the option of rubbing raw garlic onto the bread. In Spain, pan con tomate is a breakfast staple. Desserts are also trendy in Catalonia, including creme brulee, which dates back to 14th century Catalan. Unlike the French version, in Spain, pastry chefs use lemon zest and cinnamon to give the dessert its tasty aroma. Other ingredients that differ from French-inspired creme brûlée are milk instead of cream, and egg yolks instead of whole eggs. The last thing you need to know about the classic Spanish dessert is that in this part of the world, it goes by crema Catalana.

Valencia, located on Spain's east coast, is one of the largest cities in the country and its home base for a classic Spanish recipe: paella. While you may think of a colorful dish with yellow-tinged saffron rice topped with shrimp and clams and mussels still in the shell is overly decadent for your modest loved ones, you should know that you can make this dish with a variety of ingredients and tweak each time you serve it to friends and family.

Spanish Tapas

Tapas, which means "small plates," is a type of Spanish cuisine in the States. In Spain, it refers to the small appetizer-sized dishes that you order at bars and restaurants. If you want to turn your kitchen into a hip Spanish tapas bar, here are some traditional plates you can make: marinated olives, fried potatoes with a tomato sauce (aka, patatas bravas), cheese and pieces of cured meats, mushroom croquettes, or a Spanish tortilla, which is a poached egg and potato omelet. Some of the most common ingredients you'll find in Spanish tapas are olives, chicken, ham, cured meat, eggs, potatoes, seafood, and fresh vegetables. You will also want to master making tomato sauce, Mediterranean garlic, and olive oil aioli sauce, or just plain olive oil with garlic and tons of spices.

Spanish Paella

Paella is another traditional dish that's made with saffron rice and a variety of shellfish, sausage, or chicken. It's made in a shallow pan and can take a few steps, but it's worth it. One of the best things about paella is that there are very few rules. There are some traditional cooking techniques, as well as spices and herbs, but those are where the rules end.

When making a paella, you will need extra virgin olive oil, onion, bell pepper, garlic, long-grain white rice, saffron, chicken or vegetable broth, and baby peas. And then decide whether you're in the mood for clams, shrimp, cured chorizo, chicken, or any combination of these.

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