It relies heavily on ingredients popular along the Mediterranean coast, including fresh vegetables (especially tomato, garlic, eggplant, capsicum, and artichoke), wheat products (bread, pasta), Arbequina olive oils, wines, legumes (beans, chickpeas), mushrooms, all sorts of pork preparations (sausage from Osona, ham), all sorts of cheese, poultry, lamb, and many types of fish like sardine, anchovy, tuna, and cod.
The traditional Catalan cuisine is quite diverse, ranging from pork-intensive dishes cooked in the inland part of the region (Catalonia is one of the main producers of swine products in Spain) to fish-based recipes along the coast.
The cuisine includes many preparations that mix sweet and savoury and stews with sauces based upon botifarra (pork sausage) and the characteristic picada (ground almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc. sometimes with garlic,herbs, biscuits).
The Catalan diet is part of the Mediterranean diet and includes the use of olive oil. Catalan people like to eat veal (vedella) and lamb (xai).
There are three main daily meals:
- In the morning: a very light breakfast, consisting of fruit or fruit juice, milk, coffee, or pa amb tomàquet “bread with tomato”. Catalans tend to divide their breakfast into two parts: one early in the morning before going to work or study (first breakfast), and the other one between 10:00 and 12:00 (second breakfast)
- In the afternoon (roughly from 13:00 to 14:30): the main meal of the day, usually comprising three dishes. The first consists of pasta or vegetables, the second of meat or fish, and the third of fruit or yogurt
- In the evening (roughly from 20:00 to 22:30): more food than in the morning, but less than at lunch; very often only a single main dish and fruit; it is common to drink moderate quantities of wine.
In Catalan gastronomy, embotits (a wide variety of Catalan sausages and cold meats) are very important; these are pork sausages such as botifarra or fuet. In the past, bread (similar to French bread) figured heavily in the Catalan diet; now it is used mainly in the morning (second breakfast, especially among young students and some workers) and supplements the noon meal, at home and in restaurants.
Spicy food is rare in the Catalan diet but there are quite garlicky sauces such as allioli or romesco.