There are some very interesting cultural differences between Italians in Italy and "Italians" in America. Americans of Italian descent will still call themselves Italian, regardless of whether they have ever been to Italy, can speak a word of Italian, or can even pinpoint it on a map.
I have always found the culinary differences between growing up in an Italian family vs. an Italian-American family quite peculiar. First let me give you a bit of background. Dad is a FOB (fresh off boat) Italian living in America. Mom is a third generation Italian, born and bred in the states but still "proud to be Italian".
Now for a closer glimpse at what Sunday dinners were like with the two families, using sample menus to show just how much things change as Italians "Americanize".
Dinner with Paternal Grandparents (Nonni) Antipasti: Primo: fresh handmade pasta with tomato sauce (never store bought, made with fresh tomatoes when in season. When not in season, made from the jars of tomatoes that were harvested last season and stored for the winter) Secondo: cotolette di pollo (not to be confused with "chicken parm") Contorno: steamed artichokes stuffed with bread crumbs, parmigiano reggiano, parsley, and a hint of garlic Contorno 2: Green salad with sliced fennel, tomatoes, salt, olive oil, and balsamic or white wine vinegar. Dessert: fresh fruit finale: espresso
Dinner with Maternal Grandparents (Grandparents): Appetizer: nothing Primo/secondo/contorno (that's right, all one one plate at the same time): Spaghetti (cooked about 8 minutes too long) with meatballs, Kraft Parmesan cheese in a green can shaken over said spaghetti, the ribs that were cooked in the "gravy" (aka red lead or tomato sauce), a few slices of scali bread with butter, and a garden salad with creamy Italian dressing. Dessert: Boston cream pie
What's the bottom line? After first coming to live in Italy, I will admit there was a period where I turned my nose up at Italian food in America (and annoyed the hell out of my family). Then I decided to apply the ever valid saying, "When in Rome...".
Moral of the story? Chicken broccoli ziti may not be Italian whatsoever, but if you manage to not overcook it until it's mush, it's not actually that bad.