When we think about Italian cooking, we all too often think about the Americanized, chain restaurant style. That’s not true Italian cooking, which is often much lighter and fresher.
Along with choosing quality ingredients from an online Italian grocery store, the following are some things to know and tips to keep in mind when it comes to true Italian cooking.
Less Is More
The idea of less is more is an important one when it comes to true Italian cuisine. You won’t see Italian food overwhelmed with seasonings, spices, and a myriad of ingredients.
When you keep a dish simple, then it allows seasonal and fresh ingredients to shine.
Along with that comes the importance of quality ingredients, which was mentioned above as well. Source the very best ingredients because you’re going to use fewer of them, and you want them to be special and flavorful.
Opt for imported Italian items whenever you can, especially when it comes to staples like olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Some other Italian staples to consider stocking up on are risotto rice, spaghetti, parmesan cheese, and tagliatelle.
We go into more detail about some specific traditional Italian ingredients below.
The foundation of Italian cuisine includes the following items:
- Extra virgin olive oil: Choose the highest quality olive oil you can. You’ll use it as a garnish and drizzled over salads as well as a dip for bread.
- Balsamic vinegar: Real balsamic vinegar is made in Modena, which is a region in Italy or Emilia-Romagna. Balsamic is dark and aged and is frequently used in dressings and marinades.
- Garlic: This is a popular ingredient in most Italian dishes, and it’s very vibrant and flavorful.
- Pasta: Of course you can’t think about Italian food without pasta. Pasta is just a simple combination of flour, eggs, water, salt, and olive oil. You can make it homemade, but you don’t have to.
- Pasta sauce: There are a few different main types of sauce used in Italian cooking. There’s marinara, which is a simple sauce with tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil and basil. There’s also Bolognese with meat, and pesto.
- Oregano: Dried oregano creates an earthy flavor and can be used for grilled meat, marinara sauce, and on pizza.
- Basil: Grow your own basil if you can, and use it in your Italian cuisine.
Traditional Italian Dishes
The specifics of Italian food can vary by region, but some of the most traditional dishes you could expect to find served in various parts of the country include:
- Osso buco: This is popular in Milan, and it’s veal shanks braised in red wine and served with vegetables.
- Spaghetti Alla Carbonara: This is a dish that originated in Rome, and it’s spaghetti that’s cooked in a hot pan with pancetta or pork cheek. Then, egg, parmesan, and black pepper are added to the pasta.
- Neapolitan pizza: This pizza isn’t what you might have delivered in the U.S. Neapolitan pizza is crispy and includes tomatoes, basil, and olive oil along with fresh mozzarella.
- Caprese salad: This simple-to-make dish is light and perfect for hot weather. It just includes tomato slices topped with basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic.
Other Italian Cooking Tips
The following are some other must-knows to truly master the art of Italian cooking:
- Learn al dente. You don’t want to serve soggy spaghetti. Instead, it should be firm and slightly undercooked.
- Don’t waste anything. You can use every item and many of the most beloved Italian dishes were considered “peasant” food. If you have a chicken carcass, for example, use it to create a stock that you can then make risotto with. You can also add leftover items to a soup.
- When you’re planning a meal and shopping for ingredients, try to think about seasonality. Buy things that are in season at that moment.
- Get to know more about your ingredients. The more you learn about ingredients, the more you can experiment in how you use them because you’ll understand the flavors.
- Quality is a top priority in Italian cooking, as has been mentioned. It’s definitely better to cook with fewer ingredients but to make sure they’re the best quality.
Real Italian food is completely different than what you might order in a restaurant in the U.S. It’s light, it’s fresh, it’s simple, and it’s flavorful. Once you get to know Italian cooking a little more, you understand the emotion that goes into cooking and you can also gain a greater appreciation for savoring a delicious meal.