The year was 1921, the place Ellis Island. My maternal grandmother, single, arrives into port from Napoli on the ship Patria to be with her sister...
All people love Italian food, but what makes the Italian cuisine so famous and renown?
Fresh products and simple cooking methods (most of the times). These are the reasons behind the popularity of Italian food!
If you are aiming at trying authentic Italian cooking at home, you will need to know the common ingredients used in it. Obviously, the ingredients depend on the Italian recipe we are using and there are a wide variety of ingredients in the Italian cuisine, but some ingredients are used more than others.
Here is the universal recipe for every kind of Italian food. These ingredients found here are very important, because they themselves are the main culinary secret of Italian meals.
A special place in your pantry must be dedicated to the Pasta! An Italian can eat pasta almost every day and that means that there are thousands of pasta recipes! Spaghetti, lasagne, pennette. It’s not important what kind of pasta, but it has to be of good quality (even better would be fresh).
◼ Extra-virgin Olive oil
A good finishing oil is really essential in every Italian recipe. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained after the oil’s first cold pressing and can be used for all methods and cooking techniques. It is a keystone of cooking in Italy, especially because of its unique flavour.
◼ Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar goes amazingly well with a number of Italian recipes. Just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar puts it over the top and added to a simple dish (from strawberries to steak) will gain it a Michelin star!
◼ Parmesan cheese
Do you know that Parmesan is a protected cheese? The original one - dry and crumbly - has to be made according to a top secret recipe, in a particular area of Italy. Whether served over the salad, grated over pasta or stirred into a risotto, Parmesan adds a touch of class to a variety of Italian dishes.
◼ Tomatoes and Tomato Paste
Tomatoes are fundamental when making crostini and for all fresh salads. However, you also have to add a little tomato paste to several pasta sauces, soups and stews. Obviously, homemade tomato paste has a deeper, more intense and concentrated flavour than the canned type.
A chopped, fried onion is the basis of the best pasta sauce such as the “matriciana” or the “ragù”. You even need an onion to prepare the most simple “spaghetti al pomodoro”. In Italy you will find different types of onions, from the most common pearl onion, to the purple and brown onions, the Tropea and the little, but sweet, cipollini.
Another ingredient to remember for your pantry is garlic. How could one not to think about “spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino”? At first glance, one of the easiest traditional Italian dishes, but actually, it is only the strong suit of the best cooks and moms!
◼ Prosciutto e pancetta
Unarguably the best way to open your Italian meal: prosciutto and pancetta, are also used to give a special flavour to sauces, pastas and every kind of food in general! No matter if you are a San Daniele or a Parma fan, try both of them in the surprising combination with melon!
◼ Fresh basil
A small pot of basil on the windowsill is not only an Italian stereotype! The aroma of its green leaves makes the difference in the caprese salad as well as in the tomato sauce and obviously, it is the main ingredient of the original pesto! Have you ever added basil to a dish with eggplant or peppers? Buonissime!
◼ Love and wine
Eating is a serious matter in Italy (cit. The Silver Spoon), but it is also important to eat together with your family and friends, accompanied by a glass of the perfect wine.
Now that you know the main ingredients for the best Italian recipes: go shopping, choose a traditional Italian recipe and you will be ready to surprise!
Silvia Pe is an Italian travel enthusiast and compulsive reader. She works in the tourism field and runs the blog CharmingItaly.com