Read these 14 Ingredients Used in Italian Cooking Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Italian tips and hundreds of other topics.
Basil is a lovely aromatic herb with a spicy and aromatic scent. Many say that basil is the most important herb in Italian cooking, and I'd have to agree. In Italy basil leaves are best known in pesto, but is also used to flavor tomato sauces, salads and in minestrone and vegetable soups. Fresh basil, of course, is the best thing to use, and it is very easy to grow -- dry basil has practically no flavor. If there are times when fresh basil is not available, do use dry basil (definitely Not for pesto, though) Use it in soups, salads and tomato sauces. Fresh basil can also be stored by layering in a jar with olive oil.
Calories in a tablespoon of olive oil are about equal the amount in a tablespoon of other vegetable oils, but because of its rich taste, you will not use as much.
The “fats” from olive oil are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which have been found to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood which is much better than saturated fats, like butter or palm or coconut oils, which cause cholesterol levels to rise. A 10 year investigation carried out by the University of Minnesota into the relationship between heart disease and the fat in 7 national diets, revealed that Italians and Greeks who are heavy consumers of olive oil have one of the lowest rates of heart disease!
Nutmeg is a pungent spice which should be used with discretion, grated straight onto the dish in which it is required. When grated it releases a delicious aroma and flavor. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, especially in ravioli and tortellini fillings and often flavors hot punches and other warming drinks. I always add a touch of nutmeg to my bolognese meat sauce!
Fresh anchovies are excellent, with white flesh and good flavor, but are nothing like the taste of cured fish. Plain salted anchovies (acciughe sotto sale) are the best if you can find them. Salted anchovies should be soaked in water for about 30 minutes to remove some of their salt. With anchovies canned in oil, removing the salt is more difficult, so they should always be used with care unless the salty flavor is intended as a dominant part of the dish.
Garlic is a must in my kitchen and it should be in yours, too. It is an important ingredient in Italian cuisine, especially in sauces, roasts and, of course, pesto. To crush garlic, sprinkle salt on the peeled clove and crush with the broad side of a large knife; or without using salt, crush the garlic with the blunt top side of the knife; or put the garlic on a flat surface and pound lightly with the back of your fist…the clove should split slightly, making it quite easy to remove the skin. When sautéing, be careful not to burn the garlic, as it will turn bitter.
Purists say that basil leaves should be torn apart in order to preserve the flavor, however I find snipping them with scissors when 4, 6, or 8 leaves are stacked together, doesn't destroy any of the flavor and is one of the easiest methods to use. Snip directly over the pasta or into the tomato sauce or onto fresh tomato slices etc.
Oil that exceeds 4% oleic acid may be adjusted to edible levels by adding such solvents like trichloroethylene that reduces the acid, then it is blended with some virgin oil to improve its taste. It can then be called Olio d'Oliva or as most producers label it, Pure Olive Oil.
The anchovy is a small sea fish found in warm waters. Quite often, lesser members of the herring family such as sprats and pilchards are labeled anchovies and, although they are well spiced, are not the real thing. Anchovies are used either fresh or preserved, sold in cans, boned and covered in oil, as a paste, or preserved in rock salt.
The quality of olive oil depends very much on the region it was produced in. The best olive oils come from the southern region of Apulia or the central regions of Latium, Umbria, and Tuscany.
Unfortunately in Italy the law does not require that an olive oil packer use only the oil produced in his area. Therefore, the geographic name on a label may sometimes relate only to the address of the plant, not to the region of production. The contents of the bottle or can, although legitimately labeled “extra virgin” may be a lesser quality oil from elsewhere. Your best bet is to try different oils and let your taste buds tell you which flavor you prefer. When you find one or two that you really like, stay with them. A good olive oil should “coat with flavor, not with grease”.
Olive oil of the best quality makes you a better cook as soon as you start using it.
It is a common and essential ingredient in Italian cooking, often used along with butter. Olive oil is what gives slow cooked vegetables, beans, mushrooms and many pasta recipes a “sunny” Italian flavor. It brings out garlic's sweet aroma, is an essential in pesto and great for salads. Buy the best possible --“extra virgin” olive oil. It should be pale sea green color (and expensive). It actually works out to be more economical, since the richer the taste, the less you will need to flavor your dish.