10 Top Tips For Cooking Italian Food at Home
Italian cuisine is the perfect solution for those looking for simplicity and satisfaction. Using basic ingredients, the Italian’s have forged a culinary pathway for us to follow, but if your idea of eating it at home is dialing a takeaway pizza, with a little guidance you could be creating fabulous dishes in less time than it takes for a delivery.
As with all home cooking, the key is being prepared and having staple ingredients to make life easy. We have compiled 10 top tips to get you ready to bring a little bit of Italy to your kitchen.
Stock up on staples
Keeping essential ingredients in your store cupboard or fridge will make life easy on those days that you really can’t be bothered to fight through the supermarket.
Stock up on good quality olive oil, pasta, garlic, tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese and you have the base for many quick and easy dishes.
If you find yourself with an hour at the weekend, batch cook a pot of tomato sauce using chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil. It can be served with pasta, sprinkled with parmesan, as a meal on its own or used as a base for many dishes. It can be frozen in portions for use when time or energy is in short supply and is healthier and tastier than shop bought jars of sauce.
Keep it seasonal
Italian cuisine is all about using fresh ingredients, cooked simply. Dishes can be easily adapted to use seasonal vegetables and using them when they’re at their best improves the taste while keeping costs down.
Balsamic vinegar is a great addition to the store cupboard for use as a simple dressing for salad, to dip bread into, or for use in marinades.
If you can, seek out a supplier of authentic Italian cured meats and cheese to enhance your meals. If you’re lucky, you might find a store local, but there are many artisan suppliers on line who deliver to your home.
Nothing will ruin your home-cooked Italian meal more than over-cooked, gloopy pasta. Put pasta into salted, boiling water and don’t add oil to the water. The pasta should be ‘al dente’ – firm to the bite – when cooked.
Go easy on the spice
We often add spice to recipes to give a little heat, however the delicate flavours in many traditional dishes would be ruined by the addition of spices. Only add what the recipe calls for to create authentic tasting dishes.
Grow your own herbs
If you want to get serious with your Italian home cooking, then grow your own herbs so you have a fresh supply at your fingertips. If you don’t have room for a herb garden, grow them in boxes on your kitchen window sill – with the difference in taste they will bring to your meals, you’ll be glad you did.
There are some fantastic cheeses which originate from Italy, that can be incorporated into many meals. Parmesan is the one we’re all familiar with, but gorgonzola, mascarpone, ricotta, and Pecorino are all used throughout Italian cuisine.
Italian’s don’t have a cheese course like the French, but use it as a garnish or main ingredient, and they would never serve fish with cheese.
Know your oils
With Italy being the land of olives, it’s not surprising that olive oil is incorporated into so many dishes in the Mediterranean diet. However, different oils have their own distinctive taste and uses.
Extra virgin olive oil is great for salads, virgin oil is perfect for sautéing and baking, and a milder olive oil is best for grilling and roasting.