The world over Italian food is instantly recognized and beloved for being redolent with simple yet bold flavors. The taste and fragrances of Italian ingredients are distinct and unmistakeable; the aroma of garlic sautéing in hot olive oil, the colour and texture of freshly pounded pesto, the simple beauty in a plate of freshly cooked al dente spaghetti aglio olio pepperoncino. It only takes a few ingredients, carefully treated to put together a hearty, satisfying lunch when the craving for an authentic Italian meal strikes. Which is why it can be joyous to open the kitchen cabinets and find just the ingredients required. Keep these few pantry staples on hand and savor home-style Italian food anytime.
At the heart of Italian cooking is olive oil. If you want to maintain an Italian kitchen, you simply cannot do without olive oil. Typically it is best to have three kinds of olive oils on hand: a reasonably priced ‘bulk’ extra virgin olive oil for every day cooking, a fine quality olive oil for use in salads and drizzling on finished dishes, and a large container of ‘light’ olive oil for deep and shallow frying.
For the Italians, where there is olio, there must be aglio, garlic. A fundamental flavor in Italian cooking, especially southern Italian cooking, it interacts very well with basic Italian ingredients like tomatoes and basil. It is usually used by slightly crushing a clove or two to release its juices and then gently sautéing it in olive oil to flavor it.
Into a cooking pot of hot olive oil, go the aromatics to make a soffritto, the essential base for most Italian savory dishes. The most typical soffritto is a mixture of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery—the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Italian cooking—to which are sometimes added parsley, garlic and/or pancetta. The use of soffritto is one of the hallmarks of Italian cooking, and one of the little ‘secrets’ that make it so delicious. Parsley is a common ingredient in the ubiquitous soffritto, as noted above, and is used to top off dishes, especially garlic and oil based pasta dishes. Besides parsley, the classic Italian fresh herbs include rosemary -used in roasts—which adds a strong but pleasant ‘piney’ flavor, and sage, which lends a more subtle savor to many dishes, especially ones with sauces. All herbs should be used with discretion choosing fresh herbs whenever possible. They make a world of difference. The one exception is oregano, whose flavor is improved by drying. Store herbs in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Puncture some air holes in the back and keep the leaves away from the interior surface of the bag. Wrap the stems in a moist paper towel. As an alternative to storing herbs in a plastic bag, try placing the herbs like cilantro and parsley in a glass of water in the refrigerator.
Crucial to any Italian pantry is vinegar. Italians principally use both red and white wine vinegars. Red wine vinegar has a most assertive flavor than white wine vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is tangy and sweetish vinegar and is reserved for special occasions, but it adds terrific aroma to fresh summer salads. It is also reduced into a sauce to drizzle over meat dishes.
Italian food is often rich in umami; a haunting savory flavor that comes from the use of porcini mushrooms, hard cheese like Parmesan, cold cuts like prosciutto or condiments like olives or capers to name a few. These ingredients keep well for longer periods of time making them a wise culinary investment. Moreover, when assembled on a wooden board with crusty bread or fruit like figs or grapes, they work together as a rustic yet tasteful antipasti platter.
This entire month, Godrej Natures Basket celebrates this ancient yet ever popular cuisine with many cool offers, discounts, tips, recipes and cooking demonstrations. Be sure to join in this Italian fiesta spread out at every outlet across the country. Buon Appetitio!
Buy cold cuts online from Natures Basket store at best prices !!