There are so many ingredients on the market these days. Gone are the days when you traveled to a new place, fell in love with the cuisine and when you returned home found the ingredients were not available to recreate the dish! You can find more and more hard to find ingredients in your local grocery store or even online.
When my parents immigrated to Canada from Italy in the 1950’s they arrived here to find that a lot of their prized ingredients were not available here. They had to adapt recipes to the ingredients they could find or grow them themselves. Fast forward 60+ years and now we have an abundance of good quality ingredients at our fingertips and we no longer have to adapt very many recipes. This is especially important if you wish to create authentic, Italian dishes.
Contrary to popular belief, most Italian cuisine is very simple. Simple because the best quality ingredients are used and they are meant to be the star. Best quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive either… it means fresh, no additives or preservatives, and if they are specialized Italian ingredients it should be prepared according to the ancient ritual that has been passed down from generation (Balsamic from Modena would be an example).
What is most important when considering which ingredients to buy?
- The fewer the ingredients in a recipe, the better quality they should be
- If a recipe is made up mostly of fresh produce, make it when the produce is in season
- If a recipe has a long list of ingredients and it is cooking for a long time, (think beef stew) canned domestic tomatoes are fine
- Alternatively, if I am making a simple tomato sauce, the best San Marzano tomatoes are in order (there are only 4 ingredients in my tomato, basil sauce ) (read the Blog about how to choose tomatoes here)
- Fresh herbs are usually best, the only dried herb I use is oregano
- Fresh meat from a reputable butcher or grocery store. I prefer to cut my own when possible (I cut up a boneless blade roast for stewing beef, I filet my own chicken cutlets etc.)
- If I can’t get fresh fruit, I prefer frozen fruit to canned fruit in recipes. It is picked at its peak and flash frozen with no additives
- If I am using authentic, Italian specialty products imported from Italy I look for DOP or IGP products (read the BLOG about this here)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Olive Oil from Italy are used in authentic Italian cooking so make sure the oils you are using are the “REAL DEAL” (read the BLOG here)
If you really want to cook like an Italian, the above tips are fundamental in Italian cooking. You can find lots of tips and tricks in our New Online School! If you apply these tips to any recipe, Italian or not, they are bound to elevate your cooking! See you in the kitchen!
Ciao for now, Natalina