The Italian Pantry
More than any other factor, Italian cooking relies on the quality of the ingredients to achieve its flavors. Making an effort to locate the right ingredients will pay off in the end result. Fortunately, most of the ingredients used in this book, such as the staples that follow, are now widely available. Look for stores in your area that sell an array of Italian foods, or check out the mail order sources listed in this book.
Crisp almond macaroons from Lombardy that have a pronounced bitter almond flavor. Serve them after a meal with coffee or crush them for use in desserts.
Although it is hard to convince anyone unfortunate enough to have only eaten dried out, salty anchovies on a pizza, good-quality anchovies add marvelous subtle flavor to many Italian dishes. These flavorful little fish are sold either packed in oil or in salt. Do not substitute anchovy paste, and avoid anchovies packed with capers.
Oil-packed anchovies filleted and ready to use are widely available in small tins or glass jars. Jarred anchovies are preferable, so that you can see that they are firm and plump and not crumbled because they are too old. Leftover anchovies can be refrigerated, topped off with additional oil in a small jar. Keeping leftovers covered in oil is important, as the anchovies dry out and lose flavor when exposed to air.
Salt-packed anchovies are not as widely available, and they do require cleaning. Their flavor is very good, though, and they are firm and plump. They come in large cans, and you can sometimes buy them by weight in Italian markets. Most often, though, you will need to buy the whole can.
To clean salted anchovies, rinse them well under cool water. Slit them open and separate the two fillets. Scrape off the skin and rinse out the bones and innards. The prepared fillets can be used in salads, stuffings, pasta, or marinated with garlic, parsley, oil, and vinegar as an antipasto.
Also available in many specialty markets are white anchovy fillets packed in vinegar. These have a delicate flavor and texture and are best rinsed and added to salads or eaten as the Italians do on slices of buttered bread.
Leftover bread has many uses in the Italian kitchen, and one of the most important is bread crumbs. They should be made from day-old Italian or French bread. Cut them into chunks and grind them in a food processor or blender until fine. Spread the crumbs in a baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
Let cool completely and store in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container. Never substitute canned, ready-flavored bread crumbs.
These little green berries are actually the unopened flowers of a plant that grows wild around the Mediterranean. Some of the best capers come from the island of Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily. Fresh capers have a delicate flavor and a short season. They are rarely seen in stores in this country.
Most capers are imported preserved in salt or vinegar. Soak salted capers in warm water for several minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry before using. Vinegared capers need just a quick rinse to remove some of the vinegar. Large capers are more flavorful and less costly than tiny capers. Capers add a tangy flavor to sauces, salads, and pastas.
In parts of central and southern Italy, fresh and dried chiles are used for seasoning. Any variety of chile can be used. Italians use both the seeds and flesh of the chile, often passing the whole chiles around the table to be sliced as a garnish onto soup or pasta.
In the absence of fresh chiles, substitute tiny red dried chiles, which you can crush for extra spice or leave whole and remove before serving if you prefer less. Dried chiles sold in jars as crushed red pepper can also be used.
Keep in mind that the chiles, whether fresh or dried, are meant as an accent and should not overwhelm the flavors of the dish. They are used primarily in quick cooking dishes or as a garnish.
Fresh garlic is an important flavoring in many Italian dishes, but not every dish should contain garlic. When it comes to garlic, more is not necessarily better. Except for a few dishes, Italian cooks use garlic in moderation.
Fresh garlic can be white, pink, or purple, depending on the variety. Look for cloves that are plump and free of mold. As garlic ages, the skin becomes yellowish, dry, and papery and the flavor intensifies. Store garlic in a cool, dry place.
Garlic should always be freshly prepared for a recipe. Do not use harsh dried garlic flakes or granules, or stale-tasting jarred garlic, either whole or prechopped.
To prepare garlic for cooking, break off as many cloves as you will need for the recipe. Lay the cloves on a cutting board and lay a large chef's knife on its side over the garlic. Smack the knife with the heel of your hand to crack open the skin. If you are chopping or slicing the garlic, cut off the stem end of the clove, which can be hard. The green shoot inside the garlic is fine to use. you do not remove it.
For maximum garlic flavor, chop it very fine. For a more subtle flavor, slice the garlic cloves. For just a hint of garlic, leave the cloves whole (or crush them slightly with the side of the knife) for cooking, then remove them from the pot before serving.
Garlic should be cooked until it is a light gold or deep gold, depending on the intensity of the flavor you want. Never allow garlic to turn dark brown, as the flavor becomes bitter.
Various types of cheeses are used for grating in Italy, depending on the region and the dish. These cheeses are collectively known as grana, meaning "grainy." The three most popular varieties are Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, and Pecorino Romano.
Though many cheeses are called "Parmesan," Parmigiano-Reggiano is the name of the genuine article, an aged cow's milk cheese made exclusively in Italy around the cities of Parma and Reggio Emilia. Genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano is rich and nutty and perfect for eating as an hors d'oeuvre or snack as well as grating on soups and pasta.
Always buy whole chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, never grated pieces, so that you can be sure of what you are buying. Also, grated cheese dries out quickly and loses its flavor. The rind of the cheese has the name impressed into it so that it is easily recognizable. The cheese should be a creamy golden color and the rind slightly darker.
Grana Padano is also made from cow's milk. The flavor is slightly milder than Parmigiano and the color is lighter. Otherwise it can be used in similar ways.
Pecorino Romano is the preferred grating cheese of southern Italy. Pecora is Italian for "sheep," and this cheese is made from sheep's milk. Pecorino Romano is very white in color and has no discernible rind. It is sharper and saltier than Parmigiano and is particularly good with vegetables, lamb, and pasta dressed with vegetables or southern Italian ragùs.
Other cheeses that are used for grating are ricotta salata (aged salted ricotta), Asiago, and caciocavallo. Sicilians have a caramel-colored, smoked pressed ricotta that is very distinctive, though you have never seen it sold in the United States.
Cheese should always be grated at the last moment. A hand-cranked mill known as a Mouli grater does an excellent job, as does an old-fashioned box grater. Rasp-type graters are good, though they grate the cheese a little too fine for your taste. Large quantities of cheese can be ground in a food processor with a steel blade, but the texture is more like little pellets than grated cheese.
Note that Italians sprinkle grated cheese on foods sparingly. They rarely use it in dishes made with fish or seafood, where it might mask the delicate flavor, though there are exceptions.
Parsley is the essential herb in Italian cooking. It is used in every region of Italy in a wide range of dishes, from fish to meatballs, stews, sauces, and vegetables. The preferred variety has dark green flat leaves and is sometimes sold here as Italian parsley. Its fresh color and taste lifts the flavor of dishes that it is added to without overwhelming them.
Parsley should always be fresh. Dried parsley has little flavor, and what flavor it has is unpleasant. Fortunately, parsley keeps very well in the refrigerator. Look for a very fresh bunch with no yellow or wilted leaves. Trim 3⁄4-inch from the base of the stems and insert the bunch in a jar with a couple of inches of warm water. Invert a plastic bag over the leaves and place the jar in the refrigerator. Change the water in the jar every day or two and the parsley should last at least a week.
Basil is another staple herb in Italian cooking. Like parsley, it should only be used in its fresh state and not dried. Fresh basil is widely available in supermarkets all year round, and it is easy to grow in most areas in a pot on a window sill. Basil is a very tender plant and does not keep as long as parsley or herbs with woody stems like rosemary and sage. you wrap fresh basil in paper towels, place them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. They last for two to three days. If you have a large bunch to use up, puree it with olive oil and store it in the freezer in small containers, or toss the leaves in a salad. As a last resort, you rinse and pat dry the basil leaves, wrap them in plastic, and store them in the freezer. When you need a few fresh leaves for a sauce, you toss them in still frozen. The leaves blacken and become limp, but they are good in a pinch, adding close to fresh flavor to cooked dishes. you usually prefer to add basil at the end of the cooking time to better capture its fresh essence, but you sometimes add it as the food is cooking for another level of flavor.
Rosemary and sage are important herbs for cooking roasts, game, stews, and beans. Sage leaves and melted sweet butter make one of the quickest and best sauces for fresh pasta. Both herbs are best when fresh, and they keep well in the refrigerator if kept in a container that allows air to circulate around the leaves so that they do not get wet and moldy. Both also freeze well tightly wrapped. Dried rosemary and sage are good for backups, though once the jar is open, their flavor is good for only six months.
Oregano and marjoram have a similar flavor and appearance, though you are more likely to find oregano used in southern Italy and marjoram in the north, especially in Liguria. Oregano is the stronger of the two, useful for tomato sauces and with fish. It is almost always used in its dried state.
Marjoram is less assertive than oregano, with a floral and slightly lemony flavor. Fresh marjoram is preferable, though not so easy to find, unless you grow it yourself. Use marjoram for fish and seafood, vegetables, pasta stuffing, and sauces.
Thyme, tarragon, and mint are also used in Italian cooking, mostly in regional recipes.
Olive trees grow in Italy as far north as Liguria and the Veneto all the way south through Sicily. Not so long ago, it was easy to divide Italian kitchens into the butter-using north and olive oil south, but today cooks all over Italy use olive oil both for reasons of health and good flavor.
Olive oils are classified by the way they are processed and the amount of oleic acid they contain. Oil extracted without the use of solvents and with less than 1 percent oleic acid is the best quality and is classified as "extra virgin." The flavor of the oil will vary according to where the olives were grown, the types of olives used, and their quality and ripeness. Some oils have fruity flavors, while others are more vegetal or herbal.
To find one that you like, buy small bottles of a few brands and sample them before you commit to a larger container. Olive oil should be used within a year of the time it was produced. The flavor fades as it ages, so look for brands marked with the year they were produced.
Use extra-virgin olive oil for most cooking and for salad dressings and usually have more than one variety open at a time so that you can match it to the flavor of the dish you am preparing. At one time, the standard advice was not to cook with extra-virgin olive oil, because its flavor was compromised by heating. But you find that extra-virgin olive oil enhances most foods, whether cooked or uncooked, and contributes authentic Italian flavor.
Olive oil should be kept in a dark container in a cool place. If you buy it in a large container, transfer it to a small jar or can to minimize exposure to oxygen, which will eventually cause the oil to turn rancid.
It is not necessary to refrigerate olive oil, unless you have a large quantity that you will not be able to use in a short amount of time. Chilled, the oil will become cloudy and semi-solid. It will liquefy and turn clear again after a few minutes at room temperature.
This is a bottled product that is made up simply of finely chopped olives and olive oil. It is convenient for sauces or as a spread for crostini. There are both black and green versions, and some can be rather strong. Olive paste keeps well for a long time in the refrigerator if covered with a layer of olive oil.
Both black and green cured olives are eaten in Italy, and they are frequently used in cooking. Green Sicilian olives are cracked before curing and are often flavored with garlic, fennel, or chile. Black olives are either brine- or oil-cured. Gaeta olives are brownish black, round, and meaty. Wrinkled, glossy black oil-cured olives have a chocolaty, bitter flavor. Ligurian olives are small and black. Large green or black Cerignola olives come from Puglia and are rather bland.
It is not always easy to tell where olives originate, so just be sure to use a flavorful olive. Olives should be whole (assuming they are not the type that are cracked open in processing), firm, and meaty, without discolorations. Store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
An easy way to pit olives is to place them on a flat surface, lay the side of a large knife blade on top facing away from you, and smack the blade with the heel of your hand. The olives will break open and the pits can be removed.
This is the cured but not smoked Italian version of bacon. The meat comes from the belly, or pancia, of the pig; it is cured with salt and spices, rolled up pinwheel fashion, and wrapped in a casing. Sliced pancetta can be eaten as is or used to wrap small birds or other foods to keep them moist as they cook. Chopped pancetta is used to flavor soups, sauces, stews, and many other dishes. Sliced pancetta freezes well and in fact is easier to chop when it is partially frozen.
There is nothing quite like the flavor of vine-ripened fresh tomatoes at the height of the summer, but since their season is short, we must rely on canned tomatoes for stews and sauces much of the year. Good canned tomatoes are far better than out-of-season fresh for cooking. Italians use canned tomatoes all the time. Try several brands of plum or pear-shaped tomatoes. Avoid those that are packed in thick, sweetened puree or that are hard and greenish, indicating that they are underripe.
At one time the designation San Marzano was an indication that the tomatoes were of high quality and grown and packed in the small town of that name near Naples. The laws have been changed, and this is no longer a reliable indicator.
When you want a fresh tomato flavor and texture outside of the summer season, you often use grape or cherry tomatoes, which can be quite good even in the dead of winter.
Tomato paste is useful for bolstering tomato flavors in sauces, soups, and stews. Use the kind sold in tubes like toothpaste. Not only does it have a sweet and less metallic flavor than do some canned tomato pastes, it is also easy to use in small amounts and then recapped and stored.
Red and white wine vinegars and balsamic vinegar are the varieties typically used in Italy. Though very popular, balsamic vinegar should not be used as an all-purpose substitute for wine vinegar, since it is quite sweet.
The finest-quality balsamico, made in Modena, is labelled "tradizionale" and comes in a unique round bottle with a square base. It bears a sticker that certifies it as genuine, aged balsamico made in the traditional way. The production involves many years of aging in various types of wood barrels. Costly and rare, fine balsamico is meant to be used as a condiment. A drop or two may be dribbled on cheese or grilled meat. It lifts the flavor of berries and is so thick and luscious it can even be drizzled on ice cream.
Less aged, and less costly, balsamic vinegar does exist. Find a store in your area that will let you sample some before you buy it.
Supermarket balsamic ranges from harsh and artificial-tasting to perfectly acceptable for salads, marinades, and everyday use. One brand you like is Lucini, which is widely available.
Wine For Cooking
Wine is frequently used for cooking in the Italian kitchen. you have often read that one should use the same wine she or he will serve with the meal to cook with, but you do not necessarily agree. Fine wines are too delicate to pour into the pot. An ordinary table wine is ideal for most cooking purposes. Look for a wine that will not overwhelm the other ingredients and that you find enjoyable to drink. Avoid cooking with wine that has pronounced oak or fruit flavors. Try to use an Italian wine for the most authentic flavor.
Bottles labeled "cooking wine" should never be used, as these are poor-quality wines adulterated with sugar and salt to make them salable in food stores.
Fine equipment does a better job and lasts longer, so in the end, it is more economical.
Start with a few basic pots and pans made from heavy-gauge stainless steel, such as a 6-quart pot for cooking pasta, soup, and vegetables. You will need small, medium, and large saucepans, and a heavy Dutch oven for stews and braises. Nonstick skillets are good for frying and sautéing. Be sure to get one 12 inches wide—large enough to hold a pound of pasta and its sauce.
There are many excellent brands of cookware made nowadays, but be careful about buying restaurant-grade equipment unless you have a restaurant range. The average household stove does not have burners large enough or heat output strong enough for some restaurant pots and pans, and while they are durable, they can be bulky and cumbersome.
You will also need small and large roasting pans, and baking dishes. The two sizes you find most useful are 13 × 9 × 2 inches and 9 inches square.
For baking cakes, tarts, and cookies, get a sturdy springform pan, two layer cake pans, a tart pan with a removable base, and at least two large heavy cookie sheets, as well as large racks for cooling baked foods.
Good knives are essential for anyone who spends time in the kitchen. They will make most of your chores easier and more enjoyable and are actually safer to use. Fine knives are not inexpensive, but they are a good investment. The three knives that Use the most are your large heavy chef's knife, a boning knife, and paring knives. A long sharp carving knife and fork are useful for slicing roasts and the like. Get a sharpening steel to keep them honed and learn how to use it. A serrated bread knife does a good job on crisp breads and cakes.
A portable hand-held mixer is useful for whipping eggs and heavy cream and for mixing most cakes. However, if you bake a lot and make pasta and bread, a heavy-duty stand mixer is invaluable. The pasta-making attachment makes quick work of a batch of pasta dough. An extra bowl and beaters makes it easy to prepare cake batter in one bowl and whip egg whites in another without stopping to wash out the bowl.
No Italian kitchen would be complete without a food mill, a hand-cranked device used to puree foods while straining out hard seeds, tough skins, or other debris. While a processor or blender can be used for many of the same functions, neither one will separate out unwanted bits. Use a food mill to make light, fluffy mashed potatoes, smooth tomato puree, fruit sauces, vegetable soups, and baby food. A food mill is inexpensive and easy to maintain. Look for one made of stainless steel with removable disks.
A food processor is handy for chopping large quantites, shredding, grating, and making sauces and creamy soups. With the blade attachment, you can slice foods paper-thin for salads. It also does a good job of kneading bread and pasta dough.
You don't need a machine to make fresh pasta, but it is helpful. The best kind to buy is imported from Italy, made of metal and either hand-cranked or electrified. It consists of two rollers that adjust from wide apart to close together, kneading and thinning the dough. Other than the fettuccine cutter, you probably won't use the various cutting attachments, so don't bother to buy them.
Never wash a pasta machine, as residual moisture can damage the works or cause the dough to stick. When you are finished using it, just wipe it with a dry cloth and remove any particles of pasta dough. Store it in a dry place (loosely covered—to prevent it from getting dusty).
A pizza cutter is useful not only for cutting up pizza, but also for cutting out pasta dough, pastry, and cookies. Look for a heavy cutter with a large wheel.
A long rolling pin is ideal for rolling out pasta dough as well as pastry. Look for a long wooden pin that does not taper at the ends. The slight graininess of the wood helps to grip the dough and gives it a subtle texture. A plain straight pin is better than the roller type pin with ball bearings because you have more control.
The word antipasto comes from Latin and means "before the meal." In the strictest sense, an antipasto is a little something extra as a starter. It is a small snack meant to awaken the appetite, not to satisfy it.
In Italy, unless it is a special occasion, home-cooked meals rarely start with an antipasto, though restaurant meals often do. Antipasto dishes also vary a lot by region. In the north, especially in the Piedmont, a long succession of antipasto dishes are served one at a time at formal dinners. The classic antipasto in Tuscany is crostini (toasted bread) with chicken livers and a few slices of salami such as finocchiona, a regional specialty made with ground pork and flavored with fennel seeds. In southern Italy, antipasti are simpler, often just a few slices of dried sausage or prosciutto, pickled vegetables, and olives.
When you have company, you often serve an antipasto. Olives, sliced salumi (a collective word for cold cuts), and cut up raw vegetables are the easiest antipasto, and a nice way to welcome guests as they gather. More elaborate dishes can serve as a first course, and a group of antipasti can form the basis for a buffet meal.
Antipasto dishes can be served hot, room temperature, or cold. With the exception of dried sausages and cured meats like salame, prosciutto, or mortadella, meat is used sparingly, usually ground or chopped as a vegetable stuffing. Though shellfish is often offered as an antipasto, whole fish is usually not, except for tiny fish such as anchovies or whitebait.
From the vegetable chapters, fried artichokes or cauliflower, any of the stuffed or grilled vegetables, and salads are always good choices. Many of the sautéed vegetable dishes are good as starters, served warm or at room temperature.
Slices of focaccia or olive- or cheese-flavored breads are good companions for vegetable antipasti. Pasta salads are rarely seen in Italy, but Italians do serve rice salads frequently as part of an antipasto assortment. Cold seafood salads are popular, as are stuffed shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and oysters.
An Antipasto Platter
An assortment of antipasti is a great way to start a casual meal or a special dinner. Platters of sliced meats, cheeses, and preserved vegetables decoratively arranged are great for parties. Use your imagination to place the ingredients so that the colors and shapes complement one another. For best flavor, the ingredients should be at room temperature or just slightly chilled.
Here are some suggestions for a typical antipasto assortment. Serve accompanied by crunchy breadsticks and crusty Italian bread or focaccia.
Serve one or two slices per person of three of the following meats. Fold or roll up the slices for easier serving.
mortadella: a specialty of Emilia-Romagna; large, mildly spiced smooth-textured pork sausage, with chunks of fat and sometimes pistachios.
prosciutto: from all over Italy (the best-known here is from Parma or San Daniele in Friuli– Venezia Giulia); a whole pork leg cured with salt.
capocollo: from all over Italy; cured pork shoulder, can be either mild or spiced with hot pepper.
salami: from all over Italy; usually ground pork, though other meats may be used, with various spices and seasonings including black peppercorns, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, wine. There are many different varieties.
sopressata: from all over Italy; a large, wide salame made of coarsely ground lean pork and pork fat, flavored with black peppercorns, or crushed red pepper, salt, and red wine.
pepperoni: in North America, a long, thin dried sausage made of coarsely ground pork with either black peppercorns or crushed red pepper. In Italy, the word peperoni means bell peppers, not a dried hot sausage.
Serve one wedge of one variety of cheese. Buy cheeses in large chunks and cut them into wedges for serving. Look for aged cheeses imported from Italy.
provolone: from all over Italy. Do not use the bland, sliced variety. Imported provolone is sharp and slightly smoky-flavored.
young pecorino: mostly from central and southern Italy; semifirm and mild to sharp in flavor, depending on the variety and origin.
fresh or smoked mozzarella: mild, soft and creamy; can be either salted or unsalted. Fresh mozzarella should be very moist and eaten the same day that it is made. Smoked mozzarella is drier, with smoky flavor and firmer texture.
ricotta salata: a pressed and salted version of ricotta, mild, firm, and crumbly.
Pickles and vegetables
One or two varieties of the following preserved vegetables should be sufficient.
marinated artichokes, mushrooms, or dried tomatoes.
hot or mild vinegar peppers or peperoncini.
giardiniera: mixed pickled vegetables.
Decorate the platter with anchovy fillets, sliced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce or radicchio, and carrot and celery sticks.
Italian wines are recognized as some of the world's finest and are widely available in the United States. you have always found that they are the best complement to Italian food.
Choosing wine need not be complicated. The best way to discover wines that you like is to find a wine store with a large selection and a knowledgeable staff. Tell the staff what you plan to eat and ask for recommendations.
Probably the most important thing you can to do is keep a notebook, recording the wines you have tried, what you served them with, and how you liked them. It is all too easy to forget the name of a wine, no matter how much you liked it. Telling the sales clerk you want the red wine with the green label may or may not be helpful the next time you want to buy a bottle. Many high-quality stores keep computerized records of customers' purchases, and for this service they are worth patronizing.
Generally speaking, light- to medium-bodied wines go well with lighter foods, and richer, heavier dishes are complemented by more complex and more flavorful wines. White wines are usually the best choice with fish, while red wines go with meats. Dry wines are typically a better choice with savory foods, while sweet wines are best for dessert. But there are exceptions to these guidelines, so don't hesitate to experiment if you are so inclined. Your personal taste should be the deciding factor and is really all that matters.
The temperature of the wine is important. Icy cold can mask a white wine's flavor, while too high a temperature may make reds seem heavy and dull. White wine should be chilled to about 45°F, while reds are best at cool room temperature, about 65°F. Dessert wines that are not sparkling are usually drunk at about the same temperature as red wines, or slightly chilled, while both sweet and dry sparkling wines should be served cold, at about 45°F.
Wine that is dry is not sweet, though it may have pleasant floral or fruit flavors, depending on the type of grapes used and how they are vinified. Dry wines are often sold as table wines, because they are meant to accompany meals, as opposed to sweet or dessert wines, which are served after a meal.
Wine is often drunk with meals in Italian homes, and it is a simple matter to use some of the same wine for cooking. Wines are made in every region of Italy, and most Italians prefer to drink wines from their region on a day-to-day basis. While you would not use your finest aged wines for cooking, because their flavors may be too delicate—and because they may be very expensive—neither would Use a wine that you do not enjoy drinking. Any of the light- to medium-bodied table wines listed here would be ideal for cooking and drinking. Medium- to full-bodied wines are more flavorful and can be used in spicier, heartier preparations.
Marsala, a dark brownish red wine with a rich, nutlike flavor, is often used in cooking. Both dry and sweet varieties are available. Typically, sweet Marsala is used for desserts and dry for savory dishes, though you have sometimes substituted one for the other without any problem.
Below are some of the Italian wines that you enjoy from some of the country's most reliable producers. you have categorized these wines according to their body, or weight. Keep in mind that each producer has his or her own style and that many will have several styles of the same wine. Regional differences, vintage (the year the wine was made), and age will influence the wine too.
Serve at 45°F.
Serve dry sparkling wines before a meal with appetizers or throughout the meal. They should be served chilled.
Name - Region - Producer
Prosecco - Veneto - Nino Franco, Aneri, Capene Malvolti
Spumante - Trentino, Lombardy - Ferrari, Bellavista, Berlucchi, Ca' del Bosco
Serve at 45°F.
Light- to Medium-Bodied White Wines
Serve these wines as aperitifs instead of cocktails, or with delicate dishes such as scallops and other seafood and white fish.
Name - Region - Producer
Albana di Romagna - Emilia-Romagna - Fattoria Paradiso, Uberto Cesari Tre Monti
Arneis - Piedmont - Vietti, Bruno Giacosa, Ceretto
Frascati - Lazio - Fontana Candida, Villa Simone, Castel de Paolis
Orvieto - Umbria - Tenuta Le Velette, Bigi
Pinot Bianco - Trentino–Alto Adige - De Tarczal, Peter Zimmer, Josef Brigl
Pinot Grigio - Friuli–Venezia Giulia - Livio Felluga, Schiopetto, Vincentini Orgnani
Verdicchio - Le Marche - Gioacchino Garofoli, Filli Bucci, Fazi Battaglia
Medium- to Full-Bodied White Wines
Serve these wines with fish in rich butter or cream sauces, pasta with fish or vegetables, and goat cheeses.
Name: Region: Producer
Fiano di Avellino - Campania - Mastroberardino, Terra Dora di Paola, Cantina Caputo
Gavi - Piedmont - La Scolca, Banfi, La Zerba
Greco di Tufo - Campania - Feudi di San Gregorio, Mastroberardino, Cantina Caputo
Sauvignon Blanc - Friuli–Venezia Giulia - Ascevi, St. Michael–Eppan, Puiatti Alto Adige
Soave - Veneto - Pieropan, Guerreri Rizzardi, Inama
Tocai - Friuli–Venezia Giulia - Mario Schiopetto, Ronco di Tassi, Venica & Venica
Trebbiano - Abruzzo - Edoardo Valentini, Dino Illuminati, Gianni Masciarelli
Vermentino - Sardinia - Tenuta Sella & Mosca, Cantina di Dolianova, Antonio Argiolas
Vernaccia - Tuscany - Teruzzi & Puthod, Famiglia Cecchi
Serve at 65°F.
Light- to Medium-Bodied Red Wines
Serve these with chicken, veal, grilled beef, and some dark meaty fish like tuna or swordfish.
Name - Region - Producer
Barbera - Piedmont - Vietti, Carlo Benotto, Cascina Castlet
Bardolino, Veneto, Bolla, Chianti - Tuscany - Monsanto, Vitticio, Ruffino, Travignoli, Antinori, Buondonno
Dolcetto - Piedmont - Vietti, Poderi Marcarini, Renato Ratti
Rubesco, Umbria, Lungarotti, Valpolicella - Veneto - Allegrini, Masi, Bertani
Medium- to Full-Bodied Red Wines
These go well with stews and roasts, game, pork, and lamb.
Name - Region - Producer
Aglianico del Vulture - Basilicata - Paternoster, D'Angelo, Sasso
Amarone - Veneto - Tommasi, Masi, Allegrini
Barbaresco - Piedmont - Pio Cesare, Produttori del Barbaresco, Marchesi di Gresy
Barolo - Piedmont - Vietti, Borgogno, Poderi Marcarini, Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio
Brunello - Tuscany - Castello Banfi, Castelgiocondo, Mastrojanni, Poggio Antico
Carmignano - Tuscany - Capezzano, Fattoria Ambra, Artimino
Colle Picchioni - Lazio - Paola di Mauro, Vigna del Vassallo
Merlot - Umbria, Sicily, Tuscany - Castello delle Regine, Planeta, Avigonesi
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - Abruzzo - Edoardo Valentini, Dino Illuminati, Bruno Nicodemi, Tenuta Cataldi Madonna
Nero d'Avola - Sicily - Morgante, Planeta, Benanti
Primitivo di Manduria - Puglia - Savese, Coppi, Cantina Sociale Locorotondo
Salice Salentino - Puglia - Agricole Vallone, Cosimo Taurino, Conti Zecca
Sagrantino - Umbria - Terre di Trinci, Rocco di Fabbri, Antonelli–San Marco
Sangiovese - Umbria, Tuscany, - Castello delle Regine, Carobbio, Fattoria Paradiso, Emilia-Romagna
Taurasi - Campania - Mastroberardino, Feudi di San Gregorio, Terredora di Paolo
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Tuscany - Avignonesi, Salcheto, Poliziano, Tenuta Il Faggeto
Sparkling Dessert Wines
These are low in alcohol and should be served well chilled, about 45°F. Serve with fruit, creamy desserts, or pastry.
Name - Region - Producer
Asti Spumante - Piedmont - Fontanafredda, Contratto, Cinzano
Moscato d'Asti - Piedmont - Vietti, Cascina Castlet, Santo Stefano
Rich Dessert Wines
Serve with biscotti, plain fruit and nut cakes, with cheese, or as dessert by themselves. Serve at 65°F.
Name - Region - Producer
Marsala - Sicily - Florio, Rallo, De Bartoli
Picolit - Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Livio Felluga, Furlan, Dorigo
Vin Santo - Tuscany, Umbria - Antinori, Lungarotti, Travignoli, Avignonesi
Glossary of Italian Cuisine
anything cooked with tomatoes, garlic, and oregano
crisp Italian macaroons made with bitter almond
fried rice balls with meat or other filling
a variety of medium-grain rice from Piedmont used for making risotto
balsamico or balsamic vinegar
Italian vinegar made from cooked trebbiano grape must; the best labelled tradizionale and aged many years in barrels made with various types of wood
literally "twice cooked," though it refers to all kinds of cookies
thick-cut grilled porterhouse steak prepared in the Florentine style
mixed boiled meats served with various sauces, a specialty of northern Italy
preserved roe of tuna or mullet that is either pressed and sealed in wax or dried and sold ground or in flakes; the best being pressed bottarga from Sardinia
thin slice of meat, usually stuffed, rolled, and cooked in tomato sauce
grilled or toasted bread rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil or topped with tomato salad
Sicilian cow's milk cheese similar to provolone
literally "big sock"; pizza dough folded around a filling and baked or fried
the tiny unopened buds of the caper flower, a wild plant that grows all over the Mediterranean, typically sold in salt or in vinegar
Italian goat cheese
a medium-grain rice preferred by many cooks for making risotto
thin slices of raw veal or beef, served cold with a pink sauce; also, by association, thin slices of vegetables and fresh or smoked fish, served cold with a dressing
Sicilian cake layered with ricotta cream
a large, preserved sausage, often served with lentils or mashed potatoes
a sweet or savory tart
toasted bread topped with cheese, vegetables, pâté, etc., usually served as an appetizer
diavolicchi, also known as diavolilli
literally "little devils"; tiny dried hot chilies
dolci di cucchiaio
desserts such as custards, puddings, etc., that are eaten with a spoon
a bar or store with a large selection of wines
an ancient grain similar to wheat, spelt, and emmer, eaten whole in salads or soups or ground into flour
ground dried fennel used to season pork and other meats in Tuscany
narrow ribbons of fresh or dried egg pasta
fettuccine di frittata
"noodles" made from cooked eggs
Tuscan salame flavored with fennel seeds
flatbread seasoned with olive oil and salt; can also be baked with herbs, olives, onions, tomatoes, etc.
Fontina Valle d'Aosta
creamy, semifirm cow's milk cheese that melts beautifully; good for cooking and eating
fragoline del bosco
tiny Alpine strawberries
hard black pepper-flavored biscuits to soak and serve as a base for stews or salad
mixed pickled vegetables often sold in jars
blue-veined cheese from Lombardy used for cooking and eating
dumplings eaten with a sauce or in broth, most often made with potatoes, but also with bread, squash, or other ingredients
a crumbly cheese suitable for grating
granita di caffè
coffee ice dessert
a type of cow's milk grana cheese
spirits made from distilled grape seeds, skins, and pulp left after the juice has been pressed out for wine
small stuffed meat rolls
lenticchie di Castelluccio
tiny, flavorful lentils from Umbria
long, thin, fresh sausages
baked crepes or pasta tubes with a cheese filling
creamy, soft, and mild cheese from Lombardy used for pasta and desserts
cow's milk cheese from Friuli–Venezia Giulia, mild when young and sharp when aged
large cured pork sausage made with finely ground spiced meat
fruits preserved in mustard syrup
grape juice cooked to form a thick dark syrup, used to flavor desserts
semifirm cheese from Campania made with either cow's milk or water-buffalo's milk
a popular jarred chocolate hazelnut spread, which is the equivalent of peanut butter for Italian children
gilt head bream
barley in Italy, though a small, seed-shaped pasta in the United States
barley cooked like risotto
an informal Italian restaurant
a type of wild mushroom
unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork belly seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes spices, tightly rolled and cured in salt
pan di Spagna
pane a cassetta
sliced white bread
a yeast risen cake with dried fruits originally from Milan, but now eaten all over Italy especially at Christmas
an informal restaurant that features sandwiches
either a round roll or a sandwich made on such a roll
literally "cooked cream"; gelled heavy cream usually served with a fruit or chocolate sauce
a partially skimmed cow's milk cheese made exclusively around the cities of Reggio-Emilia and Parma, aged about 18 months, used for both cooking and eating
literally "paste"; it can refer to any type of dough or foods made from dough, including noodles, dumplings, and pastries
any cheese made from sheep's milk, typically from Tuscany, Umbria, or southern Italy, excellent for eating when young and semifirm; used for grating when older.
firm aged sheep's milk cheese made around Rome and in Sardinia
any type of small fresh or dried chile
any type of dark-fleshed fish
any type of sauce made with mashed ingredients; basil pesto is the best known
a flatbread from Emilia-Romagna
pizza dough baked with olive oil, cheese, or other toppings, but no tomatoes
cake or sweet bread
lacy wafer cookie
white or yellow corn meal mush, served soft like mashed potatoes or sliced, then grilled or fried
whole roast pig cooked with herbs and garlic
meaty wild mushrooms
cured unsmoked Italian ham
piquant firm cow's milk cheese originally from Sicily
pale green and white shoots of Catalan chicory, a favorite Roman salad green in springtime, served with anchovy and garlic dressing
meat sauce for pasta
one of several names for broccoli rabe
Tuscan bread and vegetable soup
soft fresh cheese made from sheep's or cow's milk, used for pasta and desserts
rice cooked and stirred with broth and flavorings until creamy
risotto al salto
crisp risotto pancake
a soft fresh cheese from Piedmont usually made from cow's milk, though sometimes blended with sheep's or goat's milk
small stuffed meat rolls, usually cooked in a sauce
ground meat cured with salt and spices shaped like a sausage
white sauce made from milk, flour, and butter
collective name for salame, prosciutto, mortadella, and other cured meats
a small, thin slice of meat. A cutlet
Sicilian onion and anchovy thick-crust pizza
Neapolitan pastry filled with ricotta, semolina, and orange zest
a flavoring base, usually made with onions, celery, peppers, and meat sautéed in oil
a type of salame
anything cooked on a skewer
dried salt cod
very thin fresh egg pasta ribbons
fresh pasta ribbons similar to fettuccine
an aromatic, flavorful soft cow's milk cheese from Lombardy
round sweet or savory biscuits from southern Italy
either nougat or hard caramel candy made with nuts or sesame seeds
a sweet or savory layered cake or other dessert
thin Roman sandwich made on white bread with crusts removed
truffles, black or white varieties of a mushroom family, rare and very expensive, that grow underground near tree roots, especially in Piedmont and Umbria, and are located for harvesting by specially trained dogs
ventresca di tonno
tuna belly preserved in olive oil
a variety of medium-grain rice used for making risotto
small hard-shell clams
whipped egg custard flavored with sugar and wine, served as a dessert or sauce
sausage stuffed pig's foot
yeast raised donuts