Italian food is a trendy and delicious cuisine, leading many people to wonder how they can cook it at home. If you are looking to cook Italian food at home, here are seven principles to help you enjoy fresh and delicious Italian meals without going out to a restaurant.
Get better produce.
We hate to break it to you, but the produce at your local grocery store probably is not very fresh or flavorful. This is unfortunate because Italian cooking relies on fresh produce that brings a lot of flavor to the table on its own. For best results, we recommend shopping at your local farmers’ market or joining a food co-op to get local produce shortly after it has been picked. If you have room at home, you can also try growing your vegetables in your backyard or in containers on your porch or inside the house. Herbs, tomatoes, and peppers are all popular options for beginner gardeners and also feature prominently in Italian cooking, making them a great place to start.
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Choose seasonal foods.
Another significant aspect of Italian cooking — and all Mediterranean cuisine — is cooking with whatever is in season. With the advent of the modern global grocery store supply chain, you can buy pretty much any product at any time of year, but it will probably take a long time to get to you and will not be that fresh. Instead, plan your recipes around whatever is in season locally in your region. If you live in an area closer to the poles with a short growing season, you may still have to buy out-of-season produce in the grocery store during the winter, but try to limit that to get the whole Italian cooking experience.
Elevate your pantry staples.
Like the produce, Italian cooking is also based on pantry staples with many flavors. We are talking extra virgin olive oil, deliciously flavored kinds of vinegar, and honey straight from the hive. These high-quality pantry staples will cost more, but you can also use less because the flavor is more intense. You might be surprised how much this small switch can level up your cooking and make your at-home Italian food more flavorful. If you have been using cheap oils and vinegar that barely taste anything, it is time to toss them and upgrade your pantry game.
Perfect your pasta cooking.
If you think you could never mess up cooking pasta because it is so darn simple, we regretfully inform you that it is possible to cook it wrong. Because it is so simple, any mistakes you make will be glaring — especially if you are making a recipe such as cacio e Pepe, where the pasta is the real star of the dish. Practice making pasta until you can nail it every time, and remember that each type of pasta needs a slightly different cook to get that perfect al dente texture. Once you have perfected your pasta cooking skills, you can move on to making it from scratch, which is not as difficult as you might think, and another essential component of cooking Italian food at home.
Make your tomato sauce.
Why go to the trouble of making your tomato sauce from scratch when you can buy the premade stuff at the grocery store for a couple of dollars, you ask? At the risk of sounding like a cooking snob, we hate to inform you that the jarred stuff is not that good. It has been sitting on a shelf for ages; most sauces are loaded with sugars and other additives that reduce both the flavor and the health benefits. Making your tomato sauce from fresh ingredients does take extra work, but the delicious taste will blow you away, and you might find it hard even to go back to the jarred or canned stuff again.
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Start with soup.
Soup is a big part of the Italian diet, not to mention the perfect way to use up vegetables about to go off and other pantry odds and ends that you are trying to get rid of. Many classic Italian soups are easy to make, including ribollita and minestrone. Try following recipes to start, but once you feel more confident in how to make soup, do not be afraid to improvise based on what you have on hand. Keep in mind that if you are adding pasta or another grain to the soup, it will soak up the broth and might not keep well overnight. It is usually best to add the pasta right before serving.
Switch up your proteins.
Italian cooking features many classic proteins we know and love, such as homemade meatballs and braised lamb. But did you know that fish and cured meats are the main protein staples of the Italian diet? If you do not typically cook with fish and cured meat and want to cook authentic Italian food, you should branch out and experiment with these proteins. If you do not feel ready to jump straight into anchovies, try something less intimidating, such as cod with lemon olive oil, and then work your way up.
Cooking great Italian food at home is possible. It just takes a little preparation. Follow these tips to cook better Italian food at home, whether you are a beginning chef or a talented home cook.