5 Expert Tips on Being an Authentic Italian Cook
You know when you get that craving for Italian food. One where no other type of cuisine will suffice. Whether it’s a simple pasta dish or a big old pizza pie, there’s nothing better than a hearty, homemade Italian dish. But, have you ever wondered why it tastes so good? And, what can you do to get that authentic Italian taste at home? Check out our top tips to become an expert, authentic Italian cook at home below.
1. Utilize the Fresh Quality Ingredients
This is not the time to skimp. At its best, Italian food is simple so the flavor of the main ingredient is key. Look for the freshest seasonal ingredients you can find. Try visiting your local farmer’s markets or specialty grocers for in-season fruits and veggies. Get to know your local butcher and fishmonger for the best and freshest cuts of meat and fish.
2. Use Herbs and Spices
Don’t be afraid to use varied herbs and spices. Italian cooks use them to help to enhance the flavor of a dish. Here also, fresh is best particularly with flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, sage, and basil. (Don’t forget the garlic either!) Also, Italian chefs are known to constantly taste their dishes so they can adjust the seasonings as they go.
3. Learn to Make a Soffritto
Soffritto, like the French Mirepoix, is the main flavor base of many Italian dishes. Sometimes called “the holy trinity”, it’s composed of diced onions, celery, and carrots sautéed in olive oil or butter. All in all, if you can master this flavor profile, you are well on your way to becoming one heck of an Italian cook. Pro tip: adding a pinch of salt helps to release the liquid in the onions. Also, keep in mind, soffritto needs to be constantly watched and stirred to prevent burning.
4. Cook your Pasta Correctly
Pasta requires a lot of water, so be sure to use a large pot to cook your pasta noodles. When the water comes to a boil, add enough salt to make it taste like seawater. It may seem like a lot of salt, but this is your first chance to season the pasta. Then, add your pasta to the rapidly boiling water and stir immediately. Cook it one to two minutes less than the package says to get that “al-dente” texture. Make sure to scoop out a good cup full of the pasta water before you drain it. Finally, adding a little of the boiled water back to the finished dish can help the sauce thicken and “marry” to the pasta.
5. Use the Right Cookware
Avoid non-stick pans. Italian food prepared in a non-stick pan doesn’t produce that tasty caramelization in the bottom. Stainless steel, copper, or ceramic-lined stainless pots and pans work best. Also, consider which pan or pot to use. For slow cooking dishes like meat ragu and stews, earthenware pots work well because they distribute the heat evenly. On the other hand, a large cylindrical pot is best for pasta. The water returns quickly to a boil after adding the pasta, thus preventing it from sticking together. Finally, for braising meats or vegetables, a sauté pan is a good choice because of its depth and curved sides.
These are just a few of the tricks of the trade to help you cook like a true Italian. So, grab a glass of Chianti, put on some opera, and channel your inner Giada or Emeril. Of course, if you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, Spizzico always has your back. Visit our locations in Edgewater and Arnold, and check out our full menu here.