Italian Food Tips: Always Choose Fresh Ingredients

Italian food is beloved by many. Italy is constantly chosen as a vacation destination due to its culinary majesty, and pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagne, fettuccine alfredo (among many others), have become staples on the menu of many households. There’s nothing like a seamlessly blended tomato sauce or a pizza that gets all the elements just right. However, there is a technique to perfecting the Italian cuisine, and it starts with fresh ingredients. Fresh ingredients help make any dish delicious, but are even more important when cooking Italian food. The below tips will help ensure that your next dish leaves those at the table saying “Prego!”

1.  So much of this genre of food is dependent on tomatoes- so it’s essential that the tomatoes you use (whether it be for the sauce, or your caprese salad) are ripe and juicy. The texture of the necessary tomatoes will differ based on your requirements. For example, a sauce can utilize tomatoes that are softer, where salads usually do best with tomatoes that have a bit more strength to them. The texture of the tomato is just as important as its color, and the smell of the tomato is also good to take into account when choosing your ideal candidates.

2. Another of the magical ingredients so characteristic of Italian dishes is garlic. Garlic makes the world of Italian food go round and round again. It can be our best friend, or our worst enemy (especially the morning after indulgence). Garlic can be key to a great dish, or one that turns you and those who eat it into fire-breathing dragons. Using good, fresh garlic is an easy step to take that will set you on the right track to a successful Italian meal. When selecting your garlic, look for large, clean bulbs with the skin still intact.

Before using your garlic, ensure any additional sprouts are removed as these can inhibit the flavor. Don’t refrigerate your garlic and store in a dry place where the bulbs will get plenty of air. Buying garlic that has already been minced or processed is not as flavoured and certainly nowhere near as fresh. Getting garlic you peel and crush/dice/slice/etc yourself is an easy task that will go a long way for pleasing your palette.

3. Ahhh, to complete the perfect Italian trifecta, we have Basil. Basil contributes flawlessly to the garlic and tomato flavors, creating a perfect harmony for your taste buds. As with all the previous ingredients, fresh is the only way to go! Basil comes in a green leafy form, and smells sensational (if it’s good). To make sure the basil is worthy of your plate, select leaves that are uniformly green, the brighter and richer, the better. Basil should look fresh and healthy- and use your nose to ensure it smells earthy and sweet. The smell of basil is one of the best things about cooking with the herb, so to deny yourself fresh basil would be denying yourself an afternoon or evening of aromatic bliss.

4. Italian dishes wouldn’t be what they are if it wasn’t for our friend and foe: cheese. Cheese is so delicious, but we all know it’s not the best for our waistline. Extending itself in a variety of flavors, textures, and colors, the powers of cheese often seem endless. However, for Italian food, you will most likely be using mozzarella or parmesan. Mozzarella is the standard cheese for pizzas and other staples, though it can be so much more than “standard” if the chef chooses. Grated mozzarella is still delicious, but for the true authentic feeling and look, fresh mozzarella should be incorporated. Fresh mozzarella is moist and is packaged in water to keep it soft. Many people believe the best kind of mozzarella is buffalo mozzarella, made with buffalo milk. For those of us that don’t want to spend too much (as buffalo mozzarella is usually pricy) cow’s milk mozzarella will do just fine. Go to your local deli and ask for the creamiest fresh mozzarella they have- you won’t regret it. Don’t skimp on the parmesan either- get a good, fragrant block of this cheese and freshly grate it to add instant flavor to your dish.

5. Wine also adds to the scrumptiousness of your Italian meal. Though wine is not necessarily better when it’s fresher (in fact, it’s usually the opposite!) find a wine that complements what you’re serving. It’s a perfect way to wash down a delectable bite!