If you cook a lot of Italian foods, you may already know this essential ingredients list by heart. But when I first started getting serious about cooking I ran across a helpful list of “must haves”.
I don’t have that list anymore, it may have been from a magazine or perhaps another Italian website. However I thought I would take the time to write up a new list for people who are a bit like I was, needing some basic guidance.
To this day, these are the 4 things I look for nearly every time I shop because I’m always using them. That is who these 4 items made it onto my Top 4 List.
Note this is plural. I recommend having both regular pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Use first cold pressed if you can for the extra virgin, it has less acidity and more flavor.
Use the regular olive for frying, such as in making chicken picatta or cutlets. You can use this kind of oil for basting or for general baking needs.
Use the extra virgin olive oil for salads such as garden salads or antipastos. Use it in chicken recipes or for sauteing. Basically, if you are looking for the olive oil to add flavor, use the extra virgin. I rarely use pure regular olive for anymore. Extra virgin is what I nearly always use.
Buy more than one head of garlic at a time. I buy at least 4 or 5 and that will last me perhaps 2 weeks if even that. We eat a lot of garlic! Two weeks ago at Costco, we purchased a nice 3 lb. bag of garlic and it was great! I could roast whole heads of garlic without worrying about how much I’d have left for the next meal.
One thing to check, is try to buy garlic from the U.S. Many times it can be from China and as a result the garlic can be older and less fresh. Besides, I love supporting American farmers whenever possible.
Onion is so versatile. I use them all the time in pasta sauces, roasts, stews, soups (chicken soup comes to mind), salads – you name it. I typically buy yellow onions unless a recipe calls for another specific kind. Make sure to store your onion in a dry location. To help keep the onion storage area clean and neat, I like to remove any loose layers so I have a nice smooth surface, just like the picture on the left.
Grow this herb if you can, it will serve you well. Otherwise you can get it about a dollar a bunch. At our grocery store the organic parsley is the same price as nonorganic. Go figure. So check it out. I personally notice a brighter and more bite to the organic parsley. For those who say that is rubbish, do your own taste test. I have and I stand by it in regards to parsley.
Summer Must Have: Fresh Basil
Ok, this makes it 5, but it is a seasonal item. A definite summer herb you must try and grow or buy at the store. Fresh basil just can’t be beat and since it is seasonal, it really is a treat to have when you need it. Sometimes we eat it plain just as a breath freshener when walking buy it.
Add it to sauces, pastas, salads and many other dishes. I’ve made simple meals or lunches by combining pasta with some olive oil, basil and cheese. I mix it well and serve it up in some nice decorative Tuscan pasta bowls (if they aren’t still in the dishwasher from my last meal!) Simple but so tasty!
There you have it. 4 essential items you must have for some basic and practical Italian cooking.
Now all you need are some simple recipes to use these ingredients. Check out my recipe box here.