Italian food is hugely popular and undeniably delicious, and there seems to be an Italian restaurant on every corner of every city. However, if you’ve been to Italy you can probably tell the difference it makes having your Italian food cooked by a native Italian.

That’s because there are a few golden cooking rules that Italians follow when cooking their meals.

So, whether you’re looking to cook a Spaghetti Alla Carbonara or a Risotto Alla Milanese, use our 10 handy Italian cooking tips below in the kitchen and you’ll soon be able to cook Italian food like an Italian!

Top 10 Italian Cooking Tips

Top 10 Italian Cooking Tips

Less Is More

Overloading dishes is not part of the Italian cooking mantra. Italians like to keep their dishes simple and straight to the point. Adding too many seasonings or extra ingredients can really ruin a meal, so why not lay off the spices and let the main, fresh, seasonal ingredients take the floor?

Also, it goes without saying that when you are adding a little herb and spice to your meal, you should be able to taste the meal and not just the herbs!

Source Quality Ingredients

The Italians find quality ingredients to be the key elements that make up a successful dish. The simplicity of meals means that the main ingredients need to be really fresh and tasty, as they’re not going to be covered up by other ingredients.

Choosing organic foods and shopping locally will ensure a bold flavor and improved freshness. Supermarket deli meats, bread, and condiments are not a good idea; instead, it’s best to try and find a good delicatessen.

Improve Your Knowledge Of The Ingredients

You need to know your ingredients well so that you can source the best quality ones. Increasing your knowledge of recipes and ingredients will help you learn what works best with what and where to get them from at what times.

You can use the internet or cookbooks to learn about ingredients, or you can check in with your local Italian delicatessen for some insider tips!

Get Stocked Up On Italian Key Ingredients

Buying some of the traditional Italian staples such as olive oil, rice, different types of pasta such as spaghetti and tagliatelle, parmesan cheese and a few herbs and spices, ragus and sauces means you can knock up Italian meals whenever you want and just add your extra ingredients to the recipe without having to get too much from the store.

Always Cook Your Pasta Al Dente

Al dente means “to the tooth”. Italians always cook their pasta al dente, as it gives pasta that firm to the bite texture, which makes your dish taste much nicer than soft, overcooked pasta would.

To keep your pasta firm and slightly dense like the Italians do, taste test your pasta towards the end of it’s cooking time, and take it off the stove when you can tell it’s al dente.

Know Your Oils

Normal, high-quality olive oil is perfect for most Italian dishes. You can normally pick some decent olive oil up from any supermarket or local store, although the best quality ones may be at Italian speciality stores or even local stores where products tend to be more expensive but better in quality.

You can use olive oil liberally while frying, but if you’re making fish or you need an oil to drizzle over your salad, you might want to pick up a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. It’s stronger in taste and needs to be stored out of the light because it loses nutritional value and flavour quickly.

Serve Slowly

Italians appreciate communal dining and like to really enjoy their meals at a leisurely place. Meal times are seen as a time for great company and long conversations, so Italian cooks take their time when serving up their dishes. They generally tend to serve up wine first of all, then this is followed by the slow dishing out of five courses.

You may notice some of these courses from Italian restaurant menus! The first serving of food is called the antipasti, or appetisers. Then, the first course, the primi piatti, is served, followed by the secondi piatti (second course), the contorini (side dishes) and finally the dolci (dessert).

As you can see, Italian meals are meant to be enjoyed over an extended period rather than rushed.

Don’t Waste Any Food

Saving any leftover ingredients is important to Italians, as a lot of their meals were innovated because they didn’t have much money.

For example, a popular way to use the ciabatta you served up with last nights’ spaghetti is to slice it up into cubes, and fry it with some garlic cloves to create delicious croutons to go in a traditional Italian tomato soup.

Learn The Central Components Of A Perfect Italian Meal

Think about the three major parts of what makes an Italian recipe delicious. First, you have a bold flavor, which normally comes from some type of sauce or ragu. Then you have a carrier, which is generally pasta, rice or vegetables.

And finally, you have a protein element such as meat or fish.

Looking at an Italian recipe book to practise your cooking skills or even whipping up a few recipes you find online will help you to decipher the main elements of a good Italian meal and will help you to begin understanding which ingredients mesh well together, and which don’t, so you can start experimenting a little.

Now you know 10 of the main Italian cooking strategies, you should be able to start cooking up your own Italian cuisine just like a genuine Italian cook, with the help of a few recipes.

Remember to follow the recipes carefully, use the right measurements for your ingredients, and start applying these tips to your cooking. We hope you enjoy creating some of your own five-star Italian dishes!

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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