24 Tips for Cooking in Authentic Italian Style (13-18)

Having the right ingredients on hand makes all the difference. These first tips will focus on the basic Italian cooking ingredients that I always keep stocked. Afterward, we'll get into basic Italian cooking techniques.

Tip 13 - Stock Herbs and Spices
I buy my herbs and spices in bulk from WinCo, which is a discount store. I have every herb and spice you can imagine and they are never more than six months old. For Italian food, make sure you have oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, dried hot peppers, cinnamon, and nutmeg at all times. This is your arsenal. Now, you can season anything at a moment's notice.

Tip 14 - Stock Flour, Sugar, Salt
The bigger the tubs the better. If you're buying flour in 5 pound bags, you won't be making pasta, focaccia, stuffed focaccia, or pizza.

Tip 15 - Stock Cooking Wine, Red and White
I used Almaden Mountain Burgundy and Chardonnay. They stay good for months.

Tip 16 - Stock Vinegars
Stock red wine, balsamic, and white vinegars. High quality balsamic vinegar is only necessary for finishing certain dishes. Most Italian recipes call for basic balsamic vinegar.

Tip 17 - Sweat Vegetables
Sweating is a time-consuming process but it's really easy, and once you learn it it takes almost not time at all. The process takes the moisture out of the vegetables so that they can absorb more flavors while cooking. It also removes some bitterness. To sweat, get a colander and put it over a pot or bowl. You will put your vegetables into this colander and let their moisture drain into the pot or bowl (click on photos for visual help). First, slice your vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, or similar vegetable), then add them to the colander one layer at a time, salting each layer as you go. Next, put something heavy on them. And that's it. Let them drain for a while; 2 hours is ideal. This secret cooking technique is the trick for making excellent eggplant lasagna, marinated vegetables, eggplant involtini, and many other dishes.

Tip 18 - Pasta Water
Ever wonder how Italians make their sauces saucy? It's pasta water! Whenever you drain your pasta, keep a cup or two of the water. Pasta water is used to make spaghetti carbonara, cream sauce, orecchiette with broccoli rabe, and many other dishes,

Italian Cooking Tips 19-24 are coming up on Tuesday. Have a freakin' good weekend.


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