Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 2... Filling the Pantry

There are certain pantry supplies that are elemental to Italian cuisine. They help to bring the true flavors to life in every dish.  If you love to cook Italian food, which we will be doing this month, there are certain essentials that you should stock in your pantry.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is a must. You should have a bottle for everyday use, and also a better quality for dipping, drizzling, and dazzling. 
  • Balsamic Vinegar, which is used in many dishes. However, it's a good idea to have red wine or white balsamic to have on hand also.
  • Pastas.  Stock up on all the varieties and add some new ones, such as curly cavatappi, tagliatelle, or orechiette.
  • Yellow Cornmeal, (Polenta), it is a great comfort food that keeps ages.
  • Olives in jars are a great Italian staple. Even if you don't use them often, they are an essential ingredient in Italian cooking. They're also a perfect ingredient in antipasti platter.
  • Pine nuts are one of the main ingredients in a good pesto. They store well unopened in the pantry, but after opening they should be stored in the freezer or fridge.
  • Anchovies (YUCK!) but necessary.  Even if you think you don't like them, try adding one or two to a sauce or a salad dressing. You'll be surprised at the depth they add to flavors. HINT: Make sure you add salt after the anchovies, not before.
  • Wines. If you can keep from drinking your supply... :) always have a few bottles of wine on hand; a red, white, a Marsala or any other Italian style wine. They don't have to be expensive but they should be a wine you would want to drink; after all, you're adding it to your food for flavor and depth and the alcohol does cook out. 


Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe


  •  2 cups fresh young basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts 
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


 I am not a lover of just straight pesto, but I did learn to make pesto the true Italian way from a dear Italian stamping friend of mine while I was living in Connecticut. She would die if she thought that I would ever use a food processor to make my pesto. During the time we spent together,  I think I learned more about true Italian cooking than she ever did about stamping. But we did have alot of fun together and I will always treasure then time we shared. Anyway, back to the pesto... I quickly began to realize that chopping all the ingredients by hand and not blending them in the food processor is the key to good pesto because this prevents the ingredients from becoming a sauce or paste, which I hate with pesto. Chopping keeps things fresh and texturally together, so that when you add it to pastas, bits of pesto will separate and the olive oil will add it to all the right places, you get definition between ingredients and the flavors will pop in a way they don't when they've been blended all into one .

Yield: Makes 1 cup.

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