Italians are good diners; they know how to eat. They use fresh, flavorful and tasty ingredients to prepare their delicacies. Based on the Mediterranean diet, traditional Italian cuisine emphasizes on simple, organic and whole ingredients. This makes it among the healthiest diets worldwide.
Existing evidence shows that a Mediterranean diet has lots of benefits. They include:
- Better blood sugar level control
- Enhanced weight loss
- Reduced risk of developing depression
Italian-style eating also means stocking up your pantry with all the necessary food ingredients you’ll need to prepare your tasty dishes. The ingredients are packed with disease-preventing and health-improving nutrients, atop being tasty and delicious.
Italian cuisines include diverse flavorful dishes with roots in southern Europe’s Mediterranean region. Wine, food and family are integral rituals or aspects of eating an Italian meal. Just like storytelling, Italian culinary traditions are passed down one generation to the next.
A general but essential ingredient is water. It must be clean and safe for use. Invest in a good water softeners which is more eco-friendly to make your kitchen green. Check water filter reviews to help you pick one that’s built to save the environment.
Here’re other major ingredients you’ll need to prepare a delicious Italian dish:
- Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is used to garnish food, giving it added peppery flavor. However, olive oil is used to cook food. The higher quality olive oil is also a popular salad garnish or a dip for Italian bread such as focaccia.
- Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is a dark, well-aged vinegar (for about 12 – 25 years) often used in dressings and marinades. It’s produced in Emilia-Romagna and Modena regions in Italy.
The vinegar is healthy and adds a rich, sweet taste to dishes. It’s rich in bioactive compounds such as catechins responsible for fighting free radicals in the body. The compounds also reduce oxidative stress, which increases levels of inflammation in the body, hastens aging and can cause chronic diseases.
The acid in vinegar lowers blood sugar levels and supports digestion. Add it to your bowl of pasta for increased aroma.
Eggs, flour, water, olive oil, and salt are used to make pasta. Made from different regions and in various shapes, pasta varies. Some popular types of pasta include:
- Penne – tube-shaped and made from Liguria
- Spaghetti – long, thin pasta strands
- Fettuccine – long, flat pasta made in Rome
- Tagliatlle – Bologna’s thin ribbons of pasta
- Pappardelle – Tuscany’s flat and wide ribbons of pasta
- Fresh tomatoes
Tomatoes found their way into Italy in the 16th century. Although tomatoes were first thought to be poisonous, they’ve grown in popularity in Italy over the years. Today, they’re the heart of Italian meals and cuisines. They come in varied varieties to choose from.
- Pasta sauce
You’ll find different types of pasta sauce used to top pasta for added taste and aroma as you desire. They include:
- Bolognese – a mix of wine, tomato sauce, and meat such as beef, pancetta and lamb, simmered to cook.
- Pomodoro – this tomato sauce is made from garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, onion, and basil.
- Marinara – made from ingredients similar to Pomodoro sauce, but rougher and thicker.
- Pesto – a mix of garlic, basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese (grated) are blended to create a green sauce. It’s served over fish, pasta or even spread on bread.
Dried leaves of oregano give marinara an earthy flavor. It’s also used to on salad dressing, pizza, or grilled meats. Sprinkling some of this herb on your food goes a long way in enhancing the flavor and taste of your food.
The concentration of disease-fighting antioxidants is in dried oregano leaves. Oregano is a major source of healthy plant compounds just like salads or fruits and vegetables.
For example, it contains a phytochemical known as rosemarinic acid that inhibits proteins responsible for causing inflammation.
Additionally, studies indicate that herbs lower intake of sodium. This is beneficial to the body because excessive salt intake causes bloating and can affect your heart. A study shows that spices and herbs can reduce sodium intake by up to 1,000 mg daily.
- Porcini mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms grow under oak and pine trees in various parts of Italy, especially Tuscany. They’re added to sauces simmered in a wine sauce or sauces cooked in risotto to give the dish some texture.
Mushrooms, be it Portobello or porcini, are a great addition to sauces. They’re popular for their savory umami flavor and meaty texture, atop being rich in proteins. A hearty meal prepared from a cup of sliced Portobellos give about 5 grams of proteins and 40 calories for a satisfying meal.
They reduce calories and make a worthy meal that’s a perfect meat alternative. They’re also rich in potassium, antioxidant selenium and vitamins B. Potassium controls blood pressure while vitamins B strengthens your hair and skin atop boosting your body immunity.
Grilling or microwaving mushrooms, according to a study published in the International Food Sciences and Nutrition Journal, maintains their nutrients.
- Italian cheese
Ancient Romans smoked and aged cheese to create different types. Featuring grainy textures, hard cheeses are grated or shaved over pasta and salads, among other dishes. Other types of cheeses include:
- Grana Padano from northern Italy.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano from Emilio-Romagna region in Parma.
- Mozzarella is a soft cheese that’s usually melted over meals such as pizza and lasagna.
- Pecorino cheese is processed from sheep milk.
- Red and white wine
Italy is famous for its wines. The Italian culture has always featured well-aged wines about thousands of years before the Ancient Greeks colonized the Peninsula. Wine is used to simmer meat dishes, for drinking and adding a flavorful layer to red sauces.
When used for cooking, wine bubbles out as vapor, leaving lots of flavor behind. It also deglazes cooking pans to ensure that all flavors get absorbed into the dish. The resveratrol polyphenols content protects blood vessels and improves levels of good cholesterol if taken in moderation.
Basil and garlic are other important ingredients. All ingredients are natural, tasty and healthy. If you’re a beginner, all you need are recipes to prepare tasty delicacies.