the Italian issue

The Italian Pantry Stock your kitchen pantrywith these essential Italian ingredients.

ANCHOVY — Anchovy fillets brined and salt cured and packed in oil or salt can be eaten whole, or chopped or puréed and added to Caesar salads and puttanesca sauces. Anchovy paste, which is sold in tubes, is a great substitute for whole or rolled canned fillets. The paste is made from ground anchovy fillets mixed with salt and often sugar. It is saltier and more pungent than fillets.

CANNED TUNA — Premium tuna packed in olive oil is a common pasta topping and a key ingredient in the northern Italian veal dish vitello tonnato . CAPERS — Salty, pickled capers berries are the secret to chicken piccata. Puttanesca is a robust Neapolitan sauce made with a combination of anchovies, olives, garlic, capers and crushed red pepper.The saltiness of the anchovies and olives is a great contrast to the sweetness of the tomatoes.

ARTICHOKES —Marinated artichoke hearts have been roasted and dressed with seasoned oil, or oil and vinegar, giving them a tangy flavor. They’re great for salads and antipasti. Artichokes canned in water are great deep fried ( carciofi alla giudia ), braised Roman-style ( carciofi alla Romana ), used as toppings for pizzas, and tossed with pasta or risotto. Drain the can and squeeze the liquid of out of the artichokes so you don’t add excess water to what you’re cooking. BALSAMIC VINEGAR — Wherever wine is made, vinegar is also. Traditional balsamic vinegar is a regional specialty from the northern Italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. This dark, sweet, “true” balsamic is made with specific grapes according to strict government guidelines and aged for 12 years. Most Italian balsamic and wine vinegars are fine for cooking. Reserve more expensive traditional balsamic vinegar to use as a dressing or condiment. BREADCRUMBS — You can make homemade breadcrumbs, but canned breadcrumbs work in a pinch to add crunchy texture and flavor to eggplant, veal and chicken parms.

CRUSHED OR DRIED RED PEPPERS — Fiery Italian red peppers add heat to sauces. Marinara is simply olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic, dried chile and dried oregano or fresh basil. This southern Italian staple sauce can be paired with almost any shape of pasta. Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy tomato sauce made with hot red chili peppers or chili flakes. Arrabbiata means angry in Italian; the name of the sauce refers to the spiciness of the peppers. DRIED HERBS & SEASONINGS — Basil, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme are common ingredients in Italian cooking. Dried herbs have a much stronger flavor than fresh. Substitute one teaspoon of dry herbs for 3 teaspoons of fresh. DRY PASTA — Pasta is available in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Store unopened in a cool dry area. Once opened, transfer to an airtight container. Long thin spaghetti and wider, fatter linguini are best for tomato sauce and red gravy. Use a stubby shaped pasta, with holes or ridges or cups for heavier sauces. Corkscrew-shaped fusilli, spirali (a butterfly shaped farfalle), conchiglie and ear-shaped orecchiette also work for heavier sauces, and are great for pasta salads.

CANNED TOMATOES — Whole and crushed peeled tomatoes canned in their juices are great for southern-style tangy tomato sauces, and a simple sauté of whole tomatoes, olive oil, minimal garlic and basil yields pasta al pomodoro e basilico. Certified San Marzanos come from the Sarno valley near Vesuvius. They have been awarded PDO (protected designation of origin) status. Denser tomato paste is more concentrated and adds almost a meaty flavor to dishes.Tomato paste is usually made with plum tomatoes, which have thick, meaty flesh, fewer seeds, less juice and thicker skins.



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