Arguably the most important aspect of Italian cooking is the use of fresh ingredients. Italian cooks know how to harness the natural bounty of their country to create dishes that satisfy the eyes, the tastebuds and the belly. The success of an Italian dish all depends on the superior taste brought to the table by crisp, high-quality culinary components. Therefore Italian cooks are more likely to prioritise flavour over cost, and will go for the better option rather than the most purse-friendly.
Freshness is an influential part of Italian cooking and it goes a long way towards producing that classic taste of authentic Mediterranean cuisine. The flavour that stays with you after consuming an outstanding Italian dish comes from the skilful blend of simple, uncorrupted ingredients harmonizing together in a mouth-watering combination. Here we will look at some of the key fresh ingredients in Italian cooking that bring all sorts of nutritional benefits to a dish as well as unbeatable flavour.
Tomatoes are a staple part of the Italian diet and you can find them in everything from passata to bruschetta to caprese. Fresh tomatoes contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins C and K, potassium and folate. This means that they can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and could have anti-carcinogenic properties. Italy produces a vast array of different tomato varieties, from the thick and meaty Roma plum to the tiny, sweet Pomodoro di Pachino. Adding fresh tomatoes to a dish creates a sweet tang that brings out other flavours such as green pesto and mild fresh mozzarella.
Garlic is often hailed as the ultimate superfood, boasting antibacterial healing properties, high levels of vitamins and minerals, and the ability to reduce cholesterol. The presence of this strong-tasting bulb is taken as a given in most Italian cooking, but it really shines in the creation of sauces and simple dishes like spaghetti. Many Italian cooks will sauté a bulb or two in oil to release the flavour, but then remove it once they add the other ingredients. This is so that the potent flavour of the garlic doesn’t drown out the other elements.
The basil plant is an essential part of Italian cuisine, most notably in that world-famous export: pesto. Whether mixed into a pesto sauce or served fresh on top of a finished dish, this little leaf packs a powerful punch. It’s full to the brim with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Some claim that it combats stress, supports cardiovascular health and can even fight depression. Alongside its health benefits, you really can’t beat the distinctive taste that escapes from a gently crushed fresh basil leaf.
Cheese is a big deal in Italy, and so accordingly it features prominently in Italian cooking. From the delicate mozzarella in antipasti, to the sharp parmigiano reggiano sprinkled over pasta, to the creamy mascarpone found in tiramisu, cheese is an essential component of many classic dishes. A good source of protein and calcium, cheese also contains vitamins A and B12 and the mineral zinc. These are all instrumental in the maintenance of a healthy immune system – good news for all those cheese lovers!
Sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’, this basic ingredient is used across all Italian cooking styles. Whether it’s drizzled lightly over a salad, kneaded into a focaccia dough, or used as the base for a sauce, olive oil is a well-loved and fundamental part of Mediterranean cuisine. It’s high in monounsaturated fats (the good ones!) and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These qualities mean that it can help to reduce the risks of stroke and heart attack.
As a keen cook myself, I find that the beauty of using fresh ingredients is that it leaves me with more time to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labour. The less steps taken from preparation to plate the better, as this also allows all of those good quality ingredients to retain their flavour and beneficial properties. I feel that using only the freshest ingredients gives me more time to unwind and the energy to pursue my other hobbies. I like to sit down and catch up with my favourite shows at Netflix, or enjoy some games at Pokerstarscasino, or sometimes browse through recipes over at GeniusKitchen. Cooking, eating and everything surrounding food should be approached positively and be enjoyable. I find that when I’m stressed out and busy I have no time to enjoy the process or truly appreciate the magic of turning a handful of simple ingredients into a delicious meal. So, any move towards making the process easier gets my seal of approval!
Quality of life and food go hand in hand. In my experience, Italian culture not only values the quality of the ingredients that go into the dish, but also the enjoyment of those who are eating it. I like to use mealtimes as an opportunity to get together with friends and family, but it’s also a great way to appreciate the fruits of the land. In my opinion, socialising over food is a fundamental part of every culture and I love the way that Italian people treat it with the appropriate respect. Enthusiasm for using fresh ingredients is a vital part of this respectful approach, and one which plays a significant role in the Italian approach to food.