One question we get often is how to make sure the home pantry is stocked with essential ingredients to quickly make a dinner. In comes our ESSENTIALS guides. Making sure you have necessary ingredients on-hand to easily whip up a meal at home is so important for those busy days.
An Italian pantry is based not only in ingredients, but also the quality of those ingredients. Make sure to find D.O.P. tomatoes, Parmigiano, Italian tuna - don't skimp. It makes all the difference when it comes to the flavour of your dishes.
ESSENTIALS - The Italian Pantry
Italians have access to beautiful produce, but it ranges quite drastically from the North to the South. In the South of Italy (and along the coasts), lemon trees are everywhere and play an important part of regional dishes (limoncello, anyone?). In the forests, fresh mushrooms and truffles abound. In Sicily, eggplant is the foundation for so many traditional dishes.
Pantry Basics: Eggplant, tomatoes, pumpkin, lemon, onion, garlic
HERBS & SPICES
Herbs and spice play an important role in Italian cooking. Simple dishes are pointed with an herb to make a dish come alive. Raviolo with Butter Sage Sauce, Tomato and Mozzarella with Basil. Pasta and Pecorino Cheese with Black Peppercorns - dishes so simple, yet become so fantastic with a simple herb or spice.
Pantry Basics: Basil, oregano, sage, parsley, saffron, rosemary, chili peppers, black peppercorns
It's no secret that dairy plays an important role in Italian cuisine. From pasta dough and stuffed pastas, to creating a perfect Cacio e Pepe - high quality dairy products can make or break your meal. When buying cheese, make sure it's cheese that originates from Italy to ensure the best quality. There's a significant difference in the soil of Italy that influences feed for cows and sheep. That then changes the outcome of the cheese.
Pantry Basics: Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, eggs
CANNED / JARRED
Some of our favourite things from Italy come in a jar. Whether it's the salty punch of capers, or the taste of a tomato that comes from the San Marzano region of Italy - these canned and jarred items are all a must have in any Italian pantry. Buy the best product you can - they stay fresh in your pantry for a long time, and the higher quality product has a dramatic difference in flavour. Don't be scared by anchovies, when they're high quality and treated properly, they can make your dish a star.
Pantry Basics: San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes, capers, anchovies, olives, Italian jarred tuna
Beans are an important, but often less celebrated, staple of the Italian diet. Whether it's a hearty bean dish like the well known Pasta Fagole from the Veneto region, or chickpeas and fava beans used in antipasto in the South - don't overlook bean dishes from Italy. These two varieties are the bare minimum for an Italian pantry.
Pantry Basics: Garbanzo beans, Cannellini beans
GRAINS & PASTA
It's what everyone thinks of when they first think of Italy - pasta. We prefer the Italian pantry to cover the wide range of pasta shapes, as they have different uses for different sauces. At the very least though, make sure to have the basics - and then buy as needed from there. Make sure to branch into rice, bread making and polenta as well to cover the vast dishes that range the Italian diet.
Pantry Basics: Carnaroli rice, 00 flour, semolina flour, penne pasta, spaghetti, tagliatelle, cornmeal
Personally - we think the best Italian style bread is one you'll make from scratch, but alas - we don't always have time. Breadcrumbs stay in the pantry for quite a while and can be used to take a simple pasta to the next level.
Artisan breadcrumbs, and a good loaf or artisanal Italian bread if you're not up for making it from scratch.
NUTS & DRIED GOODS
There are so many things we could include here, but consider these the must-haves. Pine nuts will make sure you can always make a traditional pesto, and porcini mushrooms will make sure you've always got a beautiful risotto within reach.
Pine nuts, hazelnuts, dried figs, dried porcini mushrooms
There are a few very important condiments in the Italian pantry, the most important of which are vinegar and oil. But it doesn't stop there. Make sure to have the very best you can afford in your pantry at all times. You can make a variety of condiments at home if you keep your pantry stocked with this Italian Essentials Guide.
Balsamic vinegar, high-quality extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut spread
If there's one thing to keep in the freezer, it would be peas. You can add them into pastas, rices, soups, and if they are flash frozen, they'll retain sweetness which will make a dish pop. If you like a well-stocked freezer, look for artichokes and other produce as well. We prefer fresh, but depending where you live, getting frozen might be a better option year round.
Peas, artichokes if available
POULTRY & MEAT
Pork is an important staple of the Italian diet. Make sure to always have cured pork on hand. It's a flavouring and also perfect for any charcuterie board. Beef and different cuts (whether making a Bolognese sauce or an ossobuco) is important. If possible, keep a cut of beef in the refrigerator that you can then grind or cut depending on the dish.
Cured Italian pork, Genoa or Tuscan salami, Beef
Visit the coasts or the South of Italy, and you'll taste some of the freshest seafood of your life. Fruitti di mare - or fruits of the sea, are plentiful here. Chef Paola teaches how to make a traditional Fruitti di Mare also known as Seafood Pasta in her Olio & Formaggio Cooking Class.
Shrimp, squid - mussels when in season, fresh anchovies if you can find them
And last, but certainly not least - wine. Aside from wine being critical to several Italian dishes, it's just as important on the dinner table. Make sure to keep a variety of beautiful Italian wines in your cellar. They don't have to be expensive. Very good Italian wines are plentiful. Some varieties to keep in mind include Chianti Classico, Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, Gavi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Brunello for a special treat.
Southern Italian Cooking Classes
Learn how to make tiramisu, saltimbocca, caponata, pasta alla norma, cacio e pepe, and so much more with the step-by-step coaching a chef based in Southern Italy - in a private video call.
Learn How to Make Homemade Pasta
Learn how to make homemade pasta, Bolognese sauce and Pomodoro in this fantastic private cooking class held with a chef based in Northern Italy. Make the pasta together in a private video call.
View the Ragu & Pomodoro Cooking Class >