Updated: Apr 25, 2022
If you love a particular cuisine, it's important to stock your pantry with basics and staples so you can quickly make a meal. Our ESSENTIALS guides provide you with an exhaustive list of things to keep on hand.
An Italian pantry should not just have a variety of ingredients, but also high quality ingredients. Make sure to find D.O.P. products including tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil and other ingredients found in this guide, but most importantly - don't skimp on quality. Spend the extra couple cents on high quality products. It makes all the difference when it comes to the flavor of your dishes.
THE FULL LIST OF ITALIAN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS
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. And of course tomatoes, so prevalent in Italian cooking are important.
Fresh Produce for Easy Italian Meals
Italian eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, pumpkin, fennel, lemon, onion, garlic, artichokes
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. Having a select few high quality herbs and spices on hand will help make whipping up an authentic Italian meal even easier.
Herbs & Spices for Easy Italian Meals
Fresh basil and fresh sage make a wonderful addition to meals, but dried versions also have their place. However dried oregano, parsley, rosemary and chili peppers are great to keep in the pantry. As for spices - saffron will allow you to make a quick Risotto Milanese and black peppercorns are loved by Italians
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. Those differences then changes the outcome of the cheese.
Cheeses to Stock on Hand for Easy Italian Meals
Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano all have very long shelf lives. For more immediate consumption, select gorgonzola, ricotta, buffalo mozzarella and burrata
CANNED & JARRED ITEMS
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.
Canned & Jarred Staples for Easy Italian Meals
High quality extra virgin olive oil, San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes, capers, tinned anchovies, olives, Italian canned 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.
Related Italian Cooking Classes: Florentine Steak & Biscotti
Beans to Keep in the Pantry for Easy Italian Meals
Borlotti beans (traditional bean used in pasta e fagioli) Garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, fava 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.
Italian Grains & Pasta Essentials for Easy Italian Meals
Carnaroli rice for risotto, 00 flour and semolina flour for fresh pasta making. Cornmeal should be kept on hand for polenta. Dried pasta is limitless, but we recommend to always keep penne pasta, spaghetti, tagliatelle, and orecchiette on hand.
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.
Related Cooking Classes: Pesto & Focaccia
Baked Goods to Keep On Hand for Easy Italian Meals
Artisan breadcrumbs, artisanal Italian bread stored in freezer to prolong freshness is fine. Cannoli shells, biscotti, Italian cookies, which can be stored in the freezer for longer shelf life, will satisfy a sweet tooth
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.
Related Cooking Classes: Risotto In Depth
Nuts & Dried Goods to Keep In Pantry for Quick Italian Meals
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.
Condiment Staples for Italian Cooking
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.
Related Italian Cooking Classes: Pesto & Focaccia
Frozen Goods to Keep On Hand for Quick Italian Meals
Sweet peas, green beans, 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.
Meats and Poultry to Keep On Hand for Fast Italian Meals
Guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto, mortadella, salami or other cured meat. Nduja or other Italian sausage. Beef or veal shank is good to keep on hand for ossobucco
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. An abundance of selection means there's lots of options.
Related Italian Cooking Classes: Seafood Pasta
Seafood to Keep On Hand for Easy Italian Meals
Shrimp, clams, mussels will round out the seafood. Fresh anchovies if you can find them and cod and seabass in the freezer.
WINE AND SPIRITS
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.
Wine & Spirits to Keep Handy for Authentic Italian Meals
Chianti Classico, Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, Gavi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Brunello for a special treat. Spirits include Limoncello, Aperol, Campari, Sambucca
Take it to the grocery store - and stock up.