Italian Food

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Italian Food

The watchword in Italian food is “freshness.” The recipes are full of freshly picked herbs and vegetables that are seasoned with garlic and olive oil, as well as whole grain breads and pastas. The meat laden pasta dishes that Americans love, like lasagna and spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, are largely reserved for the holidays and special occasions.

Some ingredients to remember when considering Italian food:

• Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is pressed from the fruit of the olive and not the pit and it’s from the first pressing. It shouldn’t be used in high temperature cooking, which causes it to break down, but it’s good for light sautéing and for sauces and salads.

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This olive oil is the best of the first pressing, with low acid levels. A cook will notice that extra virgin olive oil is greener than virgin olive oil and has a richer flavor. It’s used on cold pasta salads or drizzled over salad vegetables or poached chicken or fish.

• Pure Olive Oil
This has been filtered to take away some of the acidity. It’s lighter in color and bouquet than other olive oils and is used for stir frying.

• Pastas
Most Italian pastas are made with durum wheat flour, which is high in gluten. This makes the pasta chewy. Semolina durum flour is ground more coarsely than other flours and makes the pasta even firmer.

Pasta should be cooked in lots of boiling, salted water and stirred once in a while so it doesn’t stick. The cook shouldn’t add oil or rinse it after it’s done. It’s done, by the way, when it’s al dente and not mushy.


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