In quarantine, I’ve resolved to watching everything imaginable on the food channel, shows of both the past and present. I love Guy Fieri, but Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives has been on nonstop and I can only watch so many reruns of the show. There’s Molly Yeh, Ina Garten, and The Pioneer Woman, all of whom are lovely, but today’s show of choice is Giada in Italy. Watching this show, I reminisced back to when having large social gatherings was a thing, and I was inspired to create a shopping list fit to fill up an Italian pantry. One that could feed a large family on a warm summer evening. We’ve all been cooking and baking more these days, and as the days grow warmer and the season creeps into summer, I imagine I’m in Positano on the Amalfi Coast, enjoying a table full of fresh Italian flavors after a day spent at the beach.
The Italian Pantry Shopping List
Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em. Packed in oil or salt, they provide an authentic, complex, salty flavor.
Capers are actually berries that come from the bud of a bush found in the Mediterranean. They are either pickled in vinegar or packed in salt, but must be washed before using to remove the salty flavor.
Parmigiano-reggiano is an Italian table cheese made from cow’s milk that has a salty, nutty, earth flavor. It pairs well with… everything. It can be used for soups and sauces, but aged parmigiano-reggiano is also considered a delicacy when eaten alone. Other great grating cheeses are grana padano, which has a milkier taste, and pecorino-romano, which is made of sheep’s milk. And last but not least, one can’t forget mozzarella, a soft cheese made from fresh cow’s milk that is a staple in Italian cooking.
The day doesn’t start in Italy without a sip of rich, nutty espresso.
Extra virgin olive oil
What would Italy be without extra virgin olive oil? It is essential to the cuisine. To put it simply, buy the best that you can find.
Flour is used to prepare pasta, gnocchi, breads, and pastries. Semolina flour in particular is best for making pasta.
Fresh herbs and spices
Classic Italian herbs include basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme, however other essential spices include whole black peppercorns, sea salt, and red pepper flakes to add a touch of heat.
Fresh bulbs of garlic, not canned. Store in a cool, dry place.
Legumes are as central to Italian cuisine as pasta is. Cannellini, favas, chickpeas, lentils, borlotti, and black-eyed peas. They keep for weeks to months in a cool, dry place.
A hazelnut and cocoa paste that is eaten on bread for breakfast or the mid-morning snack.
Italian green and black olives are among the finest in the world.
Raw, salt-cured pork otherwise known as Italian bacon.
Flour with water or eggs makes any type of pasta you desire. The shape of the pasta is designed to hold the sauce in the best way possible. Fresh or dried, it’s typically made with semolina flour and is a staple of Italian cuisine.
A type of coarsely ground cornmeal that was once known as peasant foot. It keeps for months in a cool, dry place.
Raw cured ham. A true delicacy.
Rice dishes are common in Italy. There, rice is categorized into four groups based on grain size: comune, semifino, fino, and superfino.
Buy fresh tomatoes or the famed canned San Marzanos tomatoes to make pomodoro sauce.
Vinegar / Balsamic Vinegar
Vinegar is used to preserve cooked vegetables and fish. Balsamic vinegar is also a great addition for dressing salads. You’ll be able to find affordable and very expensive balsamic vinegar — the expensive vinegar can be used to treat yourself when drizzled over fine foods.
No need for special occasions to enjoy a good glass of Italian wine.