Liz Clements | Lifestyles Editor
There are definitely staples that every kitchen needs, especially in my Italian kitchen. While my list is a solid 20 ingredients long and ranges from the most basic to things like dried Porcini and truffle oil, I’ve prepared a list of just a few of my favorite for your convenience. This is a basic list that any kitchen, regardless of your culinary point of view, will allow you make magical food with.
I love my stuff, and as much as I love opening my closet and looking at all my pretty things, opening my pantry may be just a little bit better. I have a few rules when it comes to cooking and brand choice. 1. You are what you eat. 2. You have to put good stuff in to get good stuff out. 3. Buy it and cook it. 4. Waste not, want not. If you follow these rules, follow your heart, and stock your pantry with my favorite things and more, you’ll be an expert in no time.
1. Pomi strained and chopped tomatoes: Pomi products are 100% Italian grown, processed and packed tomatoes. These tomatoes are not genetically modified and give consistent flavor every time. I use the strained tomatoes for everything from pizza sauces to an additive for my pasta gravy. One of my favorite uses is to make a quick sauce for polenta. I sauté up some ground Italian sausage, deglaze with some champagne vinegar and add 1/3 carton of Pomi, season with a dash of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and chopped basil.
2. De Cecco Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Food is a nightmare without good oil, and I’ve been on a quest for years to find the perfect one. De Cecco’s olive oil is perfect for frying, cooking, and using raw. It has a really clean taste and smell, and I use it for literally everything I cook. I coat my pizza trays with it, I eat it with mozzarella, and I coat all my skillets with it. If I had to take three things with me to a deserted island, this product would be one of them.
3. Garlic, lemons, and basil: You give me these three ingredients along with anything and I can make magic. Depending on how you use and accent the flavors, you can do so much with them. The basil can be sweet or spicy, the garlic tangy or buttery, and the lemon sweet or sour.
4. Wheat flour: Nothing beats a huge chuck of white bread, but when I cook I don’t like to use products that have had all the nutrition value striped from them. That’s why I use wheat flour. Not only does it hold a lot of nutritional value, but it packs an extra punch of flavor.
5. Parmigiano reggiano, pecorino, and fresh mozzarella: I couldn’t live without cheese, and these three are high on my list. Cheeses go into any dish I can possibly fit them into, or just by themselves with some nice pairings. The best fresh mozzarella I’ve come across in chain stores is Whole Foods. I go out of my way every time to pick some up.
6. Rex Goliath Wines: This California winery has surprisingly good and cheap wines. Generally for $5.99 a bottle, I would die without the convenience of their price and flavor. I first discovered their nature as a good cooking wine while I was cooking and drinking a glass. I decided to pour a swirl into what I was making, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
7. Lavazza Gold Quality Espresso: This little treasure is a real pain to find in the states so every time I go to Italy I bring my quota back in espresso. It’s just a perfect brew for a stove top espresso pot. The flavors are so rich and bold and the grounds so fine that it isn’t even comparable to American made espressos, which require the use of heavy machinery to make a quality taste. I use it for shots, cappuccinos, cafe lattes, and I even mix some into my brownies.
8. Carrots, celery, and onions: Known as a sofritto in Italian and a myriad of things in other cultures, these three ingredients are used as the base for many dishes. From soups to stews and a classic ragu, a sofritto makes any dish a great dish.