Writer_ Karen A. d’Arcangelo
- Raised in Rome with traditional Italian cooking, Karen shares some simple tips (and insults us gently in the interim)
It is always flattering to know your country’s cuisine is venerated all around the globe. But it’s also frustrating to see the most simple, natural, tasty and healthy Italian dishes brutally destroyed by some habitual and very wrong assumptions. These 8 simple tips will hopefully help correct some unforgivable habits in British ‘Italian’ cooking:
- SALT – it has been scientifically proven that it does not bite – use it! If you are worried about all that cholesterol/blood pressure nonsense, give up one fry-up a week and you can add all the salt you want to your home cooking. As my Tuscan grandfather says, “non è mai troppo salato” – “there is no such thing as too much salt!
- GARLIC – Italians love garlic. Brits abuse it! If you throw 2 or 3 cloves (full, not smashed) into your meal while it is cooking, the delicious flavour will infuse throughout the food without invading your breath, clothes and hair for the next 6 weeks. And by the way, garlic bread is not Italian.
- ONION – Tropea, red, white, small, big – Italians always use onions but never as 50% of the meal’s ingredients… ever. There is nothing more off-putting than looking at a pan full of chopped onions.
- PIZZA – Pineapple and ‘meat feast’ pizzas are banned. Forever. And if it was frozen it’s not pizza, it’s a pizza-flavoured, circular, Italian style dough-snack.
- PASTA – ‘Al dente’ is not a dream! It actually happens, if you respect the cooking instructions on the packet, and take the pasta out 30 seconds before the suggested time is up.
- SAUCE – That clichéd image of white pasta with a drop of red sauce and a leaf of basil on top does not exist. After draining the water, pour your sauce into the pasta pan while it’s still warm. The pasta will absorb the sauce, creating a much tastier experience than plain, inedible, white pasta.
- PASTA BOLOGNESE – Not boloneis, bolonees, or any other strange British nickname (which took me almost a month to associate with ‘Bolognese’). Abide by rules 3, 5 and 6 for this dish. Chop one stick of celery, one onion and one carrot, then add to a pan of hot oil and salt. Add mince, then after a few minutes, the tomato sauce. You will have a tasty and fragant Ragù, which does not smack of overpowering onion. Ragù is actually the real name of the Bolognese sauce – Pasta al Ragù Bolognese.
- CAPPUCCINO – This is not a lunch or dinner drink – cappuccino is a morning state of mind, which, when accompanied by a croissant or a pastry, will brighten up the day ahead. Every time you have a cappuccino for lunch, one coffee machine in Italy breaks down.
With faith, an Italian food lover (and protector).