I started thinking the other day I could probably live quite happily just on Italian food. Antipasto, minestrone, cannoli, pasta, pizza, gelato!
Then I got to thinking why - so many of my favourite ingredients in cooking are in Italian food!
So here's a few of them - tell me yours - think antipasto plates, pizzas, what do you need/love/adore?
1. Tipo 00 flour - very fine processed flour - I use it in pizza dough and it's a must for making your own pasta - you can get it in supermarkets and really not that much more than bakers flour.
2. Potatoes - gnocchi, and my girls' favourite pizza - potato, rosemary and goat's cheese.
3. Polenta - much quicker and easier to prepare than mashed potato with that same creaminess - I also have become quite the fan of polenta chips with burnt butter and sage!
4. Olive oil (and olives) can't live without it! (and just an aside, I do rub my hands and elbows with it sometimes when in the kitchen and they feel a bit dry!)
5. Garlic - need I say anything here? Garlic bread, garlic rubbed on sourdough toast topped with chopped tomato and salt and basil - easiest bruschetta ever.
6. Anchovies - This is the star of Mummy's sketti and my favourite ingredient on a pizza. LOVE anchovies!
7. Tomatoes - I love romas but basically anything from our garden is good - when they are back in season I think I'm going to give sundried a go using the oven - apparently if you slice them about 2cm thick, oil and salt them and put them in a 75degree oven for 3-4 hours they should dry nicely.
8. Tinned diced tomatoes - I've got to say I freak out if there are less than 6 tins in my pantry - it's like the ultimate survival ingredient for quick-order cooking.
9. Tomato paste, similar to diced tomatoes, I need to always have an extra jar or tin on hand. Great for thickening sauces and in your pizza sauce too.
10. Basil - sweet basil - mine grows even in winter indoors, I recommend you plant one outside end of August and raise two indoors in a sunny position right now (you can move one outside) you can never have too much basil, and if you do, make pesto!
11. Oregano - Basil's best mate - Eloise knows oregano by it's heart shaped leaves. pairs beautifully with most red meats.
12. Rosemary - of course for our pizza, but also for bread, with whole garlic when roasting vegetables. Hardly and lives happily in a sunny position if you want to grow some. I keep two for those times I get a bit 'enthusiastic' with rosemary!
13. Mozzarella - whether it be fresh or not, mozzarella delivers that goo-eyness we all love with cheese - a slice of fresh mozzarella on a thick slice of tomato with some basil and black pepper is gorgeous and I find grating soft aged mozzarella a very therapeutic exercise when making pizzas or chicken parmigiana.
14. Parmesan cheese - the bitey-ness is a must for every pizza and also in Mummy's sketty but I use this a lot and can't imagine cooking without it in the fridge.
15. Ricotta cheese - make your own or buy it in bulk, ricotta is a great lower fat alternative that still delivers the creaminess you crave. Ricotta hotcakes are a favourite breakfast or try a ricotta cheesecake!
16. Proscuitto - it's not a cheap prospect at times but a little goes a long way - a strong flavour carries through lots of pasta dishes and one of my favourite ways to eat asparagus is wrapped in proscuitto - but my favourite of all is just on it's own on a gorgeous antipasto plate.
17. Salami - my ambition for the next year is to make my own salami - can't wait!
So what's your number 18? Continental parsley? Cream for gelato or pannacotta, lemon for granita, or pork/veal mince for ragu? Mushrooms?
Don't forget also to enter the 'Inspired by Italy' giveaway this month!
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