Essential Ingredients for Italian Cooking Checklist

Stock your pantry with a few basic ingredients to create an authentic Italian meal.

  1. Check Canned tomatoes

    Opt for whole, peeled tomatoes as opposed to crushed or diced for pungent flavor in everything from sauces to soup.

  2. Check Dried pasta

    A combination of flour, water, and salt, dried pasta is a quintessential comfort food and the basis of many Italian dishes.

  3. Check Arborio rice

    A short-grained rice with high starch content, Arborio releases starch and thickens when cooked at length over low heat, making it ideal for creamy risottos.

  4. Check Flour

    Semolina and double 00 are two high-quality flours often preferred for making homemade pasta, but all-purpose flour will suffice for making fresh pasta and pizza dough.

  5. Check Cannellini beans

    These large, rosy beige legumes are popular in salads, soups, and stews. For the most affordable (but slightly more labor-intensive) option, choose dried beans, which require overnight soaking. If dinner needs to be on the table in 20 minutes, select canned beans.

  6. Check Bread crumbs

    Ideal for breading cutlets before pan-frying or incorporating into meatballs, seasoned bread crumbs add bulk, texture, and flavor.

  7. Check Artichokes

    Jarred artichoke hearts add delicate flavor when tossed with pasta, salads, or topped on pizza.

  8. Check Olives

    Olives are tiny fruits that have been cured in salt, water, or lye to offset their bitterness. Used in everything from antipasti to pastas, they’re packed with cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants.

  9. Check Pine nuts

    These small, teardrop-shaped nuts are harvested from pine cones. Their delicate, piney flavor is delicious in everything from pesto to cookies.

  10. Check Capers

    These tiny flower buds, typically pickled, add bold, salty flavor to sauces and meat and vegetable dishes.

  11. Check Garlic

    Famous (or infamous) for its pungent flavor, garlic is an indispensable ingredient in Italian cuisine. Select heads that are hard, firm, and tight (no broken skin) and that haven’t sprouted.

  12. Check Prosciutto

    Ham that has been cured and air-dried for long periods of time for tenderness and a more complex flavor, prosciutto is typically sliced paper-thin and consumed uncooked. It’s also a key ingredient in a classic Italian dish, Chicken Saltimbocca.

  13. Check Fresh basil

    This sweet, aromatic herb is a staple for topping pastas and pizzas.

  14. Check Mozzarella

    Traditionally made in Italy from the milk of water buffaloes, mozzarella is now made mainly from cow’s milk. It melts beautifully, making it the cheese of choice for pizza.

  15. Check Extra-virgin olive oil

    Olive oil adds fruity flavor and is high in healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants. Of the various classes of olive oil, extra-virgin is the most prized but is also the most expensive; reserve it for dressings and drizzling on finished dishes, not cooking.

  16. Check Balsamic vinegar

    Used in marinades, dressings, and fruit-based desserts, balsamic vinegar is generally darker, thicker, sweeter, and more complex than red or white wine vinegar. Syrupy, highly concentrated traditional Italian balsamics, aged for a minimum of 12 years in oak barrels, are best reserved for undiluted uses; drizzle over fruit or vegetables to appreciate the intense flavor.

  17. Check Wine

    Marsala and dry red and white wines add depth to sauces and popular Italian dishes, such as Chicken Marsala.

  18. Check Parmesan

    This highly flavorful aged hard cheese (most often used grated) adds a nutty flavor and granular texture to Italian dishes, particularly pastas.

  19. Check Dried herbs and seasonings

    Keep dried oregano, sage, and thyme on hand to lend earthy flavor and aroma. Red pepper flakes add heat to pastas and pizza.