Tag Archives: Italian pantry

The Italian Pantry: Anchovies

Anchovies are little fish that you find in tin cans or small glass jars in the grocery store either in the Italian section or the canned fish section. They are packed in olive oil (or should be). Usually they come from somewhere in the Mediterranean.

What is it used for? Our most popular and frequent use of anchovies is as a base for a pasta sauce. You put them whole from the can into the pan with olive oil and garlic and they will dissolve (even the little bones). And this is the sauce you use for a macaroni like spaghetti. It’s similar to an aglio e olio sauce with the addition of the anchovies.

–Dina Di Maio


The Italian Pantry: Bay Leaves

What is it used for? Bay leaves are hard, dry leaves that are used to flavor soups and tomato sauce/gravy. You can add one or two to the soup or sauce and let it cook. Remove before serving because no one likes to get the hard leaf in their bowl.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Onions

Onions are a staple in the Italian pantry. We use any and all onions.

What is it used for? We slice them and add them to salads like summer tomato salad or orange and onion salad. (For this, we’d use red onion.) We stuff large onions. Some Italians add sliced or chopped onions to their tomato sauce/gravy. My grandma used to like to chop green onion (the white part) and add it to her salad. We pickle small onions called cipollini. I like to eat the cipollini in a sweet sauce like Antonio Carluccio recommends, but this is not how my family traditionally ate them.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Olives

Of course,  olives are the staple of Italian food. Not only do we use olive oil for everything, we also eat olives.

What is it used for? We always have cans of black olives to put on our salads. For Sunday or holiday dinners, we get an array of olives for our antipasto. On Christmas Eve, we make a baccala salad that includes olives.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Carrots/Celery

What is it used for? Carrots and celery are used to flavor broth for chicken soup, lentil soup or any other kind of soup.  Some people puree carrots and celery and use them in tomato sauce/gravy. We (Neapolitans) did not do this, and I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing or just personal preference, but we did know some Calabrians who made sauce this way. (Through some research, I found that Romans and some other areas of Northern Italy make a soffritto with carrots and celery and incorporate that into their tomato sauce for pasta.)

–Dina Di Maio


The Italian Pantry: Red Pepper

A lot of Italian cookbooks mention spicy Italian food. I have to say that we do not eat our food too spicy. We certainly use crushed red pepper, but only for flavor not for real heat.

What is it used for? To flavor tomato sauce/gravy or soups like lentil soup or vegetable soup.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Lemon

Lemon is a staple in the Italian pantry.

What is it used for? We always serve lemon wedges with our vegetables like broccoli or broccoli rabe. We also make a lemony oregano baked chicken, and we bake fish with lemon. Some fresh lemon peel is served with espresso. Lemon is also used in some baking, as in cookies, and for lemon ice.

–Dina Di Maio