Tag Archives: Italian

The Italian Pantry: Orange Blossom Water

Orange blossom water is a flavoring added to baked goods. You can find orange blossom water or aroma fior d’arancio at an Italian specialty grocery or at a Middle Eastern or Lebanese market.


What is it used for? Italians use this in baked goods. For example, in the Neapolitan pastiera or in the Easter rice pie. It’s also used as a flavoring in fillings for pastries like sfogliatelle.

–Dina Di Maio

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Peaches in Wine

Peaches in wine is a simple snack or dessert that we Italians serve during summer when peaches are in season. It’s very easy to do. I take organic peaches, washed and sliced (pits thrown away). I use a food-safe glass container to soak my peaches in wine, but you can use a pitcher or bowl too. You can also slice only one peach if it’s just for you, but we do a bunch and let them soak. I prefer to use Chianti or another red wine, but you can use any wine you’d like. I keep the container in the refrigerator and eat them as a snack until they are gone.

Peaches in Wine

8 small organic peaches or 6 larger organic peaches

1- 1 1/2 bottles Chianti or red wine, enough to cover peaches

food-safe glass storage container or pitcher

Wash and slice peaches, throwing pits away. Put peaches in clean glass jar and cover with wine. Cover container. Refrigerate–usually for a few hours to a day and then enjoy!

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Digestives/Liqueurs

Italians love digestives and liqueurs. They are an acquired taste. So many of them have a licorice-like flavor. They are concoctions of herbs, plants and spices. Anisette is a liqueur made from the anise plant. It tastes like licorice. I’ve written about Strega before.

Strega

Frangelico is a hazelnut-flavored liqueur. I like its monk-shaped bottle.

I also like the Galliano bottle shaped like an Italian carabiniere, like my great-grandfather.

Of course, we still have the more familiar bottle, too, with its long, distinctive shape standing heads above the other liquor bottles on our buffet.

What is it used for? As a digestive after a big dinner or holiday dinner. It’s also used as a flavoring in coffee. You can also bake with them like the pane degli angeli cake with Strega recipe.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Wine

Wine is probably the drink most people associate with the Italian culture. While many cooking shows show wine being added to Italian food, e.g. tomato sauce/gravy, neither side of my family added wine to their cooking. My grandmother said Sicilians used Marsala in their cooking, which makes sense because it comes from there. But we didn’t. We drank wine that was made by someone in the family.

What is it used for? Wine is used for drinking and sometimes cooking.  We drink wine (mostly red) with our Sunday dinner or a big meal. In summer, we cut up peaches and soak them in red wine for a snack/dessert.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are another item you will see in an Italian pantry. You can make your own breadcrumbs using stale or hard Italian bread, but I think these days, most people buy Italian breadcrumbs. I’m not a huge fan of doing this in this day and age because a lot of the breadcrumbs available contain soy flour. But on the other hand, unless you live in the Bronx or a similar neighborhood, you can’t find good Italian bread anymore either…. But if you decide to make your own breadcrumbs, you can season them however you like, with some salt, pepper, grated cheese, parsley.

What is it used for? Breadcrumbs are used to make meatballs. They are an ingredient used (along with other ingredients) to stuff vegetables like artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, peppers or mushrooms. Italians are big on stuffing vegetables. Breadcrumbs are also used as a coating for frying things like chicken cutlets, veal cutlets or eggplant. Sicilians also use breadcrumbs for other purposes like to top pasta with aglio e olio, anchovy sauce or similar sauces.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Pignoli (Pine Nuts)

Pignoli are pine nuts. These are one of the lesser-known items in the Italian pantry. They come from the cones of a pine tree that grows in the Mediterranean. Most pine nuts available in the United States today come from China. The packaging must say that the pine nuts are from Italy to be Italian pine nuts. Italian pine nuts are depicted below. Chinese pine nuts tend to be shorter and fatter. Does this matter? Yes, it does. Apparently, the way some Chinese pine nuts are processed can cause a bitter taste that can last for weeks. While this news is a bit dated, I still avoid them.

What is it used for? Pignoli are used to make pignoli cookies, or pine nut cookies, a staple at any Italian bakery. (They are also used to make the famous Genovese dish, pesto sauce. However, pesto sauce was not part of our tradition, being Southern Italian.) We sometimes use them in meatballs or braciole. We also use them to decorate strufoli. Or you can just eat them as a snack like any other nuts.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Garlic

I would say in many instances, you can’t have olive oil without garlic. Garlic is also an integral part of the Italian pantry.

What is it used for? Garlic is used, along with olive oil, to start a pot of gravy (or tomato sauce). It’s also used with olive oil to start other sauces and soups. We slice some up to accompany cooked vegetables, along with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

One of our favorite, and very basic Italian dishes, is spaghetti aglio e olio (pronounced ahl-ya ool-ya in Neapolitan dialect), which is spaghetti with olive oil and garlic.

–Dina Di Maio