The Key to Authentic Italian Food

Authentic Italian food is steeped in traditions that have simmered in home kitchens for thousands of years. Since its inception, Italian cuisine has transformed beyond the borders of Italy into an international phenomenon. As with every culinary tradition, there are a few characteristics that make authentic Italian cuisine stand out against the crowd, such as the following:

Fresh Produce

Why do your favorite Italian dishes taste so enchanting? Here's the secret: Traditional Italian cuisine requires the freshest produce. Italy has a strong agricultural heritage; many families have vegetable gardens, even if they are not farmers. Finding the freshest produce is an integral part of authentic cooking. Dishes such as fried zucchini blossoms and basil pesto fall flat with bland, out-of-season produce. In the case of red sauces, look for canned San Marzano tomatoes — they will make all the difference!

Remarkable Products

Italian families not only cherish high-quality produce, but also embrace ingredients that reflect the unique terroir of the Italian landscape. The best olive oil is freshly pressed without any preservatives. Cheeses such as Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are sourced from cheese-farming cooperatives in Northern Italy. Be very discerning about your selections, just as any Italian chef would.

Homemade Flavor

The quality of homemade fare shines through in the best Italian meals. Nothing can replace the decadence of fresh pasta and homemade Italian pastries. Consider making many of your products and dishes in your own kitchen. If you do have to outsource your baking, test vendors out before committing to their goods. Take a look at their kitchens, lists of ingredients and even check them out in action.

Embrace Tradition

The best Italian chefs are often home cooks who feed their families every night. When approaching this style of cooking, embrace tradition and start with some classic Italian cookbooks that represent the best of this food landscape. "Cooking with Italian Grandmothers," "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and "The Silver Spoon" are all great resources for your cooking needs.

When you're cooking authentic Italian food, remember to always use the best ingredients, use homemade products and embrace tradition. When you need to, turn to the best and brightest instructors to help you tackle the challenges along the way.

Photo credit: Flickr