15 Italian ingredients & How to Use them

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Demystifying Italian Ingredients

italian ingredients

Assuming you need to accept the craft of cooking Italian like an Italian, you would want to know the nuts and bolts of the practice.

What Italian ingredients to use to prepare delicious meals? How to utilize traditional Italian ingredients, and where to get them? We have all the answers for you.

We realize it may be elusive to find quality Italian ingredients and even more daunting to use them effectively in the food preparation process. Luckily these days, it is feasible for you to purchase genuine Italian items on the web and figure out how to utilize them appropriately.

Probably the greatest misstep individuals make is utilizing the wrong type of pureed tomatoes for their pizza or forgetting to use the ideal oil for their food.

Italian food stands out from the rest because the ingredients they use are always five-star quality, which adds to the general richness of the food they eat or make at home.

Following a colossal interest of the community in Italian food ingredients, we’ve chosen to provide you with an outline of the best Italian items to use at home, how to utilize them and where to get them. Let’s start.

What Is Italian Cuisine?

Italian cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean cuisine and rich flavours that offer a range of recipes, ingredients, and cooking methods. It encapsulates everything food-related that came out of Italy and later became a significant part of the global cuisine.

As Italian chefs focus more on quality than quantity, you’ll find their recipes to be straightforward and minimal (three to four primary ingredients). And on top of that, there is so much diversity even within this country where north and south Italy greatly differ when it comes to the right ingredients for a recipe.

Quick History of Italian Cuisine

The development of Italian cuisine took hundreds of years to become where it proudly stands today. Although Italy didn’t come into being until the 19th century, the ingredients and recipes date to 400 BC. Researchers have also discovered that food was an integral part of man’s culture from the start, as they found an ancient cookbook from the first century BC.

The actual revolution in Italian cuisine came after the fall of the Roman Empire, which forced many cities to separate from each other. Soon after, each city began to form its unique culture and food. Many new pleasantries and edible items came into existence that continued to diversify Italian cuisine. The ingredients changed, and people adopted special cooking techniques and storage/processing methods.

The neighbouring countries also played their role in influencing modern-day Italian cuisine. France, Spain, and other countries in Central Europe had trade routes with Italy, where the food items from each country were sold, bought, or traded. Hence many of the outside traditions seeped into the Italian culture, becoming a permanent part of it.

15 Key Ingredients for Italian Cooking and How to Use Them

Look at some fundamental elements for Italian cooking so you can utilize them appropriately to hoist your abilities and elevate the cooking experience.

Olive Oil

olive oil

Olive oil is the king of ingredients used to make Italian food. People utilize it for cooking as well as a crude sauce.

However, the best kind of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil, which is naturally more expensive. Most Italian chefs religiously use extra virgin olive oil to bring authenticity to their recipes that keep their customers returning to their establishment.

Extra virgin olive oil has low amounts of oleic acid, has a unique flavour, and adds a bit of spice to the recipe. It is the staple upon which the humongous world of Italian food stands tall and continues to grow worldwide.

If you truly want to strengthen your grip on Italian food recipes, you should start using olive oil with a proper pourer while preparing your meals. It can be even better if you opt for the more expensive virgin olive oil.



Pasta is such a huge part of Italian cuisine that we can formulate an entire article just on this one ingredient.

Pasta for Italians is holy, and despite being a mere blend of flour, eggs, olive oil, water, and salt, it’s one of the most remunerative foods in the hearts of many Italians. It is known that the more expensive the pasta is, the more quality it brings to the recipes.

Apart from the high price, there are a couple of points you should keep in mind while choosing the best Italian pasta:

  • Prefer pasta that has been dried at low temperatures.
  • Always go for pasta that has a non-bumpy, homogeneous surface and shading like wheat.
  • We advise you to use “pasta trafilata al Bronzo” because it has a rough texture that assimilates the flavouring better and holds it, allowing you to saturate your dishes with flavour.
  • Pick a pasta with a level of protein somewhere in the range of 12.5 and 15%.

Pasta sauce

pasta sauce

Italians are wild about pasta sauces, and rightly so! And given that there are truly many varieties one can attempt to make at home, Italians have made a habit of making pasta sauces themselves. So they can use the best ingredients and follow the most optimal practices to make the best pasta sauce.

Pesto is one of the most well-known pasta sauces. Despite outsiders using it for servings of mixed greens or to prepare Panini or mozzarella cheddar, Italians exclusively utilize this sauce for pasta.

Another example can be carbonara sauce. While making the sauce, it is well-known in Italian tradition to use guanciale instead of bacon. Or if you can’t find guanciale, you can use the traditional pancetta.

Similarly, if one has to make amatriciana sauce, it is always preferable to use San Marzano tomatoes and pecorino cheddar, as any other ingredient will degrade its quality.

Pizza and Pasta flour

pizza flour

Flour is essential in Italian cooking: it’s utilized for everything, and therefore it must be of extremely top-notch quality. The flour many Italians use while making pizza is unique and stands out due to its custom properties. Ideally, the flour should have high gluten and whole-wheat content while containing around 14% protein to ensure that the dough rises nicely.

Like many other people in different countries, if you try to utilize bleached flour in your recipes, you’ll be disappointed with the outcome as it doesn’t work well with Italian ingredients.



Although it is acceptable to use canned tomatoes in your recipes, it is always better to opt for the best-tinned tomatoes for the optimal cooking practice. But how can you possibly know whether your tomatoes are of acceptable quality?

It is difficult to say if we’re being completely honest. However, we do have a reliable option for you. We proudly trust and consistently advise everyone to utilize San Marzano tomatoes, arguably the best-canned tomatoes on the planet.

It is essential to note that there are many organizations in the San Marzano business, and phoney items are always surrounding us. So it is good to source your ingredients from a reliable source.



It is considered impossible in Italian cuisine to make a delicious pizza without using the traditional mozzarella cheese. Using a mozzarella substitute like string cheese may seem to work fine, but you may have to face the wrath of the angry Italian culture.

Mozzarella cheese accessories your pizza with a unique flavour and creates bubbles. These bubbles play a major role in getting the right moisture, oil content, and elasticity (the three primary elements of an Italian pizza).

In short, without an ample supply of high-quality mozzarella cheddar cheese, you cannot make an Italian-approved pizza at your house.

Parmesan Cheese


Parmesan cheese is perhaps the most falsified and reproduced Italian product of all time. But it doesn’t mean that every manufacturer does a good job at it, which is why if you are familiar with original Parmesan cheddar, you may be able to realize the drastic differences in flavour, texture, and quality. Indeed, Parmesan cheddar is the ruler of Italian food, primarily used to make the infamous red pasta.

Similarly, the well-known parmigiana di melanzane also contains parmesan cheddar for premium taste.
Contrary to popular opinion, Italians don’t use parmesan cheese in parmesan chicken because this dish isn’t exclusive to their region.



We can argue that Italian cuisine would feel incomplete without wine as these two go hand in hand, and many people use wine as a side beverage or a cooking ingredient. However, if you’re a beginner about to step into the world of immense Italian cuisine, it can be a bit of a minefield. 

But how do you combine food and wine at home?

Well, it’s simple. Pair your food with the best Italian wines from the outset, and afterwards, remember these golden rules:

  • Red wine is suitable with meat, charcuterie, and pasta with meat.
  • White wine best suits vegetables, white meat, and seafood.
  • No wine with pizza. Use beer instead!

Garlic and Onion


These ingredients are popular for making “soffrito,” a delicious base for pureed tomatoes. Garlic and onion add premium flavours to an entire scope of dishes. Although it is common to use these Italian ingredients while fresh, you may also find dehydrated ones from the market that can work as well as fresh ones.

For beginners, it is important to note that garlic and onions shouldn’t overwhelm your recipe.

They need to be used in modest amounts, enough to bring the optimum taste to your dish. Of course, there are some exceptions where garlic is excessively added to accentuate certain recipes. But you cannot use the same practice with your regular meals as they’ll feel too strong and diminish the taste of other ingredients.

Dried Mushrooms

dried mushroom

Dried mushrooms are one more omnipresent fixings in Italian food, and we are here for it. They are primarily porcini mushrooms that you can find in whole or chopped form from a reputable Italian supermarket. To utilize them, you need to submerge them in warm water for around 60 minutes.

Once they’ve soaked enough water and are ready, you can drain them into a separate container. Then press and cut the mushrooms into strips. You may find it difficult to get your hands on quality Italian mushrooms, but we can say for certain that a successful hunt can result in an intense boost in the quality of your daily meals.



Anchovies, also known as Antigua, are a highly-appreciated shelf product many Italians use to prepare their meals. Antigua is a tiny fish stored in concentrated salt water and constitutes the basis of many infamous Italian sauces. You can use them as pizza toppings or spread them over a toast for a meaty, delicious sandwich.

Cured Meat

cured meat

Cured meat refers to the type of meat that has been put through a rigorous preserving technique to make it shelf-stable. Italians use cured meat such as guanciale, pancetta, and more in pasta, sauces, and pizza.

Unsalted Butter

unsalted butter

Italians often use unsalted butter instead of regular cooking oil, especially in the northern part of the country. If you’re feeling adventurous, this is your cue to prepare tonight’s dinner with unsalted butter to enrich your recipe with creamy nuances.



Olives are one of the most extraordinary foundations of the Italian kitchen. Often green or black showcasing their ripeness (black are ripe, green are younglings), you can pick and choose the ones that best suit your recipe.

You’ll notice that the green ones have a hint of sweetness in them and they often come packaged in somewhat salted water or saline solution. Rinsing them before utilizing them for your food can bring an extraordinary character to your Italian recipes.

On the contrary, the dark olives are almost always stored in brine and come with various types of seasoning.


We desire to have motivated you with our rundown of the absolute best Italian ingredients and how to utilize them! Bon Appetite! Now you can bring the desired quality to every Italian food you make so you can impress your friends and earn the approval of the Italian nation.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!