1. Food

Before You Buy

It's much easier to shop if you're informed before you go. Here you'll find tips, information, pointers, and more.

The Oxford Companion to Italian Food
This is one of the best books on Italian food and culture I have read, and will also make a wonderful gift come the holidays. But don't flip through it if you're buying it as a gift, unless you buy a second copy, because you'll find yourself keeping the first for yourself.

Cavolo Nero:
Cavolo nero, black leaf kale, is a leafy cabbage that doesn't form heads, but rather resembles palm fronds, with deep greenish black leaves that can be up to a yard (a meter) long, have pronounced ribs, and whose surfaces have a distinctive bubbly appearance. It's quite tasty and perfect in hearty soups or over (or in) polenta.

Il Cucchiaio d'Argento, or: The Golden Spoon
A book

ILVE's PDF-906 MP Range
ILVE is one of the top Italian producers of ranges, cooktops, and ovens; their products are solidly built, extremely versatile, and made to order. In short, an excellent choice for a serious cook.

ILVE's PDF-906 MP range
ILVE is one of the top Italian producers of ranges, cooktops, and ovens; their products are solidly built, extremely versatile, and made to order. In short, an excellent choice for a serious cook.

Aglio!
Italian cooking is less garlicky than many think, but this doesn't mean there are no garlicky dishes...

Agnello, Abbacchio and Capretto: Italian Lamb and Kid
Lamb, and baby lamb, both of which are quite common on Italian tables during the spring, especially in the south. Background and lots of recipes.

Andar per Olio
Tips on buying extra-virgin olive oil, and recipes that use it.

Artichokes
The thistle's stab at glory can be extraordinarily effective, but you do have to be careful when you select them lest you get a heart full of fluff. Preparation instructions and recipes too.

Arance
Oranges are one of the great bounties of winter.

Asparagus, a glory of spring
Asparagus is one of the oldest Italian vegetables, a great favorite of the Romans whose popularity continues unabated today. Background, varieties, and recipes.

Baccalà, or: Salt Cod
An unlikely food to get excited over, one might think, but one would be wrong. It keeps very well, is extremely tasty, and is extraordinarily versatile. The perfect thing to have at hand! Background and recipes.

Borlotti
Also known as cranberry beans, they're one of the staples of Italian cuisine.

Bresaola
The Valtellina's delicate air-cured meat can now be found in the US. Info, and a recipe.

Cardoons
A close recipe of the artichoke, which some call "celery on steroids." It's a winter vegetable, and offers a pleasant change from more usual things. Background and recipes.

Ceci!
Or garbanzos, depending upon where you live. In any case one of the staple foods of southern Italy, and the perfect base for many delightful soups. Background and recipes.

Cipolle
Onions: Both herb and vegetable, and fit for all seasons

Cozze e Vongole
That's mussels and clams. Given Italy's thousands of miles of coastline, their popularity is no surprise. You do have to be careful when you buy them, however. Tips, and recipes too.

Fagioli!
That's beans. Italians consume huge amounts, year round, in a myriad of ways. Background, purchasing tips, and recipes.

Fagiolini
String Beans, which used to be proof of spring's arrival, and are now delightful year round. Purchasing tips and recipes too.

Finocchio
Bulb fennel, which looks like onions but smells like anise, is one of the more pleasant winter vegetables. Healthy too. Background and recipes.

Farro: The Grain of the Legions
The grain that fed the Legions is making a comeback, and quite deservedly so. How to purchase & prepare it.

Fiori di Zucca
Zucchini flowers are one of the great delights of spring. Background, purchasing tips, and a number of recipes.

Formaggio Grana
One of the world's great cheeses, as versatile as it is healthy. Background, buying tips (also applicable to Parmigiano Reggiano), and recipes too.

Le Bruciate
Chestnuts are the unsung heroes of the Italian diet, the nutritious and tasty staple that kept the poor, north and south, from starving. You do have to buy them with care, however. Tips, and instructions for roasting them when you get home, as well as some other ideas.

Lenticchie
A staple food for the winter months, and a requirement on New Year's Eve. Background, purchasing tips, and recipes.

Melanzane!
That's eggplant, a vegetable that used to be much more common (and popular) in the south than it was in the north. But things have changed. Background, purchasing tips, and recipes.

Miele Vergine
Virgin Honey from a beekeeper is vastly superior to the commercial stuff.

On Pasta Shapes
Already know about saucing and the kinds of pasta? Tips on selecting the pasta for your sauce, from the pasta shapes glossary.

On Cooking and Serving Pasta
It's easy, but there are some "rules" that help guarantee success. And there are the different kinds of pasta too. A rundown of tips and types.

Orzo & Orzotto
People associate barley with beer, but it's excellent in soups, too

Pesche
Peaches are one of the great joys of summer, if you can find good ones. Tips on selecting them, and a couple of recipes for when slicing them into a glass of wine won't do.

Pesce
That's fish, the bountry from the sea. Tips on how to pick fresh fish, and recipes too.

Peperoni
That's bell peppers, not a spicy sausage (which is salamino piccante). Background, and tips on buying and preparing peppers.

Porcini
The classic mushroom loaded with woodsy aroma and just as good dry (or so it seems) as it is fresh. Background, purchasing tips, and recipes too.

Potatoes, the Glorious Tuber
Few Vegetables are as tasty, satisfying, or versatile.

Radicchio Rosso di Treviso
Red Radicchio is a classic north Italian winter vegetable, and rightly so. It's tasty in salad, excellent in first courses, and a delight grilled. Background, varieties, and recipes.

Seppie
That's cuttlefish, one of the tastiest of molluscs. Tips on preparing it when you get it home, and recipes too.

Speck: A Joy from the Südtyrol
Superb, delicately smoked cured hams that add a delightful something to many dishes.

Strawberries
The classic early spring fruit; they can be extraordinarily good if they're ripe, but can also disappoint. Tips on selecting them and some ideas for when you get them home.

Tips on Buying Rice
There are many kinds of rice, which fall into broad categories. A rundown of the kinds most common in Italy, and what they're used for.

Tomatoes!
Though it's hard to imagine Italian cooking without these golden orbs, they've only been popular for about 200 years. Background, tips on selecting them, and lots of recipes.

Tonno
Thoughts on tunafish and some tasty recipes.

Tripe
The stomach lining of the cow, it was once something cheap that the poor could enjoy. And enjoy it they did, along with the rich, who were quite happy to admit this plebeian dish to their tables. Purchasing tips, preparation instructions, and recipes too.

Veal
Calf has long been a favorite meat in Italy. Information on the favious kinds, and recipes too.

Zafferano
Saffron: it's known for the color it imparts, but it also adds a very special something else.

Zucchini
The quintessential summer vegetable, rich with the flavors of the sun. Background, tips on purchasing them, and recipes too.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.