Basic Terms Used For Italian Cuisine | Key Ingredients For Making Italian Dish | How To Prepare Italian Dish | History Of Italian Cuisine

 Introduction To Italian Cuisine

Italian cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and south of the Italian peninsula. It offers an abundance of tastes and is one of the most popular and copied in the world. It has influenced several cuisines all over the world, mainly that of the United States.

Italian cuisine is generally characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes with only two or four main ingredients. Italian chefs rely mainly on the quality of the ingredients rather than an elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary depending on the region. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated with variations throughout the country.

A typical Italian lunch consists of a primary course il primo (pasta, rice etc). A second course il secondo (meat or fish) served along with a side dish il contorno ( salad and fruit).

Important Terms Of Italian Cuisines

1. Pomodoro

Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian. However, this term is often seen as part of the Italian classic dish “Pasta al Pomodoro”. A pasta with a sauce of olive oil, fresh tomatoes and basil.

The difference between pomodoro and marinara is; The tomatoes aren’t as chunky in pomodoro, the sauce is cooked longer. And it’s darker in color.

2. Arancini

Arancini are moulded rice balls fried in bread crumbs that take their name from the word “arancia”. Meaning “orange” in Italian due to their shape and color.

Moreover, it’s regular fillings which vary regionally can include meat or tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms or pea. However, the dish can be used as an appetizer or a side with a main course.

3. Tiramisu

Tiramisu (meaning “pick me up” or “cheer me up” in Italian) is a light-as-air, popular coffee-flavored Italian dessert.

Therefore, to make it, ladyfingers (sponge biscuits) are dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of sugar egg. And also Mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) and finished with a dusting of cocoa.

4. Ricotta

Dating back to the Bronze Age, ricotta is a classic Italian cheese made from sheep, cow or goat milk.(where the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained).

Ricotta is commonly used in Italian desserts like cheesecakes and cannoli, as well as in calzones, pizza, lasagna and rravioli

5. Gnocchi

Gnocchi is generally eaten in Italy as a first course alternative to soup or pasta. They are soft dough dumplings and dense, made from wheat flour, semolina, egg, cheese, potato, and bread crumbs.

Its Preparation varies across regions, though a butter sage sauce is common.

6. Crostata

A crostata, dating back to the 1400s is an Italian baked pie or tart made with a chunky filling (as opposed to a blended filling).

However, it’s common variations include fruit preserves like apricot, cherry, peach or blueberry.

7. Ragù

Traditionally,  ragù is a meat-based sauce cooked with a liquid; broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream and tomato and vegetables. Also chicken, beef pork, goose duck and lamb are popular choices.

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It can also be minced, chopped or ground and almost usually served over pasta. Chopped vegetables can also be made by substituting chopped vegetable for meat for vegetarian ragù.

8. Carpaccio

This appetizer often accompanied by arugula and shaved cheese, and it is an awesome start to any group dinner.

To make carpaccio, raw meat or fish typically beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna is thinly sliced or pounded thin. And often seasoned with lemon or vinegar, olive oil, salt and ground pepper.

9. Rigatoni

This is a tube shaped noodle that’s larger than penne and ziti. Moreover, rigatoni has ridges down its length, making it ideal for soaking up savory sauces and grated cheese. The pasta is central to the cuisine in southern and central Italy.

10. Panna Cotta

These are sweetened cream thickened with gelatin which is then poured into a mold to set. However, it originated from the northern Italian region of Piedmont.

The cream is often flavored with rum, coffee or vanilla, and the dish is topped with berries, caramel or chocolate sauce.


Pasta, vegetables, olive oil and fish are a major part of the Italian cuisine.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar much more expensive than common vinegars. It however, originated in the Modena region of Italy. And moreover, it is dark, thick and syrupy with a sweet taste.


Basil (basilico) is an Italian herb used for salad, added to pizza after cooking and also to flavour sauces.

Bread Pane di Casa or Ciabatta

This is usually crusty on the outside and not too doughy or too airy inside. Moreover, it is Served with cheese, prosciutto and used for bruschetta.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is used for drizzling over salads, dipping bread into. And also for cooked dishes, as well as for cooking.


Formaggio is a cheese with two main categories Sweet (dolce) or with bite (picante).


This is a creamy blue cheese used in the classic dish gnocchi gorgonzola.


Ricotta is a very essential cheese used in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Mozzarella and Bocconcini

Bocconcini and Mozzarella are soft fresh cheeses known as a “tomato’s best friend”, as both complement each other.

Parmesan Parmesan

Parmesan Parmesan is known in Italy as “the King of cheeses”. Parmiggiano Reggiano known as the Grandfather of the Parmesan family, having been matured for approximately four years.

However, it has fine crystals throughout the cheese that melt in your mouth releasing its flavour. Therefore, it is commonly served after a meal with fruit and wine.

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While ‘Grana Padano’ is the baby as it been matured for 18 months only. It is grated and sprinkled over pasta as the Reggiano is considered too expensive for this. And it brings out the flavour of pasta dishes and is the tomato sauce to a meat pie.


There are many available types of Olives including Sicilian (a green olive with a citrus flavour), giant green olives and Ligurian (a black olives).

Pasta Dried and Fresh

Fresh pasta has a silkier texture. Often eaten in most Italian households every day.


The Bottling fresh tomatoes to make “passata” for use throughout the winter is a grand Italian family tradition.

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