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Basic Rules of Italian Cooking

Part of the Italian Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

How do you capture the essence of Italian cooking if you didn't grow up in Italy? If you want to think like an Italian chef, practice these simple Italian cooking tips and you won't go wrong:

  • Start with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Everything is so much easier when the ingredients taste good.

  • Simpler is always better. Enough said.

  • Cook with the calendar. Locally grown, in-season produce usually tastes best. Shop at stores or farm markets that support local farmers.

  • Get to know your vegetables. You can't cook real Italian food without spending some time in the produce aisle. With a few exceptions, Italians rely on fresh, not frozen, vegetables.

  • Make friends with your local cheese guy. Find out the names of the important Italian cheeses and how to buy them.

  • Master how not to follow a recipe. Most Italian cooks prepare dishes from memory, changing quantities and procedures ever so slightly each time.

  • Taste as you cook. No one but you knows how salty or spicy you like your food. Season throughout the cooking process and adjust the seasonings right before serving.

  • Work at building flavor. Many Italian recipes begin by sautéing onions and other vegetables in olive oil. Don't rush this step. It builds flavor.

  • Be frugal. Italians believe in the old maxim, "waste not, want not."

  • Enjoy yourself. If the meal allows you to enjoy the company and conversation of others, consider your cooking a success.

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