For many, the thought of cooking from scratch after a long day at work is a tiring one – especially when tackling a new cuisine! One of the joys of Italian cooking, however, is that many dishes are actually very simple to cook. Forget hours slaving over a stove after work, many of Italy’s most delicious dishes and base sauces can be made quickly and easily – without breaking a sweat! The key to Italian cooking? Fresh, high quality products. Provided you stick to this fundamental rule, you can’t go wrong!
To prove it, we’ve put together five simple Italian dishes and sauces that can be whipped up in under an hour for you and your family to enjoy.
1) Caprese salad
This is an easy, simple and beautiful salad but it does require the best quality ingredients you can find.
Ingredients for two people
- 3 large ripe salad tomatoes (at room temperature)
- At least 2 balls of the best buffalo mozzarella
- Lots of large basil leaves (tear if you need to but don’t chop!)
- Vorrei’s organic Cenzino extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Black pepper
- Simply arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices on a plate, sprinkle with lots of basil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Accompany with crusty bread
Soffritto is the essential base to Italian sauces, many soups and stews and creates a flavour base for other ingredients. The basis of soffritto is a combination of three key ingredients: onion, carrot and celery, although these can differ from region to region. The word Soffritto comes from the past participle of the verb soffriggere ‘to fry lightly, to brown’ and the vegetables should be gently cooked. It is best used fresh but it’s a good idea to make extra and freeze for next time.
- 2 parts onion
- 1 part carrot
- 1 part celery
- Chop the three ingredients into tiny pieces
- Saute in some olive oil for about 5 minutes until it softens and becomes golden in colour
- Now you can cook your main ingredient in the soffritto to absorb its flavour or just add crushed San Marzano tomatoes.
Often seen as a intimidating dish to make, risotto is actually incredibly easy to rustle up. Keep a bag of Arborio or Carnaroli rice in your cupboard and some onions, white wine and a vegetable stock cube and you have the basis of a delicious risotto! From frozen peas found in the bottom of your freezer to porcini mushrooms, you can add anything to risotto, meaning it’s the perfect last-minute dish when using up any leftovers.
Here is the basic technique:
- Make up some vegetable stock and keep it simmering in a pan.
- Heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the finely chopped onion – saute until soft.
- Add the rice and stir until coated with the oil.
- Add the white wine & stir well until it absorbs.
- When the liquid is cooked off, add one ladle full of stock at a time and stir, stir, stir until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add your main ingredient
- Then add another ladle full of stock, stir until the rice absorbs the liquid and repeat with another ladle, keep doing this until the rice is cooked.
- Keep on stirring – it can take a while for the liquid to absorb each time! Be patient and don’t leave the risotto!
- If you run out of stock, use simmering water.
- If you wish you can stir in a knob of butter at the end and sprinkle with grated parmesan – eat immediately!
4) Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce
A homemade tomato sauce is essential to Italian cooking and is far healthier (and delicious) than your sugar-filled, shop bought jars.
Ingredients for 2-4 people
- 400g tin of Vorrei’s Agrigenus San Marzano tomatoes
- Half an onion
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- A few leaves of basil
- Pinch of salt
- Chop the onion into small pieces and sauté gently in the extra virgin olive oil until it becomes clear in colour and nice and soft.
- Add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt. Break the tomatoes up a little with the wooden spoon.
- Cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the basil leaves a couple of minutes before the end.
- Serve with spaghetti or short pasta such as penne and sprinkle with Parmesan.
5) Classic Tomato Bruschetta
An Italian classic, Bruschetta comes from the Italian word “bruscare,” which means to roast over coals. Of course, if you don’t have any coals you can use a grill pan or a toaster – just make sure that the bread becomes a lovely golden brown colour. Cut the bread quite thick, that way you can put plenty of topping on it!
Ingredients for 1 person
- 1 loaf of rustic type bread (Italian if possible), thickly sliced.
- Clove of garlic
- Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Handful of sweet tomatoes, chopped
- Fresh basil, torn or shredded
- Arrange the bread slice(s) on the grill pan. Grill gently for about 2 minutes or until toasted, turning once to get equal colour on both sides.
- Remove from the grill. Cut an end from a clove of garlic and lightly rub the cut edge of the clove over the surface of the bread.
- Drizzle or brush on enough olive oil to lightly cover the surface of the bread. Sprinkle very lightly with salt then top the toasted bread with the tomatoes, basil and a little more olive oil.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
And there you have it! Five easy dishes and sauces to create delicious, home made Italian dishes. Who said Italian cooking from scratch had to be hard?!
If you’ve been left inspired by our Beginner’s Guide to Italian Cooking, take a look at our Italian Hampers – bursting with authentic ingredients to help create Italian food at home.
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