6 Pantry Must-Haves To Cook An Italian Meal

Planning to host a special Italian extravaganza? Want to get creative in the kitchen and cook up an Italian feast? With these six classic ingredients, you can easily put together an authentic Italian meal that’s going to have the compliments come pouring in. From fresh bulbs of garlic to plump, firm tomatoes, all you need are a few simple ingredients that will magically transform into an irresistible Italian meal.

Olive Oil

1. Olive Oil

Every Italian dish needs to be cooked in glugs of extra-virgin olive oil. Not only does this add a peppery punch to the food but also laces it with a rich, smooth feel. Simply put, Italian food just wouldn’t taste the same without this magic ingredient.

Types Of Olives Used To Make Olive Oil:


First grown in Tuscany, Moraiolo creates a superior quality oil.


A variety that can be found in Southern Italy and is commonly used in that region of Italy.


One of the most common olives, Leccino olives are found across Italy.


Nocellara olives come from Sicily and are picked when they’re still bright green.


One of the most popular types, Frantoio olives are grown in Tuscany and Umbria.

How Is Olive Oil Used In Italian Cooking

• Use it to toss warm pasta
• Add it to pesto or marinara sauces
• Dip a crusty bread in it
• Drizzle some onto a fresh salad, like a Caprese salad
• Pour it over meat or fish preparations
• Add a drizzle to warm, baked dishes


2. Tomatoes

We wouldn’t be far off the mark if we called this ingredient the ‘star’ of Italian cooking. Fresh tomatoes form the essence of a good Italian meal and have been around in Italy since the late 1600s. Their versatility makes them fun to cook with and their juicy flavour makes them a treat to eat.

The Many Varieties Of The Italian Tomato


A tangy tomato that comes from Sicily.

San Marzano

These thin-skinned plum tomato are from Mount Vesuvius.

Cuore Di Bue

A big, meaty tomato from Liguria and Calabria.


A small, oval-shaped tomato from Southern Italy.

How Tomatoes Are Used In Italian Cooking

• Use San Marzano tomatoes to create the most delicious pizza saucesr
• Finely chop Pachino tomatoes and toss them in salads or use them as a bruschetta topping
• Use firm, ripe tomatoes to make an Arrabbiata sauce
• Puree and stir the tomatoes of your choice into rich soups
• Grill some tomatoes and serve them alongside some cheese and herbs, sprinkled with parsley

Get a taste of the juiciest San Marzano tomatoes in our All-Purpose Tomato Sauce. Our chefs have married the tomatoes with celery, carrots and finished it with Italian herbs and spice to bring you an aromatic, flavour-packed sauce that’s so versatile that you can use it anyway you like.


3. Garlic

Contrary to popular belief, the key to using garlic in Italian cooking, is to use it in moderation. Garlic, a versatile ingredient, adds plenty of flavour to all kinds of meals. So, Italian chefs tend to use this in a manner that doesn’t overpower the dish.

Variety Of Garlic Used In Italy

Softneck garlic

As the name suggests, softneck garlic has a soft, pliable neck and offers two variations — silverskin garlic, known for its strong flavour and artichoke garlic, which has a milder flavour.

Hardneck garlic

With a stiffer neck, hardneck garlic also offers two variations — racombole, which boasts a full-bodied flavour and porcelain, which has larger cloves and can be stored for a longer time.

How Garlic Is Used In Italian Cooking

•Sautée some garlic in a bit of olive oil and toss with spaghetti
• Add a hint of it to marinara and pesto sauces
• Toast slices of bread on a pan with some butter and garlic and serve with a bowl of pasta
• Sautée some garlic with vegetables, use it to flavour fish or roast it with meat

Get a taste of the robust flavours of garlic, as Italians would love to eat it, with our Aglio Olio Peperoncino. You can use to stir an aglio olio spaghetti or drizzle it on meats and roasted vegetables for added flavour. Order it and have it delivered to you in 24 hours.


4. Basil

This sweet, fragrant herb is one of the best things about Italian food. However, this herb actually came to Italy via India, through the spice trade. Ever since, basil has been key to Italian cooking and is considered to be a symbol of love in Italy. Legend says that if an Italian woman placed a basil plant on her balcony, it was a message to her lover that he could come calling.

Different Types Of Basil In Italy

Italian Large Leaf Basil

The most widely used variety in Italy, this robust herb can be used in marinara and pesto sauces and even in salads.

Genovese Basil

Also known as sweet basil, this variety is known for its spicy aroma and pungent taste and is commonly used to make a rich pesto sauce.

How Basil Is Used In Italian Cooking

• Prepare a vinaigrette using fresh basil and garlic and add it to salads
• Make a pesto with it
• Use it to add flavour to tomato sauces and other tomato-based preparations
• Garnish your pizzas with it and let its aroma tease your tastebuds


5. Pasta

Pasta in Italy, is almost like a way of life. Before it became a worldwide sensation, it was an economical way to add substance to a meal. In Italy, pasta is prepared from scratch. From kneading the dough to cutting it and stuffing it, the pasta-making process is a complex but heady one, enjoyed by children and adults alike. Today, this humble ingredient stars in plenty of different preparations, ranging from soups to salads.

Popular Types Of Pasta Italians Love Cooking With:


A cylindrical, tube-shaped pasta that’s often likened to the nibs of fountain pens


A long, thin, noodle-esque pasta that’s an Italian staple


A flat but thick pasta which literally means ‘little ribbons’


A corkscrew-shaped fusilli pasta, traditionally made by rolling strips of pasta over a small rod


A bow-shaped pasta that even comes in different colours


A ribbon-like pasta that resembles the fettucine, but is not as wide

How Pasta Is Used In Italian Cooking:

• Cook the pasta al dente and toss it with your choice of sauce
• Cook and add some pasta to a fresh summer salad, topped with mozzarella or feta cheese
• Mix leftover pasta with some beaten eggs and cheese and whip up a classic Italian frittata
• Create pasta bakes using fresh or leftover pasta, white/red sauces, vegetables and cheese
• Add some bite and texture to soups by layering it with pasta and vegetables cut the same size as the pasta


6. Cheese

‘There’s no such thing as too much cheese’, said every Italian ever. Italy boasts the highest variety of cheeses in the world, with every region having its own production methods. This super versatile ingredient is not only a crowd-favourite, but can easily perk up all kinds of dishes.

Popular Italian Cheeses:

Pecorino Romano

Made of sheep’s milk, this hard, salty cheese can only be produced in Lazio, Sardinia and Tuscany


Traditionally made from buffalo’s milk, this is arguably the most popular of all Italian cheeses


This semi-hard cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a creamy, nutty flavour

Parmigiano Reggiano

Labelled the ‘king of cheeses’, this crumbly and salty variety gets more flavourful as it ages


This blue cheese variety is made using whole cow’s milk and can be either mild or pungent, depending on how long it’s left to age


This popular variant is known for its rich and creamy flavour and has a soft little center


A soft but crumbly cheese, ricotta is made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or buffalo milk

How Cheese Is Used In Italian Cooking:

• Grate pecorino cheese over a dish of pasta, to give it a salty twist
• Use mozzarella cheese as a pizza topping or add chunks of it to a salad or to arancini
• Add some provolone cheese to a sandwich, grate it over a tart or use it as a stuffing for meat
• Parmesan, or parmigiano reggiano, tastes swell when grated over pesto, over some warm pasta or on a salad
• Use gorgonzola cheese to add an extra dash of creaminess to some pasta, risotto or a dish of gnocchi
• Fresh burrata cheese tastes best in a Caprese salad. You can also add a dollop of it to your pizza
• Ricotta cheese pairs well with both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s popularly used in gelato, but you can also use it to top a crostini or to fill cannelloni, ravioli and other similar kinds of pasta

Follow us on Instagram @sorrentina_honestlyitalian to learn more about the Italian cuisine.

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