Italian Ingredient Glossary

Follow our guidelines on how to use these popular Italian ingredients.
An A-Z Guide to Italian Ingredients
Artichokes add texture to
Italian dishes.

  • Arborio rice: Risotto is traditionally made with this Italian rice, although other rices can be used. Risotto is Arborio rice that is browned first in margarine, butter, or oil, then cooked in broth. The finished rice has a creamy consistency and a tender, but slightly firm, texture.
  • Artichokes: Look for firm, compact globes that are heavy for their size. They should yield slightly to pressure and have large, tightly closed leaves. (Sometimes leaf edges darken because the plant got too cold. This darkening, called "winter kiss," does not affect the quality.) To store, place fresh artichokes in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week. To prepare an artichoke, cut off the bottom stem so it sits flat. Cut off about 1 inch from the top. Remove loose outer leaves. With kitchen shears, snip 1/2 inch from tips of leaves. Brush cut surfaces with lemon juice to prevent browning. You can remove the fuzzy choke with a grapefruit knife or spoon.
  • Balsamic vinegar: This sweet, dark brown vinegar is made from the boiled-down juice of a white grape. According to Italian law, balsamic vinegars labeled as "aceto balsamico tradizionale" cannot contain any wine vinegar and must be aged at least 12 years. These vinegars can sell for $40 to $350 for 4 ounces. Less expensive balsamics blend wine vinegar with the grape juice.
  • Basil: The aroma and flavor of this herb range from peppery and robust to sweet and spicy. Its leaves can be various shades of green or purple. Use the leaves of this herb in dried or fresh form.

Continued on page 2:  Cooking Cheeses