When it comes to Italian cuisine, the first dish that comes to mind is often some variation of pasta. While it may reign supreme in Italy, it isn’t the only traditional staple. True Italian cuisine is made up of a holy trinity of Italian starches: pasta, risotto, and polenta.
Pasta, which translates to ‘paste’ in Italian, is often made with only a few ingredients such as flour, water or olive oil, and sometimes eggs. It is a type of unleavened dough, meaning that the dough is not made with any type of aerating agent such as yeast or baking powder. While many people believe that pasta originated in Italy, no one is 100% sure of where it came from as some evidence shows that certain Asian countries may have had similar noodles long before the Italians.
To make homemade pasta, of any shape or size, you’ll just need a few things. Following this recipe from Food & Wine, you’ll need:
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil
First, place your flour on a clean, cool counter and make a well in the center of the mound. Then add your eggs and your olive oil to the center of the well and begin to beat with a fork. As you work your way outwards, be sure to keep the shape of the well. Once your dough begins to form, start kneading it with the palms of your hands. When your dough is complete, remove it from the counter and lightly re-flour the surface before kneading the dough again for a few minutes. As soon as the dough is stretchy and sticky, wrap it in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Once it’s finished, roll it out and create your desired pasta shape! All you then need to do is boil the pasta before garnishing and serving.
Risotto is a type of creamy rice dish that is made by slowly adding small amounts of liquid at a time. It is generally made with rice, broth, and aromatics. The best type of rice to use when making risotto is carnaroli rice but arborio is a great substitute. You should stay away from long-grain rice such as white, basmati, or jasmine as they do not stick together as well.
Risotto can be difficult to make as you continually add liquid instead of cooking the rice in all of the liquid from the beginning as you would with traditional rice. The reason why risotto is made little by little is that as you add the liquid, the rice releases its starches, which helps create the creamy texture that risotto is known for.
Lastly, polenta is a dish that is essentially boiled cornmeal. Many people have compared it to grits, one of the staple foods in the southern states. This dish is quite easy to make as all you need to make it is water and cornmeal. It wasn’t always made of corn, however. A few hundred years ago, it was made with acorns or other ingredients that people had available. Many people today enjoy serving polenta with meat, especially stewed meats on cooler days, making it quite the Italian comfort food.
Start With The Staples
Now that you’re well versed in the main staples of Italian cuisine, try your hand at making any of these dishes! Check out some of the items on our menu that may give you the inspiration you need!