Here’s some secrets that I’ve learned to make yummy Italian food:
1. Use good quality ingredients. The only brand of pasta that we buy is Barilla. It’s made in Italy and Nate swears that it is the “only” good pasta.
2. Use real cheese. I realized shortly after marrying Nate, that he is a cheese snob. There are no store-brand cheeses in our house. We always use fresh mozzarella and fresh Romano cheeses in our Italian dishes. You can find good cheeses at Costco. We like BelGioioso mozzarella. We use it for pasta, lasagna, pizza, tomato/basil/mozzarella salad, etc. Now that I’ve tried the real stuff, I can’t go back. It makes a HUGE difference.
3. Don’t over cook the pasta. There is nothing worse than mushy pasta. Err on the side of under-cooked as opposed to over cooked. Also, always salt the water. Nate uses a lot of salt in the water which allows the pasta to absorb some flavor.
4. Use either garlic OR onion. Nate lived in Sicily, and at least in southern Italy, you don’t mix those two flavors. Choose one. We usually use garlic.
5. Use fresh herbs. We always use fresh herbs in our Italian food. Nate threw away anything that resembled “Italian Seasoning” when we got married. Since fresh herbs have a stronger flavor, we usually just pick one. Basil. It needs to be basil or oregano, and we like basil. We grow fresh basil every summer, and then just before the first freeze of the winter, we bring it in, wash it, and freeze it. Whenever we have a recipe that needs a little basil, we just scoop some out of the freezer bag. It gives us that “fresh herb” flavor all year long.
And finally, just have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce:
That’s it. Don’t be afraid to experiment! That’s what makes it fun!