Ahh, Italian food. Rich, delicious, and packed full of flavor, it’s hard not to love. Heck, not so long ago, pasta was even named the world’s most popular dish!
Pasta only scratches the surface of the Italian dining experience though. Among countless others, there’s pizza, lasagne, Fiorentina steak, risotto, and gnocchi to think about too. Honestly, the list of scrumptious Italian dishes goes on and on and on.
And every last one of them is cooked, eaten, and adored across the globe! But just because it’s popular doesn’t mean we’re cooking Italian food properly. Indeed, true Italian chefs look on in horror at the wide range of mistakes we make in this endeavor.
Want to learn all about these issues so you can avoid them in the future? You’re in the right place! Keep reading to discover 7 common mistakes people make when cooking popular Italian recipes.
- Failing to Salt the Water
Read through this post and you’ll soon recognize a theme. Basically, most of the mistakes we make when cooking Italian food revolve around that quintessential Italian dish: pasta. And few of them are more heinous than forgetting to salt the water you cook it in!
Sure, you can add salt to the dish once it’s cooked, but you’ll struggle to attain the same level of seasoning (and risk over-salting it in the process). Avoid that fate by adding a hearty pinch of salt to the boiling water before the pasta goes in. You’ll taste the difference in your dishes straight away.
- Putting Oil in the Water
A similar water-related mistake that people make is putting oil in the boiling water with their pasta. Now, the principle itself is sound. You don’t want pasta for dinner to clump together, so you add some oil to keep it loose and untangled, right?
There’s a problem, though:
It doesn’t work!
The tried and true Italian way to achieve your goal is to add oil to the pasta once you’ve drained it. You’ve put it in the colander, drained the water, and returned it to the saucepan. Only then does it make sense to add some oil and mix it in.
For the same effect, you could also combine it with your pasta sauce at that time.
- Adding Cream to Carbonara
We’ve all been there. You’re cooking up some pasta carbonara for the family and want it to be rich, creamy, and delicious. You look in the fridge and, whaddayaknow, there’s some double-cream in the door just asking to be added to the sauce…
Don’t do it! Adding cream to your carbonara all-but amounts to sacrilege in Italy. In fact, any Italian chef will tell you that it’s no longer carbonara if you do it. Instead, focus on attaining the right ratio of the cooking water, pecorino cheese (grated), and egg yolks.
- Using Tomato Ketchup
This one should go without saying. It burns a hole in the retinas of Italian cooks everywhere! However, this particular mistake’s so common we’d feel remiss not to mention it:
Using ketchup as your pasta sauce…
It’d be like using plastic dinnerware at a fancy dinner party! Serve an Italian a plate of ketchup-infused spaghetti and they’ll either laugh or cry. Oh, and the same goes for mayonnaise.
Your pasta needs a proper, home-cooked, sauce that’s bursting with flavor. It could be the classic tomato and basil combo, a Genovese pesto concoction, or a thick Ragu Bolognese. But it’s never ketchup!
- Breaking the Spaghetti
Another cardinal sin of Italian cooking is snapping long noodles before you put them in the pot. We totally understand. That pesky spaghetti doesn’t fit as it is and waiting for them to soften can be a bore.
In the interest of all things sacred to Italian chefs, though, endeavor never to break it! Exercise patience instead. Pop one end of the pasta into the water and, as it begins to soften, press it down with a spoon until it’s submerged.
- Wait Until the Water’s Boiling
On a similar note, your water should always be boiling before you add the pasta to the pot. Alas, many people put it in when the water’s still heating up. This mixes up the timings, leading to chewy and undercooked Italian dishes.
It’s worth pointing out that the recommended cooking time on pasta packets applies from the moment you add it to boiling water. Bring the water to the boil, add your pasta, and wait for those 10-12 minutes to elapse. You’ll get perfect pasta every time!
- Overcomplicating Dishes
Italian food has been tainted by the tastes of other countries. Take pizzas, for instance. Go to the local supermarket and you’ll find frozen varieties with all manner of crazy toppings- think pineapple, BBQ chicken, endless amounts of meat, and mounds of cheese.
This almost never happens in Italy! Pizzas are always thin, with a basic tomato base, a few dollops of mozzarella, and basil leaves on top. In other words, they’re simple.
And that characteristic applies across the board.
True Italian cuisine’s never overcomplicated. Instead of the mass of options, toppings, and contents you find in America, you use a few compatible ingredients for Italian meals (often seasonal in nature) of amazing quality. Do the same in your cooking and you’ll be onto a winner.
Don’t Make These Mistake When Cooking Italian Food
Italy is renowned across the globe for its incredible cuisine. It’s as rich, colorful, and vibrant as the people who live there! Italian food’s eaten and loved everywhere, from America to Africa and every country in between.
As we’ve seen, though, it’s also cooked incorrectly a lot of the time.
With any luck, the information in this post will help you avoid doing the same. Keep these mistakes in mind whenever you’re next cooking Italian food and you’re sure to enjoy better results. Would you like to read more articles like this one?
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