delicious. loves Italian essentials

The Italians make an art of using great ingredients simply. So, start with our pick of the best Italian staples from the supermarket, and you can’t go wrong.

delicious. loves Italian essentials

What we want from Italian basics…

Tomatoes

Fleshy plum tomatoes are best, because they have fewer seeds and less juice so need a shorter cooking time to rid them of their water content.

Pesto

A divine combination of pungent basil, pine kernels, extra-virgin olive oil and hard cheeses, pesto never loses its appeal. Look for Pecorino – it is bolder in flavour than Parmesan. A good pesto should have plenty of olive oil and coat every last strand of pasta.

Mascarpone

Technically not a cheese at all, this is truly luxurious stuff. Mascarpone resembles the thickest double cream – glossy and with a fat content to match (60-70 per cent). Cheaper brands taste ‘cooked’ and are more like cream cheese.

Pasta

Good pasta starts with the best durum wheat dough extruded through a bronze die – giving it a rough texture for the sauce to cling to. Slow-drying at a really low temperature is also crucial to the process.

Parmesan

You can buy so-called ‘Parmesan’ from outside Europe, but Italian Parmigiano Reggiano is still top of the heap. Any cheese with these familiar words printed into the rind is going to taste like it should – ripe and rich. Matured for at least 18 months, this granular cheese gets better with age.

 

Best tomatoes

Cirio Chopped Tomatoes, 79p for 390g, Sainsbury’

Rich, sweet and almost seedless, these chopped San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy’s leading tomato producer. Cirio started in 1856 and today has more than 250 growers in over 10 regions.

Best pesto

Sainsbury’s Green Pesto, £1.11 for 190g

Unctuous and fragrant with masses of basil, this perky, vibrant green pesto is made with a double helping of cheese – Pecorino and Grana Padano.

Best mascarpone

Marks & Spencer Mascarpone, £2.35 for 250g

This is made with local cream in the Lattebusche Creamery in a lush valley beneath the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. It has a fabulous clean taste and is so thick it still holds a stiff peak when you take out the spoon.

Best pasta

De Cecco Taglierini All’Uovo, from £2.29 for 250g, from most major supermarkets

There is no English whatsoever on the pack but who needs words when the pasta is this good? Sunshine yellow, it’s as rough as you like and the sauce sticks to it like glue.

Best Parmesan

Marks & Spencer Parmesan Cheese, £5.29 for 200g

Sourced from just one little artisanal dairy in the Apennine Mountains, this has been properly matured for over 24 months. Awarded the term ‘Extra’, which is the highest quality standard there is, it has a punchy flavour and such a grainy texture it almost sparkles in the light.

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