1. Always use the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford in your pastas, for drizzling into soups, onto a risotto or for salads. Don't pour the olive oil into a hot pan or it will burn, heat the pan to a moderate temperature and either drizzle the oil onto your meat, chicken or fish, then fry it until desired.
2. When cooking pasta, always use about 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 litre of water and have the water at a rapid boil - it’s important to cook pasta in an abundance of water so that it has room to move. Always conserve a little of the pasta water for adding into your pasta sauces as the starches from the pasta helps to give the sauce a little more substance in covering the pasta.
3. Fresh tomatoes used in salads or sauces are always best left out of the fridge and use ripe red tomatoes as the flavour will be stronger at room temperature. Always taste your sauce if using fresh tomatoes as you may need to add a little sugar to balance the acidity.
4. Italian food is often quick and simple to make so always have a good array of ingredients on hand, including; legumes, peeled tomatoes, parmesan cheese, olives, anchovies, good pasta, good quality vinegars, polenta, and good quality seasonings.
5. When using herbs always use the stronger flavours such as rosemary, thyme and oregano at the start of your cooking when working with slow cooked meats, soups or sauces. Finish off dishes like pastas, salads and meat dishes with soft herbs such as basil and parsley. The Italians love herbs and use them in all their dishes, so always keep a selection in your fridge. Gourmet Garden has a great range of fresh herbs including basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, garlic and parsley. The tubes are easy to use and last for months so you can have them at the ready for your next Italian meal.
Dominique Rizzo is the host of the Herb eCooking School, an initiative from Gourmet Garden. Dominique is currently supporting Gourmet Garden’s search to find Australia’s next Blogger-Come-Chef. For more information or tips for cooking with herbs, visit the Gourmet Garden website; www.gourmetgarden.com.au.