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5 Prep Tricks to Cook Authentic Italian

5 Prep Tricks to Cook Authentic Italian

    • Prepare fresh garlic with these two easy tricks for peeling and chopping.
    • When it comes to Italian cooking, fresh is best. Knowing how to prepare garlic, herbs and vegetables makes for irresistible dishes.

Nothing turns a foodie’s head faster than the intoxicating aromas coming from an Italian kitchen. No wonder it’s the most popular category of ethnic food in America, according to a recent report by the National Restaurant Association.

So why the obsession with Italian food? Maybe it’s the love that goes into making an all-day Italian “gravy.” Or the garden-fresh ingredients used in everything from soups to salads to sauces. Perhaps it’s the things we don’t know about. The behind-the-scenes. The prep. The secrets those little Italian grandmothers don’t want you to know about. Sorry, Nona, we’re spilling the cannellini beans….


A pungent aromatic, garlic is a powerful tool for maximizing flavor. A seasoned Italian cook knows how to harness its culinary powers.

First, learn to peel garlic like a pro. Lay the clove on its side on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a large knife, hit the clove with the knife using your palm. The peel should then easily slide off.

When it comes to garlic, size matters. The finer you chop it, the more potent it becomes. Try grating garlic if it’s intense garlic flavor you’re after. More mild? Slice it into thin slivers. The CHICAGO CUTLERY® ESSENTIALS® 8″ CHEF KNIFE will make quick work no matter how you slice it.


Pasta sauces with nuts—walnuts, pine nuts and hazelnuts—are common in authentic Italian sauces. Many times, nuts are ground in a food processor with the other ingredients to make a pesto or a thin but flavorful sauce that’s tossed with hot pasta.

If chopping nuts by hand, use a sturdy knife like the CHICAGO CUTLERY® ASHLAND™ 7.75″ CHEF KNIFE. Firmly hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand, while placing the palm of your other hand near the tip of the knife. Carefully use a rocking motion to chop to desired size.


Finely chopping ingredients helps distribute them while cooking and allows elements to bond with each other, creating a dish with a consistent depth of flavor. Use for garnishes, herb rubs or when you want ingredients to meld together and disappear, such as in a homemade tomato sauce. Use a curved knife, such as the CHICAGO CUTLERY® FULLERTON™ 7.5″ CHEF KNIFE, and a rocking motion to mince ingredients like garlic, onion and celery.


When you use the freshest ingredients you can find, great flavor takes care of itself. From Tuscany to Tivoli, market days abound in Italy, where fresh in-season vegetables, herbs, fruits and meats find their way from farm to table in a matter of hours.

Learn about the farmers markets in your area and get to know the vendors. Hunt down heirloom tomatoes and lesser-known vegetable varieties like broccoli rabe or Bianca eggplant. And don’t forget fresh herbs like basil and parsley. Snip some over fresh pasta with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, such as CHICAGO CUTLERY® DELUXE SCISSORS.


Trust us, it’s easier than you think. Find your favorite homemade pasta recipe—traditionally a combination of flour and eggs, there are dozens of delicious variations available online. Prep your dough, then roll into thin sheets with a rolling pin or put through a pasta maker. Dust sheets with flour and roll each short end toward the center. Using a sharp knife, such as the CHICAGO CUTLERY®AVONDALE™ 6.75" SANTOKU KNIFE, cut vertically into ribbons or wide rags. Add to boiling salted water, cook for 3 minutes and you’ll be hooked!

YOUR TURN: Have a prep trick from your own Italian grandmother (or maybe just a favorite cookbook)? Share in the comments section below. We’d love to hear!