10 Essential Elements Of Authentic Italian Food

When it comes to food, Italians are the best in converting simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients into delicious, satiating meals. From freshly made wood-fired pizzas, to silky risottos, or a plateful of Caprese salad made from farm-fresh cheese and tomatoes, authentic Italian cuisine is all about fresh, seasonally sourced, and natural ingredients.

spaghetti with amatriciana sauce in the dish on the wooden table

Since Italians follow the Mediterranean diet that focusses on seasonal and whole foods, this makes Italian cuisine one of the healthiest and most delicious cuisines in the world. Dining at a reputed Italian restaurant is the best place to try authentic Italian food. It’s also the best way to learn what you can add to your diet, and it’s a delicious way to boost your health. To get started, all you’ll need to do is stock your kitchen with a few Italian cooking essentials.
In this article, we will discuss 9 essential elements of authentic Italian food.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil can easily pass off as the most essential ingredient required for Italian cooking. It’s practically found in every Italian dish. Olive oil from the Tuscan region is considered the best in the world because of its flavor and quality. Extra virgin olive oil is the most easily digested vegetable fat and is known for its various health benefits. Since it’s made by simply cold pressing the fruits, this is the only form of oil that comes without any chemicals and industrial refining. Olive oil is used as a base for almost all Italian sauces. It has a slightly bitter, pungent taste that can be best enjoyed with freshly baked bread.

2. Tomatoes

Italy is known for its large tomato production. The country has more than 300 varieties of tomatoes. Seasonal, fresh tomatoes are the base for several delicious sauces, salads, and soups. Most authentic Italian dishes and sauces, like gazpacho, Caprese salad, and marinara sauce, use tomatoes as their main ingredient.

spaghetti with amatriciana sauce in the dish on the wooden table

3. Pasta

A list of Italian food essentials is incomplete without the mention of pasta. Pasta is a staple for the Italians. Just as there are several types of pasta found all over the country, you can also find infinite ways of preparing it. Spaghetti, penne, fusilli, ravioli, lasagna, and fettuccine are some of the most popular types of pasta. When buying, choose the pasta made of durum wheat as it maintains cooking consistency and has an al dente texture. If you’re looking for authentic Italian pasta, places like an Italian restaurant serve the best.

4. Parmesan

Parmigiano-Reggiano is the star of Italian cooking. Parmesan is produced from cow’s milk and is aged from 12 to 32 years. This cheese, with its nutty, grainy flavor, is used extensively in pastas, risottos, and soups.

5. Ricotta

Ricotta is a mild, creamy cheese made from the milk of goats, sheep, or water buffalos. It’s primarily used as a light, creamy cheese for savory dishes and works well for desserts, such as the Italian cannoli.

6. Balsamic Vinegar

Authentic Italian Balsamic vinegar must be aged for at least 12 years. It’s a condiment that’s used often in the Italian kitchen.

7. Fresh Herbs

Fresh Italian herbs are a must for every Italian kitchen. They’re added to almost every Italian dish to enhance the flavors. Fresh sprigs of basil can be added to salads, or used to make a delicious pesto sauce. Fresh sage, parsley, and oregano are also used for roasts and even desserts. These herbs are an integral part of authentic Italian cuisine.

8. Wine

While Authentic Italian food is often paired with wines for meals, it’s also used for cooking delicious Italian dishes, like roasts and risotto. When it comes to food, Italians don’t compromise on quality and flavors. For them, there’s nothing like cooking wine. If a wine is good for drinking, it’s also used for cooking.

9. Mushrooms

Porcini and portobello mushrooms are used extensively in Italian sauces. They are widely known for their nutty, meaty texture. When added to vegetarian dishes, mushrooms add a distinctive flavor and consistency to it. Using fresh or dried mushrooms in polenta, risotto, or soups will add a meaty texture to your vegetarian dish.

10. Coffee

Though coffee is not native to Italy, espresso has become an integral part of Italian food culture. You can find many delicious coffee blends throughout the country. Italians usually consume a few cups of espresso throughout the day. Coffee is also used as a flavor for gelatos and desserts, like tiramisu.


Authentic Italian food is all about seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients used to create wholesome, delicious meals that are also beneficial for your health. Being a Mediterranean diet, Italian food can definitely be a healthy addition to your meals.
To start cooking authentic Italian food at home, all you need to do is stock your pantry with this list of essentials and get cooking!