International Italian Cuisine week

Italian Pantry: Kitchen tools and Cooking verbs

This week we celebrate the Italian Cuisine around the World, the many ways it is enjoyed and eaten, globally cooked and imitated. The 4th edition of The Week of the Italian Cuisine in the World is dedicated to the Culture of Taste. Here comes a list of useful terms and verbs to navigate Italian cookbooks and enhance your Italian pantry!

Abbacchio: as funny as it sounds, this term indicates the Roman roast lamb (abbacchio alla Romana). Abbacchio, or suckling lamb, has been a Roman springtime delicacy since ancient times, and today this dish is often served for Easter celebrations.

Affogato: literally “drowned.” Anything that is submerged in a liquid, coffee, milk or liqueur. The most famous of the affogati is the “gelato affogato al caffè”, Italian gelato swimming in some hot coffee.

affogato al caffé
affogato al caffé

Arrosto: a roast. Can be used as an invariable adjective, as in patate arrosto, or roast potatoes, or a noun, as in arrosto di maiale, roast pork. A synonym, more or less, of al forno (listed below).

Affettare: to slice

Amalgamare: to combine many ingredients together in order to obtain a homogenous mixture.

Aromi: herbs, flowers, seeds, roots and fruit zest to give taste to dishes.

Bicchiere: glass; bicchiere da vino: wine glass.

Bollito: meaning ‘boiled’, can be used as an adjective or a noun. A popular way to cook meats or vegetables. A properly made bollito misto, or mixed boiled meats, is one of the glories of Italian cookery.

In brodo: meaning ‘in broth’, one of the two main ways of serving pasta, especially (but not exclusively) fresh egg pasta. In contrast, pasta asciutta, or ‘dry pasta’ is served with a sauce. Perhaps the most famous dish of this type is tortellini in brodo, the iconic dish from Emilia-Romagna.

tortellini in brodo
tortellini in brodo

Al dente: the way Italians like it. A term used to describe the point at which pasta is properly cooked: firm to the bite but not chalky. 

Antipasto: literally ‘before the meal’, the Italian word for appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Antipasti are always served at table, just before the primo piatto (see below), while stuzzichini (see below) can be eaten standing up.

Al vapore: steamed. Not a traditional technique in Italian cookery but one that is becoming increasingly popular in modern times.

Cavatappi: corkscrew

Coperchio: lid

Contorno: a vegetable side dish served with the secondo (see below)

Colino: colander

Coltello: knife; coltello da pesce: fish knife; coltello da carne: meat knife.

Cucchiaio: spoon

Cucchiaino: tea spoon

Cucinare / cuocere: to cook.

Cuocere / cucinare al forno: to bake

Cornetto: a word with several meanings. In Lombardy, it indicates the long green pea. But it also the Italian version of croissant, given its moon-like shape with two ‘little horns.’

Crespella: it is the Italian take on the French crèpe. It is made of flour, milk and eggs.

DOC: stands for “denominazione di origine controllata”, or “controlled name of origin”. A designation under Italian law to protect the names of genuine wine, cheeses and other Italian agricultural products. It is used colloquially as well to describe the authentic version of a particular dish.

fare la scarpetta
fare la scarpetta

Fare la scarpetta: an idiomatic expression, literally meaning ‘to make a little shoe’, for sopping up juices or a sauce with a bit of bread. The expression refers to the shape of the bread, which is said to look like a little shoe when pressed against the plate with your fingers.

Friggere: to fry.

Frullare: to blend, manually or with an electric tool.

Gallinaccio: an edible type of mushroom, also known as Finferlo, Galletto or Cantarello.

gallinacci o galletti
gallinacci o galletti

Grattugiare: to grate.

Alla griglia: the most common way to say ‘grilled’ or ‘barbecued’. It is a very popular way to prepare meat, fish or vegetables.

Imburrare: from burro, butter, it means to butter bread, a pan, a pot or a jar.

Insaporire: To sauté meat, vegetable or other food in a soffritto (listed below) to allow it to absorb its aromatic flavors. An extremely common technique in Italian cookery.

Mantecare: To beat, whip or simply stir vigorously to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. It is the finishing step in making a risotto, whereby you add grated cheese (usually parmesan), and/or butter or oil to the cooked rice, usually off heat, and stir vigorously to incorporate the ingredients and produce a creamy texture. 


Mattarello: rolling pin.

Mestolo: ladle

Mescolare: to stir or to mix.

pasta all'uovo
pasta all’uovo

Pasta all’uovo: Not all Italian pasta comes the same way. This term is used for fresh egg pasta. The most common types of pasta all’uovo include fettuccine, tagliatelle and pappardelle. Most stuffed pastas, including cannelloni, ravioli, cappelletti and tortellini, are also egg pastas. 

Padella: pan.

Pasta asciutta: Literally, ‘dry pasta’, it really refers to pasta dressed with a sauce. It is ‘dry’ relative to the other principal way of making a pasta dish, in a broth for instance.


Pelare: to peel.

Pentola: pot; pentolino: small pot.

Piatto: plate. When there is food on it, piatto indicates a dish.

Posate: cutlery. 

posate cutlery
posate cutlery

Primo piatto or simply primo: Refers to the first course of an everyday Italian meal, usually a pasta, risotto or soup.

Pralina: an almond coated in sugar. Also little chocolates with almond dough. 

Prosecco: the king of Italian sparkling wines, Prosecco is produced in a specific area of the Veneto region with very special grapes.

prosecco fiol

Piatto unico: A dish that can serve as both primo and secondo, a one-dish meal. Often a dish that combines both a carb and meat. It can also apply to a dish like parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan) that is so rich you don’t need another dish to make the meal complete. 

Quanto basta, or q.b: literally, ’as much as is enough’, a common term used in Italian recipes to mean, more or less, ‘to taste’ or as much as is needed to achieve the desired result.

Ragù: A long-simmering tomato-based sauce, typically made with meat, either in a single piece or minced. The two most famous are ragù alla bolognese, made with minced beef, or a mixture of minced beef and pork, known in English as Bolognese sauce, and ragù alla napoletana, made with a single piece of beef chuck. 

Scolare: to drain.

Secondo piatto or simply secondo: refers to the second course of an everyday Italian meal, usually a meat or fish, or sometimes a vegetable dish. The first course is usually as filling as the secondo, if not more so. Both are considered equally ‘important’ parts of the meal.


Spaghettata: A spur of the moment meal or snack made from a quickly made pasta dish, often late at a night, usually spaghetti. The most typical dish for a spaghettata is aglio, olio e peperoncino.

Stuzzichini: used to describe little pieces of food to nibble on at a party, as a snack or a starter for a dinner.

Soffritto: The base for sugo (listed below) stews and soups, consisting of hot oil, butter, or fat in which a chopped onion or crushed garlic clove has been browned, often with the addition of chopped parsley, celery, and carrot.

Sugo: Most common term to describe a tomato-based sauce for pasta. Ragù  is a particular kind of sugo.

Tagliere salumi formaggi

Tagliere: a cutting board, made of wood or plastic. In a restaurant or Italian bar, you can order a tagliere di formaggi o tagliere di salumi, the first being a plate with assorted types of cheese, and the latter, a plate of charcuterie / cold cuts. Said plates are oftentimes served on a wooden cutting board.

Italian tramezzini
Italian tramezzini

Tramezzino: the Italian version of a tea sandwich, prepared with white, spongy bread. You can enjoy a tramezzino as a stuzzichino before any meal. It literally means “between the middle” and was forged by poet and artist Gabriele D’Annunzio under the Fascist regime to avoid the use of the English term sandwich. Italian tramezzini are copiously stuffed and enjoyed with a nice spritz for the aperitivo.

Italian tramezzino and spritz
Italian tramezzino and spritz

Uccelletto: a Tuscan term that indicates a special way to cook beans: fried in oil or fat and sage, dressed with salt, pepper and fresh tomatoes.

Vellutata: literally, velvety. A soup generally made from puréed vegetables such as the Cream of Pumpkin Soup, thus named for its smooth and velvety texture.

Zuppa: refers to rustic soups which are typically meant to be eaten with bread, either for dunking or laid on the bottom of the bowl. The verb inzuppare means to ‘soak’ in the sense of impregnating bread with a liquid to soften. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Questions? Please fill out the form below and we’ll get right back to you!

© 2016 ScuolaScuola | All rights reserved