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Glossary

Acciuga Anchovy
Aceto Balsamico Balsamic vinegar, a sweet-and-sour, dark-brown vinegar traditionally made in Modena. Balsamic vinegar is made from the cooked juice of Trebbiano grapes, and aged for several years in a succession of different wood barrels. Real balsamic vinegar reads aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena on the label and is quite expensive. Aceto Balsamico di Modena, a sweetened wine vinegar, also fine for use in Italian cuisine is readily available in supermarkets.
Affumicato Smoked; used to refer to smoked meats and fish.
Al dente To the tooth, used to describe pasta cooked so it still has a little bite.
Agrodolce Sweet and sour.
All’ aglio e olio A dish with this name is made with garlic and oil. A famous, easy-to-make pasta dish is spaghetti all’aglio e olio.
Al forno In the oven.
Antipasto A little something that is served before the meal, as an appetiser.
Arrabbiata A spicy tomato sauce flavoured with chile.
Bocconcini Bite-sized piece of food. Often used to refer to small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.
Alla bolognese In the style of Bologna, usually refers to a slow-cooked meat sauce with vegetables and tomato.
Bottarga Intensely flavoured dried mullet or tuna roe, cut into thin shavings for use in salads and pastas.
Branzino Sea bass, known as Spigola in the South of Italy.
Braesaola Air-dried beef, served thinly sliced and uncooked in salads and antipasti.
Brodo Soup.
Bruschetta Toasts, usually served with a topping of some sort as an antipasto. While the two words may be used interchangeably, bruschetta are typically larger pieces of toasts, while crostini are typically smaller.
Burro Butter.
Calzone A savoury pie made from a yeast dough that is rolled like a pizza, filled, then folded over to make a half-circle and baked.
Caponata A traditional Sicilian vegetable dish made with eggplant and tomato.
Alla Caprese In the style of Capri, made with tomato, basil, olive oil and mozzarella cheese.
Carpaccio A dish of raw beef sliced very thin, often seasoned with lemon and olive oil or mayonnaise, served as a salad or antipasto.
Ciliegine Very small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.
Ceci Chickpeas.
Contorno Vegetable side dish, usually served alongside the main course.
Crespelle Crêpes, both sweet and savoury.
Crostata Flat, open-faced tart which can be sweet or savoury.
Crostini Toasted bread, usually served with a topping, or sometimes just a drizzle of good olive oil.
Crudo Uncooked, often used to refer to a raw fish appetiser.
Fagioli Beans.
Formaggio Cheese.
Frittata An open-faced omelette, which can be made entirely on top of the stove or started on top of the stove and completed in the oven; usually flavoured with vegetables, herbs, meats or cheeses.
Frutti di Mare Seafood.
Gamberi Shrimp.
Alla Genovese In the style of Genoa, made with basil, garlic and oil.
Gnocchi Dumplings, often made with potatoes and flour, but in Italy they may also be made with semolina, ricotta or breadcrumbs.
Grana Padana Hard cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy.
Granita An icy, granular frozen dessert.
Grissini Breadsticks.
Integrale Whole wheat.
Marinara Tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil and oregano.
Mascarpone Fresh Italian cream cheese with a very soft, creamy texture and buttery flavour. Mascarpone is used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Minestra Soup.
Mozzarella di Bufala Cheese made from the milk of water buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella should not be refrigerated. Mozzarella may also be made from cow’s milk, in which case it is called Fiore di Latte. Both should be used as soon as possible after purchase.
Nocciola Hazelnut, widely used in Italian cuisine in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Olio di Oliva Olive oil, extra virgin oil, made from the first pressing of the olives, is the highest quality.
Panzanella A traditional salad made with stale bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and olive oil.
Parmigiano-Reggiano A hard cow’s milk cheese originally produced in and around Parma.
Pecorino A hard sheep’s milk cheese made in the area around Rome (called Pecorino Romano), as well as in Tuscany, Sardinia and Sicily.
Peperoncino A hot chile pepper used in Italian cuisine.
Pesto A green sauce from Genoa made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino, traditionally crushed and mixed in a mortar and pestle.
Pinoli Pine nuts.
Pizza Open-faced pie made with yeast dough and topped with savoury toppings, originally from Naples.
Pizzaiola Fresh tomato sauce from Naples made with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and basil.
Polpetta Meatball.
Polpo Octopus.
Pomodoro Tomato.
Porchetta Spit-roasted, whole suckling pig.
Porcini A meaty mushroom that is used both fresh and dried in Italian cuisine.
Primo The first course of a traditional Italian meal.
Prosciutto Italian ham, prosciutto cotto is cooked, prosciutto crudo is raw.
Provolone A spicy cow’s milk cheese.
Alla Puttanesca A highly-flavoured tomato sauce containing capers and anchovies, and often olives, garlic and chile flakes as well.
Ricotta A fresh cheese traditionally made with whey that is drained off in the process of making another cheese.. Ricotta salata is dried, salted ricotta cheese used for grating and shaving; it has a much longer shelf life than fresh ricotta.
Ripieno A stuffing or filling.
Risotto A savoury dish of rice cooked slowly in broth, served as a first course. Risotto is made with a special Italian rice that remains firm during cooking while imparting its starch to the dish, thickening the broth to a creamy texture. Arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano are the varieties of Italian rice appropriate for risotto.
Salsa Sauce.
Saltimbocca A dish of pounded-veal cutlets rolled with prosciutto and fresh sage. The name means “leap into the mouth.”
Salumi A general word for cured meats including those made with ground meats, such as salami and mortadella, and whole, bone-in meats, such as prosciutto.
Scaloppina A thin, pounded piece of meat, such as a veal cutlet.
Scamorza TBA
Scarpetta Means to mop up the remaining sauce from a plate of food with a piece of bread.
Secondo Main course of a traditional Italian meal.
Semifreddo “Partly frozen”, refers to an Italian dessert of moulded custard or ice cream.
Sformato A moulded dish, sweet or savoury.
Soffrito A mixture of chopped vegetables, usually onion, carrot, celery and garlic, which forms the base of many Italian sauces, soups and stews.
Spiedino A skewer, as in skewered, grilled meats.
Tartufo A truffle, of which there are both white (bianco) and black (nero).
Zeppole Fritters, served sprinkled with sugar.