by Barbara Dunlap
Italian cooking is creative and satisfying -- especially when you have the right utensils at hand. To enjoy the cooking process, as well as the scrumptious cuisine you create, you will need certain Italian cooking essentials, preparation tools, cookware, cutlery and utensils. Check out the following list of cooking essentials to make sure you have everything you need to make your favorite Italian recipes.
Pasta pot. You need a lot of water to cook pasta right, so use an ample pot. For a pound of noodles, you want at least a 5-gallon container, and many cooks prefer an 8-gallon vessel. Stainless steel and aluminum cookware are common for pasta pots.
Chef's knife. Many types of cutlery are helpful in Italian cooking, but if you can only have one, choose a sharp chef's knife about 6 inches long. Look for one made of stainless or carbon steel. It should have a comfortable, textured handle so your hand won't slip.
Garlic press. Fresh garlic is an essential preparation tool for many Italian dishes, from pesto to pomodoro sauce. Use a cast-aluminum press that can handle large or small cloves, or if you prefer, mash the garlic using a nonporous mortar and pestle.
Grater. A good cheese grater is priceless for preparing Italian food. Some people stick with the traditional four-sided tower shape, while others prefer the flat, handheld variety. To avoid grating your fingers along with the Parmesan, try a rotary version instead.
Colander. A colander is essential for draining pasta or vegetables. You can find colanders made of any material, from copper or aluminum to recycled plastic. Just make sure yours is big enough to rinse the amount of food you want.
Wooden spoon. Your stirring spoon will become your best friend when you cook Italian food. Wooden spoons don't conduct heat, so they're perfect for stirring sauces and soups. A lot of people like spoons that are about 14 inches long because they're handy to use with large pots.
Baking pan. An ovenproof pan is essential for baking all kinds of Italian comfort foods. You can take the glass pan from the oven to the table, where guests can help themselves to freshly baked ziti, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiano and chicken cacciatore.
Ladle. Some cooks swear by ladles with flat, diamond-shaped bottoms for better pouring, while others insist on stainless steel or melamine varieties. Regardless, make sure yours has a long enough handle and sufficient capacity to use for soups and sauces.
Kitchen scissors. Whether they're used for snipping vegetables or cutting through meat, scissors are a godsend for cooks. Find shears with carbon or stainless steel blades and a comfortable handle. There are even versions made just for lefties, too.
Timer. A timer is one of the most important tools for any cook. You can chop and stir to perfection, but if your timing isn't right, it will all go up in smoke. Why risk burning those biscotti when you can rely on a ring to tell you when they're done?