5 more must-have Italian Pantry Staples...
The secret to a good, full-flavored marinara is stellar tomatoes. When fresh are out of season, look for canned brands with no preservatives. Or splurge on san marzano tomatoes, an Italian variety known for its sweet taste and meaty texture. Jarred sauces are convenient, but many have too much sugar; seek out those with no more than 5 grams per serving.
These underrated little fish add a complex, salty-rich (and surprisingly non-fishy) backbone of flavor to some of Italy's tastiest sauces, like puttanesca. The fillets come canned, jarred in oil, or in paste form; all versions melt into hot sauces. The paste is most convenient because you can squeeze in a dab at a time, but the canned and jarred versions pack more intense flavor.
Coarsely ground cornmeal (which is naturally gluten-free) is sold in traditional, quick-cooking and instant dry versions, as well as precooked in tubes. Use dry if you want to cook a bowl of creamy polenta to top with meat, sauce or vegetables. The precooked, sliceable variety is convenient if you'd like to bake, fry or grill the polenta, because it holds its shape well.
9. FRESH GARLIC, HERBS AND SPICES
Garlic is one of the building blocks of Italian and Italian-American cooking. Buy only a little at a time so the cloves stay as fresh and moist as possible. Dried herbs like parsley, basil and oregano add depth to simmered sauces; fresh herbs are often used as a bright-tasting garnish. Though rarely spicy, Italian dishes are often rounded out with a touch of heat from crushed red pepper.
With hundreds of styles in every shape imaginable, there's a pasta to suit every sauce. The classic is made with refined semolina flour, which is high in gluten (the protein in grain that creates a chewy bite). If you're looking for pasta with more fiber, go whole grain. It has a heartier, earthy-wheaty taste and up to 5 more grams of fiber per 3/4-cup serving.