19 Essential Italian Ingredients You Need to Have in Your Kitchen

Photo credit: Rachael Ray Show Aired October 29, 2015

To celebrate the launch of Rachael’s new cookbook Everyone is Italian on Sunday, which is in stores now, we invited masters of Italian cooking to share their must-have ingredients! Read on for the comprehensive list, in no particular order, that you need to follow to stock your own Italian kitchen!

No. 1: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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This was on both Chef Emeril Lagasse and Rachael’s lists. As an Italian-American, Rachael is very proud that her abbreviation “EVOO” has made it into the current vernacular!

Recommended Recipe: Aglio e Olio

No. 2: Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Again, this was on both Rachael and Emeril’s lists. This “king of all cheeses,” as Mario Batali calls it, can be used in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is using the leftover rind to flavor soups and stews!

Recommended Recipe: Carbonara

No. 3: Garlic

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What would Italian cooking be without garlic? Emeril stresses that this is a must-have in any Italian pantry.

Recommended Recipe: Garlic and Lemon Spaghetti

No. 4: Tomatoes

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Again, can you imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes? This is another one that was on Emeril’s list.

Recommended Recipe: Lidia Bastianich’s Rigatoni with Sausage-Tomato Sauce

No. 5: Basil

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The fresh, sharp flavor of Basil is another must-have flavor when preparing Italian cuisine.

Recommended Recipe: Fabio Viviani’s Basil Pesto

No. 6: Pasta

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Need we say more about this? This is just a given – stock your pantry with lots of pasta!

Recommended Recipe: Linguini with Shrimp Fra Diavolo

No. 7: Pancetta

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Richard Blais loves this ingredient because, as he says, "It's cured pork [like bacon] and bacon makes everything better."

Recommended Recipe: Penne with Pancetta, Peas and Mascarpone

No. 8: Fennel Seed

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You know that bright, almost-minty flavor you find in Italian sausage? That would be fennel seed, which made it on Richard’s list.

Recommended Recipe: Braised Pork with Fennel, Apples and Onions

No. 9: Sweet Italian Sausage

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Speaking of Italian sausage, that is one of chef Scott Conant’s favorite Italian ingredients. This sweet and spiced sausage adds depth to a wide variety of Italian dishes.

Recommended Recipe: Baked Ziti

No. 10: Mozzarella

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This quick-melting soft and salty cheese is also a favorite of Richard. It can be used in a seemingly endless variety of dishes.

Recommended Recipe: Chicken Pepperoni

 No. 11: Prosciutto

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This salty Italian ham made it on Scott’s list, and can be used in sandwiches, breakfast dishes, and even pasta!

Recommended Recipe: Mushroom and Shallot Spaghetti with Crispy Prosciutto

No. 12: Calabrian Chili Paste

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Scott loves this ingredient for turning up the heat in pasta dishes as well as adding a zing to your weekend Bloody Mary!

Recommended Recipe: Fresh Tomato and Calabrian Chili Bloody Mary

No. 13: Italian Red Wine

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Rach loves this for cooking everything from drunken pasta, to of course, the glass of wine the cook sips on while preparing dinner!

Recommended Recipe: Drunken Spaghetti with Mushrooms and Chard

No. 14: Anchovies


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As Rachael says, you might think you don’t like anchovies, but you would be wrong! “When you melt these tasty little fish into garlic oil, they taste nutty and earthy and just delicious.”

Recommended Recipe: Mario Batali’s Linguine With Anchovies

No. 15: Eggs

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Chef Fabio Viviani loves eggs because because you can do everything from egg dishes to pasta to filling, and everything in between.

Recommended Recipe: Eggs in Purgatory

No. 16: Grana Padano

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Fabio loves Grana Padano cheese, which is very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, but because it’s produced in a bigger area, might be slightly less expensive.

Recommended Recipe: Lidia Bastianich's Almond Pesto Trapanese over Seared Chicken

No. 17: Vanilla

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Master Italian baker Buddy Valastro says of vanilla, “Vanilla is one of the most important flavors in all of baking” due to its ubiquitousness when it comes to sweets.

Recommended Recipe: Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

No. 18: Ricotta

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Buddy says of Ricotta cheese, “Not only can you do an amazing Italian ricotta cheesecake, or you can do cannoli or you can do your cassata [cake]. You can [also] make raviolis. It's kind of sweet and savory, it goes both ways."

Recommended Recipe: Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

No. 19: Sugar

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Another of Buddy’s must-have ingredients is sugar, which isn’t just for sweets! “Everything has sugar in it,” he says. “I actually put a little bit of sugar in my tomato sauce to kill the acid.”

Recommended Recipe: Valerie Bertinelli's Sicilian Love Cake

What is your can’t-live-without Italian ingredient? Share below and click here to purchase Rachael’s book, Everyone is Italian on Sunday!

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