Creating authentic tasting Italian cuisine takes practice, but it also requires the right tools and utensils. We've put together a list of 10 essential tools that anyone trying to create great tasting Italian food should keep in their kitchen. Of course, there's no need to go out and acquire all of these tools at once. We recommend gradually incorporating these tools into your kitchen, so you can learn how each affects the flavor and composition throughout the cooking process.
1. Pasta Machine
While you can roll out pasta dough by hand, it’s A LOT easier to get an even thickness with a pasta roller. There's a lot of options to choose from out there with pasta machines now being offered in manual and electric versions. However, for home kitchen purposes we think a manual pasta roller is the better option. Creating fresh pasta is something that can be a fun activity, but at the end of the day what we all care about is the taste and quality of the final dish. A pasta roller helps with consistency, making your desired noodles the same shape and size. If you love fresh pasta, then a home pasta machine is a must have.
2. Gnocchi Board
Gnocchi is another traditional Italian style dish, which happens to require a certain type of kitchen utensil in order to prepare. Gnocchi itself is a type of small dumpling made from potato, semolina, or flour, and usually served with a sauce. However, these perfect little pillows of potato need ridges, and that's where the Gnocchi board comes into play, also referred to as “rigagnocchi” in Italian. This rustic tool’s special texture and carved grooves provides the traditional sauce-grabbing ridges on gnocchi without damaging or flattening the delicate dough. To create perfectly ridged gnocchi, cut even sized sections from ropes of dough and simply roll them along the ridges with a gentle pressure to imprint the entire circumference.
3. Rolling Pin
Chances are that you already have a rolling a pin in your kitchen. Like the rest of the items on this list though, it's absolutely essential to preparing a great many Italian dishes and recipes. Basically, this simple tool screams fresh pasta! From lasagne, maltagliata, maccheroni, to spaghetti alla chitarra, the rolling pin is the most basic utensil used to make pasta, but it's also essential for shaping a ball of dough into the base of your favorite recipe. However, make sure you have a rolling pin that you actually like to use. We recommend using a handless rolling pin in most circumstances. Using a rolling pin with handles sometimes allows the dough to get stuck between the pin and the handles, making it more difficult to roll the dough properly.
The stainless steel “grattugia” cheese grater can be found in just about every Italian kitchen. That's largely due to the fact that fresh cheese is a staple ingredient throughout Italian cuisine and recipes. There's a lot of different graters available nowadays, but generally the basic star-pronged fine grating surface is the classic style used on an Italian kitchen grater. There are modern six-sided ones for varying degrees of shredding, julienning and slicing, but make sure you've got the classic Italian style grating surface on whichever grater you choose.
5. Pasta Rack
Don't invest all that time and effort into rolling and cutting beautiful pasta only to have it clump up. Even if you plan to cook your pasta soon after you roll it, you'll need to let it dry so it can firm up properly and maintain its shape during the cooking process. Drying your pasta sounds easy enough, but there's a certain tool that can be found in most Italian kitchen that makes this step a breeze. A pasta drying rack or stand, like the one featured in the image above, can make a world of difference when it comes to perfecting pasta from home. The traditional Italian pasta rack was commonly made from beechwood, but nowadays they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, so choose one that best suits your needs.
6. Ravioli Kit
Making great homemade ravioli requires two things, fresh ingredients and the proper kitchen utensils. Therefore, in most Italian kitchen you can generally find what many in Italy consider to be a "Ravioli Kit". Essentially, it's comprised of a ravioli cutter or stamp, a ravioli press, and a rolling pin (there's a reason rolling pin is listed at #3). If you took our advice to get a rolling pin already, then you'll just need to acquire a ravioli press, and either a ravioli stamp or rolling cutter Your ravioli cutter (or stamp) is a simple tool that you press down onto your pasta dough (once you’ve laid it out with the filling) automatically creating the filled pasta shapes with those iconic ruffled edges. The ravioli press is more like an egg carton or muffin tray. Just lay down a sheet of dough, fill each indentation with your desired filling, place another sheet of dough on top and then press the second piece down to create those perfect little stuffed pillows.
7. Mortar & Pestle
In Italian this essential kitchen tool is known as "mortaio e pestello". If you love using fresh spices or herbs, then you absolutely need to get a mortar and pestle for your kitchen. There are certain things we typically use this tool for, but the top reason in Italian kitchens is to make fresh pesto! Generally, fresh pesto consists of basil, garlic, pecorino cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. Slowly grinding these ingredients together prevents the fresh flavors and aromas from being lost as they're combined. Don't be fooled though, this kitchen tool isn't limited to making just pesto. It can also be used to make things such as Caesar dressing, spice-blends, aioli, and hummus, so if you like any of those things (we know we do!), then it may be time to add a mortar and pestle to your kitchen.
Translated from Italian to English, 'mezzaluna' simply means crescent moon, which is precisely the shape this knife displays. The mezzaluna is essentially just a mincing knife, but it's fitted with a double handle as opposed to any ordinary straight-edged kitchen knife. Essentially the double-handle knife allows the user to fully utilize the curved blade. Rocking back and forth on a cutting board makes quick work of chopping any kind of herbs, greens, onions or garlic. It's a great tool to have in your kitchen whenever you need to make rustic sauces or even olive tapenade.
9. Pasta Pot & Colander
We're grouping these two together because they're absolutely essential for nearly every Italian pasta recipe. You cannot cook pasta if you don't drain it with a colander. Similarly, you can't boil pasta al dente without using the proper type of pasta pot. So, these two kitchen utensils need to become a mainstay in your home if you or your family happen love pasta as much as we do.
10. An Assortment of Wooden Spoons
Wooden spoons are probably the most common tool utilized on this list. In fact, you'll probably find an assortment of well-worn wooden spoons in just about every Italian kitchen. They're very durable as far as kitchen utensils go, so there's no need to worry about them melting it you leave them resting on the edge of your pot or pan. Plastic spoons and stainless steel utensils with plastic handles or parts can melt if left near high heat, which can leach chemicals or strange tastes into your food. Make sure you have a a variety of wooden spoons as well. Flatter spoons with an angled tip are great for scraping every corner of your pan while those with a hole in the center are perfect for stirring or mixing.