Ottawa is becoming known for its emerging food scene and there’s no question that ByWard Market restaurants are some of the best. In the spirit of great food, we’ve provided a few tips to help share our love for Italian food. After all, who doesn’t love Italian food? Cheesy, doughy, meaty – all good things in our book. So here are some ways to spruce it up in the kitchen – Italian style!
1. The best ByWard Market restaurants know it’s important to use seasonal ingredients – especially since they have fresh, seasonal vegetables nearby!
2. Pasta is meant to be slightly chewy, or ‘al dente.’ Be careful not to overcook it.
3. Italian food is rich with herbs. Strong herbs such as thyme and oregano are typically used at the beginning of cooking, while soft herbs like basil are used to finish a dish. Tip: When using basil, tearing it instead of chopping it will enhance flavour and reduce discolouration.
4. Olive oil is another staple in Italian cuisine. Try using extra-virgin olive oil when possible, especially for drizzling. It’s made from the first pressing of olives, so it’s higher quality than pure olive oil.
5. ByWard Market restaurants are some of the top ones in Ottawa. You’ll notice the best ones go homemade when possible – this includes doughs and sauces.
6. Onions are an important aspect of many Italian food dishes. As a rule of thumb, use white for cooking and red for salads.
7. Garlic adds a tremendous amount of flavor to any dish. To properly release flavour, squash peeled garlic with the flat side of a knife, and then roughly chop.
8. The most common types of cheese used in Italian food are: parmigiano-reggiano, provolone, mozzarella, pecorino romano and ricotta. Although pasta is often topped with one variety of cheese, certain pastas such as ones containing seafood are sometimes left sans cheese.
9. Anchovies can add the perfect salt and seasoning to a dish. This can also be achieved using anchovy paste, which comes in a tube.
10. The best ByWard Market restaurants know how important building flavour is. This is especially true when it comes to Italian food. To build or layer flavour it’s important to start with a good base (usually olive oil, onions and garlic) then begin slowly adding in your other flavours (i.e. meats, vegetables and herbs). Also, it’s important to remember the simmering will make all the difference. The longer you cook something the more flavour will be released.
11. Last but not least, remember to cook with love!