Most of us are still pining for travel, now with a glimmer of light at the end of our long, travel-less tunnel. Though we still may be making pizza and focaccia on the regular, these tried-and-true stand-bys are no substitute for the “real thing.” For those who love Italian food, visions of the Trevi fountain and Venetian canals dance through our heads. But la bella vita is within reach in your own kitchen; you just have to remember the classics. Here are the Italian recipes our readers love the very most, from aperitivo to dolce. (No need to book a trip… yet?!)
The Aperol spritz has experienced a happy revival in America since about 2017, but it’s been a hit in Italy since the mid-20th century. The gorgeous orange-hued drink is iconic for a reason: It’s just a 3-2-1 mix of Aperol, Prosecco, soda water and an orange slice. (We like a version with slightly less soda!) Enormously popular in Northern Italy, it now graces al fresco tables around the country and stateside, too. Made at home, it’s a breeze, and so inexpensive!
To do bruschetta right, make it right now. It’s tomato season in much of the U.S. of A., and with all due respect to top-notch imported tomatoes, this is the stuff you want to use to make tomato toasts. Popular in Italy for centuries, the mix of tomatoes and basil benefits enormously from a good grill pan. There’s nothing quite like seasonal tomatoes on warm bread.
Making pasta by hand, sheet after sheet, is calming in its way. And there’s arguably no better way to enjoy it than in pappardelle strewn with fresh ricotta, toothsome sausage and julienned fennel. (If it’s been a minute since you’ve had that particular flavor combo, it’s one we worked on for a while; it’s divine.)
It’s entirely possible that chicken piccata is a stateside creation, according to some sources. Its predecessor is veal piccata, a classic Italian dish found nationwide. (Because its sauce of butter and lemon has different names in different regions of the boot, it was difficult for one reporter to track down its precise regional origin.) Typical of the dish, though, is a butterflied, flattened chicken breast dredged in flour, fried in olive oil, and sauced heartily in butter and lemon, usually with capers and parsley. Our five-star reader-beloved recipe, incorporating artichoke hearts so you don’t need to cook a separate veggie side, is the one to try.
For a deeper dive into Italian regional cooking, check out our map of the boot, which includes recipes typical to each region. This sort of seafood stew typical of Naples and the Southern coast would make a gorgeous secondo (second course) if you weren’t feeling like chicken piccata or short ribs over polenta. It’s the thing to make when you have great fish at your disposal; it includes a boatload of clams, scallops, white fish, squid and shrimp. Buy more crusty bread than you think you’ll need for sopping up that incredible broth.
Yes, you can make “regular” tiramisu, and we’ve got amazing recipes for that. But when it’s hot, we make frozen tiramisu. You’ll need ramekins and 20 minutes of time the night before you want to eat them. When you’re ready for dessert, just unmold and dig in. “Tiramisu,” in Italian, means “pick me up,” and although its regional origins are fuzzy, for us it does just that.