Italian cooking is simple, unfussy and damn delicious. That said, home cooks will need a few specialty kitchen items to truly master the art of Italian cooking. Whether you’re shopping for your favorite foodie or looking to invest in a special cooking gift for yourself – we’re here to help! From ravioli cutters and pasta drying racks to the perfect cast iron pan, here are 16 Italian kitchen essentials every home chef should have.
Italians love their espresso! At home, coffee is almost exclusively made using a Moka Pot. These small yet mighty contraptions make rich, delicious shots of coffee that rival any bar in Rome or your local coffeehouse at home. Most Moka Pots are the size of a standard drinking glass, making it possible to have fresh espresso in even the smallest of kitchen spaces. It’s an incredible Italian kitchen item you’ll love to use and display on your stovetop. Bialetti is Italy’s most famous Moka brand and the 3-cup version is our go-to. Pro-tip: you should never wash your moka pot with soap or put it in the dishwasher – just rinse with water!
A fantastic pasta roller is a classic kitchen appliance and a necessity for all Italophile cooks! Homemade pasta like tagliatelle, ravioli and lasagne require perfectly thin rolled sheets of dough, so it’s important to invest in a quality roller. There are many varieties of pasta rollers available, from traditional hand-cranked models to modernized Kitchenaid attachments. No matter which option you choose, both make excellent, fresh pasta dough every home cook prizes! The Marcato brand has small pasta machines that come in a range of colors with attachments to make 12 different pasta shapes.
Pasta Drying Rack
A pasta drying rack is a necessity when making batches of pasta. It allows air to circulate through freshly made cuts of pasta dough, while also allowing each strand of noodle to remain separate from the others. No more pasta sticking together while waiting to be boiled!
Many Italians have generational pasta boards that are passed down through their family members for years. If you haven’t inherited one of your own, investing in a pastry board is a handy for for rolling out long, wide pastry dough – and keeping your work space clean and tidy. Plus, they’re great for showcasing a great appetizer or charcuterie spread! Pastry boards can come in all sorts of materials, like wood and ceramic, but we find that marble ones are the easiest to clean and maintain.
Every Italian home cook needs a great rolling pin. These also come in lots of materials and designs, from wheeled to straight cut – there are hundreds of rolling pin variations one can choose from. Choose one that feels comfortable in your own hands.
Freshly grated cheese is a ubiquitous ingredient in Italian cooking. All types of Italian cheeses, from nutty Pecorino Romano to salty Parmigiano Reggiano, add layers of zippy flavors to any dish and are always more flavorful when they’re freshly grated. A cheese grater with multiple shredding sizes and a nonslip base is a game changer in the kitchen, allowing you to create ribbons of cheese for baked dishes, or delicate dustings to serve atop pasta.
Like cheese, garlic is another staple aroma found in hundreds of Italian recipes. And although there is something nostalgically old-world about chopping and mincing garlic, home cooks may not always want to do all the “hard work” for every meal. Garlic presses are easy to clean and incredibly efficient. Investing in one can save lots of time and effort!
Passaverdura Food Mill
A passaverdura is a great appliance that ensures you get the most out of fresh vegetables! In Italy, this food mill has many functions but it is most commonly used to make tomato passata (freshly crushed tomato pulp) – the foundation for many tomato-based sauces. In the hot months, Italian home cooks will love using their passaverdura to crush their mountains of summer tomatoes to make sauces that can last them all year!
If you haven’t heard of this contraption, a mezzaluna is an ergonomic kitchen tool designed to chop and mince onions and herbs. Shaped like a half-moon (or mezzaluna in Italian), this sharp knife is used in a rocking motion and makes recipe prep a breeze. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love having it in your pantry. Opt for a larger size to make chopped salads, slice pizzas and more.
Unlike the common spoon, the girariso (“rice rotator”) has a hole in its center. Made specifically for Italians to make hearty risotto dishes, the hole allows the rice to pass through and be pushed in multiple directions – doubling the effectiveness of stirring with a regular spoon. This set of six olivewood spoons by Ruffoni includes a girariso to cover all your cooking needs.
Mortar & Pestle
When making pesto or preparing any kind of crushed ingredient, the old-world mortar and pestle is the only thing that will do the trick! Unlike a knife, mortar and pestles gently crush aromatic spices, nuts and herbs, allowing their flavors to bloom. Shopping for a mortar and pestle is an ancient tradition, but today you’ll find this kitchen essential in a variety of heavy materials, including from marble, granite and even metal.
Ravioli Cutter or Mold
Filled pasta need to be the same size and shape to cook effectively, so ravioli presses and cutters are here to help! Trust us, the satisfaction of seeing perfectly symmetrical filled pasta is something worth getting excited about. There are many stunning ravioli cutter shapes out there, so have fun hunting down a unique form that will bring some fun to your pasta. You can even opt for a ravioli mold to make a dozen, evenly-spaced ravioli in one go – this accessory is shaped like an ice-cube tray so you’ll know exactly how much filling to use each time.
Another pasta must-have! Gnocchi boards have a grooved surface to make perfect potato or ricotta gnocchi. Just press your thumb lightly on the pasta and roll down the surface of the board. It takes a little practice, but it’s oh so worth it, because the added texture creates little ridges that collect savory sauces, creams, and cheeses! You can also use a gnocchi board to make Garganelli pasta shapes.
Chitarra Pasta Maker
This unique wooden implement makes perfectly cut Abruzzo-style spaghetti. Chitarra pasta makers look similar to small harps or lap guitars, with strings that slice pasta dough into long, square-shaped noodles that cling to sauces like cacio e pepe or ragù. Chewy and decadent, spaghetti alla chitarra are one of our favorite pasta shapes!
This is an Italian kitchen essential that we swear by each time we prepare pasta. A spider strainer allows for some of the noodles to carry pasta cooking water (which is considered to be “liquid gold” by many chefs) over to the sauce pot. This hot, starchy water is used to create creamy sauces that cling to each noodle, thanks to its emulsifying properties. Though most Italians save a cook of cooking water halfway through cooking, using a spider strainer will guarantee decadent pasta dishes in a flash while also saving you from washing out your colander each time you drain a pot.
A set of beautiful copper pans will create exquisite dishes each time – while enhancing the aesthetic of your kitchen. Thanks to their heat conductivity, copper cookware retains and distributes heat well, making them versatile in the kitchen and useful for cooking everything from fragrant pasta sauces and egg frittatas to hearty stews. Established in 1931, Ruffoni produces quality copper kitchen accessories that are perfect center pieces for your next Italian dinner party.
Would you consider yourself to be an Italian food expert? What are some of your most beloved, Italian kitchen essentials?