Quanto Basta: Following an Italian Recipe

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 03:35
pasta ladies

There may be differences in how Italy and countries across the globe have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic this year, but one thing has brought the world together: cooking. With restaurants closed and more time spent at home, it seems like everyone has either discovered or rekindled a passion for preparing food from scratch, be it comfort cakes or multi-course meals.

When it comes to home cooking, few cultures match Italy for pure delight in anything culinary. And though many “recipes” are more rough guidelines passed down orally from generation to generation, this country of born home chefs also has a long and rich history of cookbooks. Indeed, Europe’s first cookbook was published here in 1474 and the landmark “La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene” (“Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”), published by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891, is still considered one of the world’s seminal cooking tomes.

If you want to prepare authentic Italian dishes (“piatti”), there is no better source than a cookbook (“libro di cucina” or “ricettario”) written and published in Italian...though be forewarned that many of these recipe collections presume a level of kitchen skill and intuition that is far more advanced than many English-language cookbooks. In fact, one of the most common commands you’ll find in any Italian recipe (“ricetta”) is to add an ingredient or cook a concoction “quanto basta”, or “just enough”...leaving it to each individual cook to decide just how much is just enough.

Here are other important cooking terms you may come across when diving into an Italian recipe:

Verbs in the Kitchen

A recipe is basically a list of commands, so expect the verbs in any recipe to use the imperative tense (“l’imperitivo”). Generally, recipes are written in the second person plural (you all) rather than the second person singular (you).

Preparare - Prepare

Cucinare - Cook

Pulire - Clean

Sbucciare - Peel

Pelare - Pool

Mondare - Clean and/or peel, depending upon the ingredient

Affettare - Slice

Tagliare - Cut

Tagliare a dadini - Dice

Tagliare a fette - Slice

Fare bollire/Portare a ebollizione - Bring to a boil

Scaldare/Mettete a scaldare - Heat

Sbriciolare - Crumble

Grattugiare - Grate

Mantecare - Cream

Lessare/Bollire - Boil

Cuocere - Cook

Arrostire - Roast

Friggere - Fry

Unire - Add together

Amalgamare - Combine

Versare - Pour

Tostare - Toast

Dorare - Toast until golden

Rosolare - Cook (saute) until golden

Ammorbidire - Soften

Infornare - Place in oven

Grigliare - Grill or broil

Accendere - Turn on

Spegnere - Turn off

Mescolare - Mix

Tritare - Mince

Frullare - Blend

Sbattere - Beat

Rompere - Break

Separare - Separate

Montare - Whip

Impastare - Knead

Impanare - Bread

Stufare - Stew

Soffrigere - Saute

Saltare - Saute

Aggiungere - Add

Scolare - Drain

Conservare/Tenere da parte - Set aside

Buttare - Toss in/Toss out

Mettere a scaldare/Scaldare - Warm up

Sfumare - Simmer

Sciacquare - Rinse

Asciugare/Fare asciugare - Dry or absorb liquid

Impiattare - Plate

Servire - Serve

Ungere - Grease or oil

Decorare - Decorate

Cospargere/Spolverare - Sprinkle/Dust

Condire - Dress

Salare/Pepare - Salt/Pepper

Common cooking nouns:

Along with a long list of verbs, preparing a recipe requires knowing other terms from utensils and kitchen supplies to units of measure:

Un pizzico - A pinch

Una manciata - A small handful

Uno spicchio - A wedge or clove (of garlic)

Abbondante - A large amount of

Scarso - A small amount of

Frusta - Whisk

Pentola – Pot or pan

Coperchio – Lid

Padella – Frying pan

Mestolo – Ladle

Cucchiaio di legno – Wooden spoon

Colino/Scolapasta – Colander

Matterello – Rolling pin

Cavatappi – Corkscrew

Vassoio – Tray

Ciotola – Bowl

Insalatiera – Salad bowl

Posate – Silverware/cutlery

Cucchiaio – Spoon

Cucchiaino – Tea spoon

Forchetta – Fork

Coltello – Knife

Bicchiere – Glass

Piatto – Plate

Fiamma bassa - Low flame

Fiamma alta - High flame

Macinato - Ground

A scaglie - Flaked

Whether you’re trying out your nonna’s famous ragù recipe or preparing a feast from a contemporary Italian cookbook, with this list of important cooking vocabulary words, you’ll soon be a pro in the kitchen!