Italian Culinary Secrets From Modena’s Massimo Bottura

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Modena, Italy - Emilia-Romagna region. Colorful Mediterranean architecture

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Italian Culinary Secrets From Modena’s Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura is known for his artistic Italian cuisine at Osteria Francescana, named the 2nd best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015. Though known for his innovation, Bottura’s food is decidedly Italian and distinctly reflects the culture and flavor of his hometown, Modena, Italy. In his latest book, Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef, Bottura shares Modena’s finest Italian culinary secrets for Italian-food lovers all over the globe.

Tip #1: What type of pasta should I use?

Bottura argues for quality, whether the pasta you choose is purchased from a grocery store or handmade. When going for a dry pasta, use a shell or tube-shaped pasta, the sauce will fill its nooks and crannies.

Tip #2: What are the four staples of an Italian kitchen?

A good quality, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Each region has a distinct flavor. The chef’s favorites include Tuscan, Sicilian and Calabrian varieties. Though often overlooked, capers are available in most grocery stores around the world, and are the secret ingredient in many great Italian plates. Use the salt-cured variety. Local citrus fruits are also a Bottura-favorite, particularly oranges and lemons. Lastly, don’t forget a good bottle of Italian wine to serve as the base for your sauce.

Buy ingredients produced on local soil. The chef’s favorite ingredients include local cheeses (parmesan) and meats (prosciutto).

meats and cheeses local market Modena Italy

Image: Shutterstock/francesco de marco

Tip #3: What’s the secret to producing good food?

Chef Bottura says people are often guilty of cooking without their brains. When you cook, be involved in and consumed by the process. Don’t let your hands do the work and leave your brain behind!

Tip #4: How do I make the perfect risotto?

Don’t leave it alone, ever! Keep a watchful eye on your risotto as long as it’s cooking.

Tip #5: Can I use canned tomatoes?

Don’t use diced or heavily cooked tomatoes. If purchasing canned tomatoes, look for small varieties featuring the entire fruit or meat of the tomato. Most importantly, look for a quality producer. Italy is not the only country that produces quality canned tomatoes.

Tip #6: What are the essential ingredients for the perfect lasagna?

Forget mozzarella and tomatoes, which are prominent in Southern versions of this favorite Italian dish. Instead opt for ragu, bechamel sauce and parmesan layered in between egg pasta.

Tip #7: What’s the secret to making Italian food in Massimo Bottura’s kitchen?

The first is fresh ingredients! Try as much as possible to buy ingredients from the source. This means know the butcher, the cheesemaker and your local farmer.

Second, be sure to bring out every flavor. If you are using an ingredient in a dish, make sure that you can taste it. There’s no point in a 10-ingredient dish if you can only taste three of those flavors.

For more Italian culinary secrets from Modena’s top chef, be sure to check out Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef, which critics hail as more than your ordinary cookbook and a literary masterpiece in its own right.

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