Italian Pantry Tips
These are just a few of the high-quality ingredients we'll be seeing more of.
* ANCHOVIES packed in salt are meatier and often more flavorful than their oil-packed counterparts. Before using, rinse the anchovies under running water, separate the fillets (it's easy) and remove the spines, then rinse again. Pat dry before using.
* BEANS and LENTILS to watch for include dried borlotti, favas and cicerchie, a cross between favas and chickpeas, and tiny slate-gray lentils from Castelluccio and lentils from Santoleri in Abruzzi.
* BOTTARGA is the salted, pressed and dried roe of tuna (tonno) or mullet (muggine). As salty and savory as anchovies, it's shaved over pastas or salads, or sliced paper thin and topped with fruity olive oil and pepper as an antipasto.
* CAPERS from the Lipari Islands and from Pantelleria are fat, delicious and packed in salt. Rinse them well before using.
* CHESTNUT FLOUR is used in rustic sweets and pastas; the flour from the Casentino region has a particularly smoky flavor.
* FARRO, an ancient strain of wheat from the mountainous regions of Tuscany and Umbria, is prized for its nutty flavor and chewy texture. It's available in whole grains, cracked or as flour.
* HONEYS with disctinctive flavors are available from small production beekeepers all over the country. Look for chestnut (castagna) honey from Daniele Devalle in Piedmont, Sicilian honeysuckle honey from Giuseppe Coniglio in Sicily and the famed bitter honey from Sardinia.
* JAMS AND PRESERVES, such as La Nicchia's marmalades--Zibibbo grape and lemon in particular--from Pantelleria and Sicily, are worth seeking out. So, too, are L'Antica Drogheria's fig and apricot jams from Tuscany, Monastero Trappiste's green tomato jam from Lazio and any jams in the Agrimontana line.
* OLIVE OILS from all around the boot are showing up on pantry shelves. Here is a glimpse of what's available: I'Lecci, a sweet, delicate oil from the shores of Lake Garda; Fattoria Niccolini, a Tuscan oil; Tenuta del Numerouno, from coastal Tuscany with a soft, elegant finish; I. Tattoli, a peppery oil from Chianti; big, fruity Petraia organic from Apulia; Laura Marvaldi, a light, fragrant oil from Liguria; Ceppo Antico, also from Liguria, a gentle, buttery oil from a blend of olives; and olio verde, a rich luscious deep green Sicilian oil from Castelvetrano with a grassy flavor.
* OLIVES are for eating and also for using in recipes. Look for the meaty, oversized red, black and green Cerignolas, black and green Castelvetranos and demure black Ligurian olivette.
* PASTA shows up in new, complicated shapes, such as strozzapreti, cavaturi, torchio and taccozzette. The intricate designs make these shapes impossible to cook evenly, which seems to be part of the point; according to Manicaretti's Beramendi, pasta is now being appreciated for all of its textural possibilities rather than for providing a uniformly al dente chew.