10 Essential Tools for Mastering Italian Cooking

A Dutch oven is a must-have for any well-stocked Italian kitchen.

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baking dish
Photo: Williams Sonoma

There's something special about Italian food. From fresh pastas and pizzas to silky risottos and osso buco, this cuisine is all about simple dishes made with the best ingredients. The same philosophy extends to the kitchen tools used to create each meal. There's no need for high-tech equipment or single-use gadgets — only time-tested pots, versatile pans, and uncomplicated utensils that will get the job done.

We assembled this list of the essential tools for any Italian kitchen. If you're interested in cooking up Italian food at home, it is worth your while to invest in this equipment. While it will set you up to successfully make any Italian dish, it's likely that you'll find yourself reaching for it for everyday cooking as well, regardless of the cuisine. One such tool is a large Dutch oven, which is perfect for slow-cooked dishes like soups and braises.

Read on for 10 essential Italian cooking tools you need for your kitchen.

1. Large Dutch Oven

dutch oven
Williams Sonoma

A Dutch oven is a heavy cooking vessel made of cast iron and, often, coated with enamel. With thick, insulated walls, this tool is known for its even distribution of heat. Therefore, it is perfect for Italian dishes that call for stewing and braising, gently cooking meats and vegetables until they are tender and decadent. Try using it to make this luscious Italian Seafood Stew from Italian master Marco Canora or this satisfying Pasta "Fazool" from our own Justin Chapple.

As an added bonus, a Dutch oven's thick walls are good at retaining heat, making the cookware useful for serving as well. You can bring the food to the table and let people help themselves knowing that whatever Italian dish you cooked up will remain warm.

Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Round Oven - 7 1/4-Qt., $385 at williams-sonoma.com or lecreuset.com

2. Spider

spider strainer
Amazon

More commonly used in Asian cooking, a spider is one of our favorite tools for cooking pasta. The small strainer basket makes it easy to pluck pasta and gnocchi out of the pasta pot and dump it right into your simmering pan of sauce. Just the right amount of pasta water carries over, plus you don't have to schlep a big pot of boiling water to the sink to drain.

Stainless Steel Spider Strainer, $10 at amazon.com

3. Deep Baking Dish

baking dish
Williams Sonoma

Use this classic rectangular baker for baked pastas like lasagna and stuffed cannelloni, or to roast meat in the oven, like this Rare Roast Beef with Pickled Green Tomatoes.

Williams-Sonoma Essential Rectangular Baker – 9x13-inches, $40 at williams-sonoma.com

4. Large Wooden Board

wooden board
Food52

One of the things we love most about Italian food is that it's best served family-style. Be it a big pot of pasta set in the middle of the table or a giant antipasti board for everyone to dig into at the beginning of the meal, it's communal and abundant. For your own Italian feast, start off the meal with a big board overflowing with crostini, salumi and pickled vegetables. This handled walnut board from Cliff Spencer is sturdy enough to use for your kitchen prep, but also looks elegant right on the table.

Cliff Spencer for Alasaw Walnut Cutting Board, $165 from food52.com or etsy.com

5. Tongs

tongs
Amazon

While tongs have a multitude of uses, they are especially handy if you make a lot of pasta. Use them to snatch hot pasta shells out of a pot of bubbling water and to toss your spaghetti in its sauce. This 12-inch pair from OXO is lightweight and very easy to manage.

OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Tongs, $13 at amazon.com

6. Wooden Spoon

wooden spoon
Amazon

You will find a set of well-worn wooden spoons in almost every Italian kitchen. They're strong, won't damage the surface of your pot, and won't melt if you rest them on the side of your pan. We like this olive wood spoon because the flat surface and angled tip help you get to every corner of your pan. Plus, the hole in the middle is ideal for making risotto. The rice flows through the center of the spoon, giving you a creamier final result. Try it out with this recipe for Broccoli Rabe Risotto with Grilled Lemon.

Redecker Oiled Olive Wood Cooking Spoon with Hole, $16 at amazon.com

7. Pasta Roller

pasta roller
Amazon

While you can roll out pasta dough by hand, it's a lot easier to get an even thickness with a pasta roller. This hand-powered roller does not take up too much space in your kitchen and it's less of an investment than a stand-mixer with a pasta attachment. The Marcato pasta roller is made in Italy and will last you forever. Get the roller and cut the thin pasta sheets by hand, or add on one of their 8 pasta attachments for noodles like spaghetti, pappardelle and capellini. Try your hand at making pasta from scratch with this recipe for Fresh Pasta with Spicy Corn and Asparagus.

Marcato 8320 Atlas Pasta Machine, starting at $72 at amazon.com

8. Mezzaluna

mezzaluna
Williams Sonoma

Think of the mezzaluna as the O.G. food processor. This double-handled, curved knife is rocked back and forth on a cutting board, making quick work of chopped herbs, greens, onions and garlic. It's best for rustic sauces like salsa verde or olive tapenade. (Try a mortar and pestle if you need to truly pulverize the ingredients)

Double Mezzaluna, $40 at williams-sonoma.com

9. Food Mill

food mill
Amazon

A food mill is a useful, low-tech tool to have on hand for making soups, sauces and jams. The interchangeable discs let you control the texture of your food: Use a medium disc to rice potatoes for pillowy gnocchi, or a finer disc to get rid of tomato skins and seeds for a smooth marinara.

OXO Good Grips Food Mill, $50 at amazon.com

10. Sauté Pan

saute pan
Amazon

A skillet and sauté pan have a subtle, but significant difference: A skillet has flared sides, while a sauté pan has a wide flat base with high, straight sides. The straight sides on a sauté pan do a better job of locking in moisture, making it ideal for braising chicken thighs or sausages until they are juicy and tender. It's also our pan of choice for shallow frying (give it a try with this Spicy Chicken Milanese with cherry tomatoes and parmesan). Plus, we find that it gives you the best results when making risotto: the wide base allows the rice to have more contact with the heat, the heavy bottom prevents your risotto from scorching, and the sides are just high enough to slow evaporation (giving your rice more time to absorb the liquid).

All-Clad Stainless Steel Sauté Pan with Lid - 3-Quart, $90 from amazon.com

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