Pizza, pasta, risotto, gnocchi - there are so many Italian dinner ideas that it can be hard to know where to start your meal planning. To help simplify your shopping list, we’ve picked some of the staple ingredients that you’ll find in most Italian recipes.




As the saying goes: "chi usa l'aglio non fa mai sbaglio" ("he who uses garlic is never wrong"). As well as the obvious fact that it’s delicious, garlic is well-known for its reported health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and fighting infection. Whether you’re preparing pasta or seasoning chicken, a little bit of garlic is always a good idea.

Olive Oil

Whether you choose to invest in extra-virgin or stick with pure is up to you, but the important thing is that you always have a bottle of olive oil in your cupboards. Italian olive oil comes in a range of different flavours depending on the region it’s produced in, with nuttier flavours coming from the north and more herby ones from the south.


The golden rule of Italian cooking is that you probably haven’t put enough cheese on it. From parmiggiano for your pasta to mozzarella for your pizza, there’s an Italian cheese for every occasion and some that are so delicious that you’ll have to make up extra excuses to eat them.

Balsamic Vinegar

To be true balsamic vinegar, it has to be produced in Modena or Reggio Emilia in Italy, and made with Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. Popular in the UK as a salad dressing, it’s also used in Italian cooking as a way to bring out the flavour in meats, fish and even fresh fruit thanks to its natural combination of sweet and sour tastes.


It might have started its life in American-Italian cooking as the “pizza herb” but oregano has long been a staple in Southern Italy. Warm and just the right amount of bitter, high-quality oregano can take any meal from meh to moreish - whether you sprinkle it on a salad, use it to top your pizza or add it as a seasoning for your roast meats.


Like your Italian food piccante? Any keen chef should have chilli in their arsenal for days when the food needs a little extra kick. From chilli oils that give an extra layer of flavour to your cooking to tapenades that can be spread on bread for a tasty snack, there are plenty of ways to spice up your culinary life.

Now that you’ve got your cupboards stocked up, it’s time to get started on some recipes.