Food Glossary

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  Italian     168 terms 
Al dente
   An Italian term literally meaning "firm to the bite" that describes the perfectly cooked pasta.
Animelle
   Sweetbreads
Anise
   An aromatic, licorice-flavored herb belonging to the parsley family. It has feathery leaves and bears greenish-brown seeds, both of which are dried for use. Popularly used as a flavoring in cooking and liqueurs.
Antipasto
   Literally meaning "before the pasta", antipasto refers to appetizers served before the entree, or main meal.
Arborio
   Starchy, short grain rice that develops a creamy consistency when cooked. Especially used for Risotto.
Asiago
   A cheese similar to Provolone, but milder in flavor.
Balsamic Vinegar
   Sweet red-brown vinegar that is aged in wooden barrels.
Basil
   The quintessential Mediterranean herb, and widely used in Italian kitchens. Consumed fresh, it adds fragrance and fresh flavor to pasta dishes, soups, vegetables, fish, poultry, salad dressings, and pesto sauces. Basil is a perfect topping for any tomato-based dish.
Biscotti
   An Italian cookie that is often hard in texture and lightly flavored with Anise.
Bodino
   Baked veal stuffed with layers of vegetables and Prosciutto.
Bolognese
   A pasta meat sauce that is often made with wine and tomatoes.
Bonarelli
   Thin ribbons of pasta
Bruschetta
   A garlic and olive oil toasted bread that is usually topped with tomatoes and basil.
Bucatini
   Dried hollow-shaped spaghetti that is typically served with tomato or meat-based sauces.
Budino
   Baked veal stuffed with layers of vegetables and Prosciutto.
Calamari
   Squid
Calzone
   A savory turnover made with pizza dough. Traditionally stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh ricotta, and/or meat, then folded, and baked or fried.
Canestrini
   Small pasta used in soup.
Cannaroni
   Wide, hollow, tubular pasta. A larger version of Ziti pasta.
Cannelloni
   "big pipes"; this hollow cylindrical pasta is stuffed and baked.
Cannelloni beans
   White oval shaped beans frequently used in Italian dishes.
Cannoli
   A Sicilian specialty pastry named for its cannon-like shape. This elaborately flavored dough is rolled and shaped around a metal cylinder, then deep fried. When cooled, the crisp cookie-like tubes are filled with a sweetened ricotta mixture, pastry whipped cream, or sugary almond pistachio paste, and enriched with candied fruits or small bits of chocolate.
Cantucci
   Tuscan almond cookies that resemble small Biscotti.
Cantuccini
   Tuscan almond cookies that resemble small Biscotti.
Capellini
   Literally "fine hair"; fine strands of pasta that are usually used in soup.
Capers
   Sun-dried flower buds that are pickled in vinegar and salt brine. The pungent flavor offers piquancy to many sauces and condiments. Traditionally used as a garnish for meat and vegetable dishes.
Capocolla
   Seasoned cured ham that is thinly sliced and served in antipasto platters.
Carbonara
   A delectable sauce made with cream, eggs, Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, sauteed pieces of bacon, and vegetables.
Carbonnade
   A rich, robust stew made with stripped beef, browned onions, full-bodied red wine, and stirred salt. Best accompanied by steaming hot polenta.
Carnaroli
   Premium firm Risotto rice
Carpaccio
   A raw beef appetizer topped with a mustard-mayonnaise sauce.
Cavatelli
   Small shell-shaped pasta with slightly rolled-in edges. Served best with chunky sauces, and salads requiring pasta that will hold sauces and dressings. Similar to Gnocchetti and Rotini.
Ciabatta
   Flattish slipper-shaped loaves of bread with a pale crisp crust that is made with olive oil, and flavored with fresh or dried herbs, olives, or sun dried tomatoes. Delicious when served warm or used for sandwiches.
Conchiglie
   Shell-shaped pasta that is similar to Cannelloni and Manicotti.
Conchiglioni
   Shell-shaped pasta that is similar to Cannelloni and Manicotti.
Courgette
   A cylindrical summer squash with a dark green skin covering a whitish flesh. Similar to a cucumber in size and shape.
Crostini
   Any bread that is sliced into rounds or squares, toasted or grilled, and topped with various spreads and ingredients.
Crudo
   Term that often means raw or rare
Dentice
   Snapper (fish)
Diavolillo
   The super hot chili typically infused into olive oil, soups, marinades, meat, poultry, and (most commonly) spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti al diavolillo is a hot, piquant Italian dish.
Digestivo a liqueur
   A strong liqueur typically consumed after dinner to help digestion
Dolce
   Sweet; dessert
Eliche
   Helical pasta
Espresso
   One of the darkest and strongest types of coffee available. Usually produced by forcing steam through finely ground premium coffee beans.
Extra virgin olive oil
   The finest, strongest, fruitiest olive oil produced. To preserve its robust flavor, this olive oil is usually used exclusively in salads or unheated dishes.
Farfalle
   Literally, "butterflies" or "bowties"; bow-tie shaped pasta that normally has crinkled edges. Usually available ridged or plain, and in a variety of colors.
Fedelini
   Very thin, spaghetti-like pasta.
Fettuccine
   Literally, "little ribbons"; basic flat egg noodles
Finocchio
   Fennel
Finocchiona
   Flavorful Tuscan salami that enhances any antipasto platter. Made from finely ground pork flavored with fennel seeds, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Focaccia
   An Italian flatbread often topped with olive oil, herbs, garlic, and cheese. Traditionally served as a complement to an antipasto.
Fondente
   Flourless cake; baking chocolate
Fontina
   A delicate, nutty, slightly smoky tasting cheese used for "fonduta", or an Italian version of the Swiss "fondue".
Frittata
   An Italian omelet
Frollini
   Shortbread cookies
Frullato
   An Italian milkshake that is made with milk and fresh fruit.
Fungetiello
   Pasta sauce made with black olives and Capers.
Funghi
   Mushrooms
Fusilli
   Thin pasta spirals
Gambero
   Shrimp (or crayfish)
Garlic
   A single aromatic bulb that can be easily separated into cloves, all individually wrapped in papery skins. It is pungent and slightly bitter flavored when raw, but becomes mild and sweet tasting when sauteed or baked.
Garlic Bread
   Bread that has been spread with garlic butter and then baked or broiled. Instead of using garlic butter, the bread may be brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with minced garlic and herbs.
Garlic Toast
   Slices of French or Italian bread that are flavored with garlic butter and herbs, then oven toasted to a crispy texture. This toast, which may also be flavored with olive oil, is often served as the bread that accompanies a main meal.
Gelato
   Fine Italian ice cream
Gelato di Crema
   Smooth, fresh, lemony custard ice cream.
Genoa Salami
   A mild, spicy, Italian cured sausage often made of only pork, and typically seasoned with garlic, salt, peppercorns, and red wine. Included in most antipastos.
Gnocchetti
   Curved-shell pasta with ridges on the outer surface.
Gnocchi
   Soft dumplings commonly made from potatoes, polenta, or flour.
Gorgonzola
   Creamy, pale yellow, mold-ripened cheese with streaks of blue veining and a lightly spicy flavor. Considered one of the best blue cheeses available, gorgonzola is usually served with slices of fruit or crumbled into salads.
Grappa
   A strong Italian brandy made from grape skin and seed. Served as an after dinner drink to help digestion.
Grattoni
   Small diamond-shaped egg pasta that is best used in soup. Similar to Pastina.
Grissini
   Thin, crunchy bread sticks made from yeast dough, and enriched with olive oil and Parmesan. Complimentary to soups, salads, and antipastos. Delicious "party nibblers" and ideal for Italian dips.
Guanciale
   Meat from the cheek of the pig that is lightly rubbed with salt, freshly ground black pepper or chili peppers, then cured for three months.
Herbal Tea
   Tea flavored with herbs, such as mint or rosemary, to enhance the flavor.
Insalata
   An Italian salad
Kale
   A ruffled-leafed green vegetable that is a member of the cabbage family.
Kiwi
   A fresh, egg-sized berry with a brown, furry skin and green flesh. Its flavor resembles berries and melons.
Kuscus
   Sweet Semolina and pistachio cake
Lasagna
   Wide, flat ribbon-shaped pasta sheets. Normally precooked and then baked in the oven between layers of sauce and ricotta cheese.
Latte fritto
   Fried custard dessert
Latticini
   Fresh cheeses; milk products
Lentils
   Flat, disk-shaped dried beans that have a rich, somewhat sweet and peppery flavor when cooked. Brown lentils, the most popular variety and high in protein, are used in a wide number of food dishes, such as soups and stews.
Light olive oil
   Although light olive oil is paler in color and less flavorful than Virgin or regular olive oil, it is still 100 percent pure olive oil. It is used in salads and marinades when a rich, distinctive oil flavor is not desired.
Linguine
   Thin, spaghetti-like pasta that has been flattened into an oval or ribbon shape.
London Broil
   Commonly used to refer to boneless cuts, such as flank steak, beef top round steak, and the shoulder steak. It is marinated and then broiled or grilled.
Macaroni
   Hollow, short pasta shapes. There are many versions varying in size and length.
Mahi Mahi
   Warm water, flavorful fish with a medium textured dark flesh that browns when cooked.
Mango
   An oval, tropical fruit that has a very juicy, sweet flavored, orange flesh.
Manicotti
   Large, tubular pasta that may have a ridged or smooth surface, and straight or diagonal ends. Generally filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, then baked. Similar to Cannelloni.
Mantecato
   Literally "whipped"; ice cream
Margherita Pizza
   An Italian flatbread pizza made of buffalo mozzarella cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil. Traditionally cooked in a wood burning oven.
Marinade
   A spiced and flavored liquid, such as vinegar, wine or oil, which soaks a food to add flavor and tenderize.
Marinara
   A traditional Italian vegetable sauce made with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and garlic.
Marsala
   A sweet Italian dessert wine.
Mascarpone
   A rich delicately flavored triple cream-cheese. Its unique sweetness makes it ideal for desserts. Mascarpone is an essential ingredient of Tiramisu and can be churned into a rich velvety ice cream.
Mezzani
   Long, tubular pasta
Minestrone
   Hearty, mixed, vegetable soup
Mozzarella
   Fresh, soft, white, mild Italian cheese that has a creamy texture, and is widely used in pizzas, lasagnas, and toasted sandwiches.
Napoletana
   Neapolitan-style; typically implies the use of rich tomato sauce.
Neapolitan Salami
   A very spicy Italian dry sausage made from pork meat. Seasoned with pepper, chili flakes, garlic, and wine. This luncheon meat is ideal for spicy snacks, appetizers, and pasta dishes.
Necci
   Crepes or waffles made from chestnut flour and often stuffed with ricotta cheese.
Oregano
   A robust, slightly bitter, and peppery herb that is often a key ingredient in tomato-based Italian pasta sauces.
Orzo
   Barley; small pasta used in soup
Pancarre
   Sliced bread that is traditionally used for canapes and sandwiches.
Pancotto
   Literally "cooked bread"; this soup usually contains bread, olive oil, and cheese
Panna cotta
   A dessert made by dissolving unflavored gelatin in milk, then whisking the milk into sweetened heavy cream. Sometimes served with a caramel or strawberry topping.
Parmesan
   A popular hard cheese that is usually grated over pasta dishes.
Passatelli
   Homemade soup noodles made from eggs and bread crumbs.
Pastina
   Tiny pasta used in broths and soups.
Pecorino Romano
   A popular Italian hard cheese that is similar to Parmesan Cheese, but saltier in flavor.
Penne
   Literally, "feathers" or "quills"; this pasta has a slanted, hollow, tubular form that is thinner than Rigatoni. Often used in dishes with chunky sauces.
Peppermint
   A peppery, spicy, aromatic, refreshing mint used to flavor candies and baked foods.
Pesto
   A sauce made of Basil, Garlic, Olive oil, Pignoli, and Parmesan cheese often served over pasta.
Piccata
   Slices of boneless veal sauteed in butter with parsley and lemon.
Pignoli
   These tiny cream colored pine nuts have a distinct tarry flavor and are the key component to the popular Italian Pesto Sauce.
Polenta
   A cornmeal dish that is generally enriched with eggs, butter, cream, or cheese.
Primavera
   A pasta sauce made with vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and bell peppers.
Prosciutto
   Salted, air cured ham served in thin slices.
Provolone
   An Italian curd cheese often used in Cannelloni and Ravioli.
Pugliese
   Soft and chewy olive oil bread with a thin crust. Although this bread is best eaten warm on the day of baking, it makes fine Crostini, (Italian open sandwiches made on thin slices of toast) the next day.
Rafano
   Horseradish
Ragu
   Meat sauce for pasta; sometimes refers to other hearty sauces.
Rapini
   Vegetable of the turnip family whose stems, tender leaves, and buds are usually boiled to decrease their bitterness, then sauteed. Referred to as broccoli raab in the United States.
Ravioli
   One of the most well-known pastas, ravioli is square in shape and traditionally stuffed with spinach, meat, ricotta cheese or herbs.
Reginelle
   Pasta strips with curly edges.
Ricciarelli
   Almond cookies that are typically covered with a layer of powdered sugar.
Ricotta
   Fresh, smooth, soft, and slightly salty Italian cheese that is similar in texture to cottage cheese. Used in a variety of dishes, including lasagnas and pizzas.
Ricotta salata
   Ricotta cheese that has been drained, cured in brine, and aged for a few days and then grated like Pecorino Romano.
Rigatoni
   Large, hollow, ridged pasta tubes commonly used with chunky sauces. Interchangeable with Ziti.
Risaia
   Rice paddy
Risotto
   A traditional Italian dish made with Arborio rice, saffron, broth, onions, and garlic. Meat, vegetables, cheese, and seasonings are often added.
Robiola
   Mild and buttery cheese used in various pastas, appetizers, and salads.
Romana
   Rome-style; a term whose definition varies with each dish
Romanello
   Hard, grated skim-milk cheese
Rosemary
   A fresh, bittersweet herb that resembles short pine needles.
Rosolio
   A delicate, sweet, and unique liqueur made by macerating rose petals in an alcoholic infusion. Served with dessert.
Rosumada
   Milanese eggnog that is traditionally prepared with red wine. Water or milk is sometimes substituted.
Rotelle
   Wheel-shaped, cork-screwed pasta that most sauces cling to easily
Rotini
   Wheel-shaped, cork-screwed pasta that most sauces cling to easily
Saffron
   A sharp, orange-red color spice made from the dry stigmata of the flower of the crocus plant. A common ingredient in Risottos.
Sagne
   Nickname for Lasagna
Sambuca
   An Anise flavored liqueur served as an after dinner drink to help digestion.
Saute
   A French word that describes a method for cooking foods in a shallow pan using high heat. The food is cooked in an uncovered pan and a small quantity of butter or oil. Unlike stir-frying where the food is continuously turned, sauteed food is turned only once in the pan in order to cook both sides. If the food, such as a thin cut of meat, is turned more than once, the cooking method is considered stir-frying or pan-frying rather than sauteing.
Semolina
   Coarse, pale flour traditionally used in pasta and pizza dough. This flour is high in fiber and protein, and gives pasta and pizza its chewy characteristic.
Shirley Temple
   A popular children's non-alcoholic cocktail made with ginger ale, colored with grenadine syrup, and garnished with a maraschino cherry.
Siago
   An Italian cheese from the Veneto region. After it has aged, it has a piquant, salty flavor and is usually used for grating and cooking.
Spaghetti
   Resembling "little strings", spaghetti is made from durum wheat and remains one of the most popular types of pasta today.
Stromboli
   A stuffed pizza dish.
Tagliatelle
   Ribbon-shaped noodles that are popularly served plain or with spinach. Often used interchangeably with Fettuccine.
Tartufo
   A chocolate ice cream dessert molded into a truffle.
Tiramisu
   A sweet, rich, layered dessert made from sponge cake, and Mascarpone cheese, brandy, and Espresso. Shavings of chocolate or cocoa are sprinkled on top. (Note:This dish has many variations.)
Tortellini
   Small rings of pasta stuffed with cheese, meat, or vegetables; generally found in soup, but sometimes served with a sauce.
Trenne
   Short, triangular, hollow pasta used with thick sauces. Similar to Penne, Ziti, and Rigatoni.
Tuffolone
   Large tubes of pasta that are typically stuffed and baked.
Vialone Nana
   A plump grain, or firm inner starch rice, that makes a Risotto dish have a firm bite.
Virgin olive oil
   A robust fruity flavored olive oil made from the pulp of the highest quality olives. It adds a distinctive flavor to salad dressings and is used in dishes where strong flavored oil is needed.
Whipped Butter
   Light, easily-spread butter that has been beaten with air to increase the volume.
Whipped Cream
   An ideal cream to create a light frothy topping for a variety of desserts.
Zabaglione
   Popular Italian custard made from Marsala wine, sugar, and eggs.
Zante Grapes
   Tiny seedless grapes with a sweet flavor.
Zeppole
   Fried dough, or a sweet fritter, made with a simple batter of flour and sugar.
Zesty
   Pungent; refers to any food or drink that is stimulating to the senses.
Ziti
   Long, thin, tubular-shaped pasta that is similar to Rigatoni or Penne.
Zitoni
   Wide, hollow, tubular pasta. A larger version of Ziti pasta.
Zucchini Squash
   A cylindrical summer squash with a dark green skin covering a whitish flesh. Similar to a cucumber in size and shape.
Zuccotto
   An Italian dessert consisting of triangles of sponge cake that have been moistened with a Curacao liqueur. Traditionally, the cake is placed around the inside of a bowl to form a shell, filled with whipped cream, and topped with bits of chocolate, caramel, hazelnuts, almonds, and an additional layer of cake. It is presented in a dome-shape, supposedly inspired by the design of an Italian cathedral.
Zuppa
   Italian soup
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