How to Build a Healthy Italian Pantry

The Italian way of eating, often referred to as the Mediterranean diet, is celebrated for its health benefits – think small portions, lots of fresh veggies and fruit, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats. Here, Fina Scroppo, award-winning writer, editor and author of “The Healthy Italian,” shares her pantry essentials.

Italian Pantry

Wholesome Grains
Grains and whole grains are the foundation for a diverse range of meals. And if you’re questioning the idea of pasta, it’s portion size that you need to watch. “From a nutrition standpoint,” says Scroppo, “½ cup cooked pasta is one serving, so how much I serve to my family depends on how many servings of grains I think they should get compared to the rest of the meal (and meals of the day); what is being tossed with the pasta (tomato sauce or vegetables or fish/chicken, etc.); and whether it’s the main meal or served as a side.”
Scroppo’s Pantry Picks
• farro
• brown rices (Arborio, short-grain)
• polenta/corn meal
• pastas made with whole grains
• chickpea flour

Beans & Legumes
Scroppo stocks her pantry with plenty of beans and legumes, which can serve as a healthy side dish or to boost the nutrition of pastas, salads, soups and stews. Dried beans are more cost effective and have a better texture than canned; however, canned beans and legumes are convenient – just be sure to look for no-salt-added options and rinse before using.
Scroppo’s Pantry Picks
• chickpeas
• cannellini
• fava
• Romano

Canned, Preserved & Dried Vegetables and Fruit
Seasonal, fresh fruit and vegetables are integral to Italian cooking and healthful eating, but there are many canned, preserved and dried ingredients that are essential meal makers and flavour boosters.
Scroppo’s Pantry Picks
• canned tomatoes
• tomato purée (passata)
• roasted red peppers
• tomato paste
• dried porcini mushrooms
• sun-dried tomatoes
• capers and olives in brine
• dried figs

Canned Fish
Small oily fish, such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel are full of flavour and nutritious omega fatty acids, which are good for you from your brain to your heart and everything in between.
Scroppo’s Pantry Picks
• sardines
• mackerel

Healthy Fats
Although Scroppo avoids deep-frying even for traditional dishes, she is a fan of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet. “I love Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – it’s my go-to for most dishes for its versatility, taste and nutritional benefits. It is still one of the best cooking oils on the market. I use it to cook on moderate heat, in salad dressings and in baking.”

Buon appetito!


Ingredient Discovery: Chianti 101
Previous Article
10 Delicious Reasons to Cook Like a Calabrian
Next Article

Other Articles

Articles, recipes and tips about real Made in Italy ingredients