How to Shop the Italian Way

Italians know the deliciousness of the food they create is directly linked to the quality of the ingredients they buy. Here, we share shopping tips from Italian chef, Massimo Bruno.

Chef Massimo Bruno © Haley Polinsky

Can shopping like an Italian help you cook like one? We think so. Mark Cirillo, writer and editor of CucinaTO chatted with an expert on the subject – Massimo Bruno, a Toronto-based Italian chef and culinary tour guide, who grew up in the Southern region of Puglia, to learn his shopping tips.

On shopping for food daily…
“In Italy, people shop a little at a time – just what they need for that day. It’s more effort, but that’s the only way you can have fresh bread, produce and meat every day. And that’s the most important thing in our cooking – fresh, good quality ingredients.”

Fresh Italian Pasta © Haley Polinsky

On making friends with the people you buy from…
“You have a personal relationship with the people you buy from. The butcher, baker or grocer – these people are my friends, and they’re the experts at what they do. I trust them to help me find the best possible ingredients to cook with.”

On buying what’s in season…
“It’s not as easy to do in Canada as it is in Southern Italy because of the climate, but I try. The thing I always look for is freshness. Like these nice cherry tomatoes I found at the market this morning: because they’re perfectly ripe, you only have to cook them for a few minutes. They not only taste better, they’re healthier because you’re not killing the nutrients by cooking them for hours.”

Fresh Italian Tomatoes © Haley Polinsky

On buying high-quality pantry ingredients…
“Again, your cooking is only as good as the ingredients you use. A good grocer helps you choose the best Italian olive oil, pasta, tomatoes, and so on. The other thing is to always read the label. Understand exactly what you are buying, when it was packaged and how long it will keep.”

On enjoying the shopping experience…
“Before I start my shopping, I always stop at my friend’s café. Just a quick espresso and a few minutes of socializing put me in the right frame of mind for my day. That’s what you need to get the most out of the experience – a relaxed and open mind. Shopping like an Italian should be fun!”

Massimo’s Spaghetti con Pomodorini e Basilico (Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil)

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil © Haley Polinsky

Total Time: 20 min. | Serves: 6
1 pkg. (500 grams) dried spaghetti
4 cups halved cherry tomatoes (the more ripe the better)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
Fine sea salt
A handful of basil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously, add pasta, and cook al dente.
Meanwhile, add garlic and olive oil to a deep saucepan. Cook at medium until garlic is lightly browned. Add in tomatoes, season with sea salt to taste, then layer in basil. Cook for 10 min.
Drain cooked spaghetti and add to saucepan. Lightly stir ingredients until well mixed. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!


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