Best Italian dishes to cook at home

Sun-drenched tomatoes and creamy cheese, fragrant basil and melt-in-your-mouth pasta are but a few signatures of heart-warming Italian cuisine. Channel your inner Italian Mamma and impress your taste buds and your friends with these Italian classics. They’re easy to cook at home and you can find all the recipes online.

1. Porcini and mascarpone risotto

Porcini and mascarpone risotto

Impress with a small portion of creamy risotto with ceps as a starter, perfect for festive occasions. Show off your language skills by announcing “Il risotto al mascarpone con il funghi porcini” to get everyone in the mood, and leave a portion of parmesan on the table for those who like it extra cheesy. If you can’t fly off to Florence to fetch dried “funghi porcini”, find them in your local fine Italian deli or online on Delicatezza for example.

2. Aubergine and parmesan gratin

Aubergine and parmesan gratin

Another lovely antipasti, perfect for vegetarians or served with veal escalope, “parmigiana di melanzane” is an ode to sunshine. Rather easy to prepare with few ingredients (aubergines, tomatoes, parmesan,mozzarella, seasoning), this dish is a dream of cheese and melting veggies. Take that, “5 a day”.

Small tip: make sure you use regular mozzarella and not mozzarella di bufala which, yummy as it is, would give too much water during cooking.

3. Gnocchis alla Romana

Gnocchis alla Romana

We think we know and love our potatoes here, but Italians raise the king of roots to a whole new level. Cook these home-made gnocchis for a change from your usual potato dishes and an instant [culinary] trip to the south. Fun to make with kids as you have to roll and cut a dough, gnocchis make a tasty and filling alternative to pasta, and can be made with gluten-free flour to fit to certain diets.

4. Ossobuco ala Milanese

Ossobuco ala Milanese

One for meat lovers, and a healthy treat too! Vegetables, olive oil, and meat in a white wine and beef bouillon make for a tasty main meal served with fresh tagliatelle, guaranteed to get you compliments. Use veal shank or blanquette, and top with gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley) for a touch of sunny freshness.

5. Anything tomato sauce based

Anything tomato sauce based

A staple of Italian cuisine, a good juicy red tomato sauce will take you many places (figuratively speaking). Full of ripe tomatoes, onions, basilico and tasty seasonings, this sauce will do wonders to make pasta alla Bolognese, classic Lasagna, or to use on a pizza base. Simply slap it onto some al dente pasta for an instant delicious meal.

You could make your own of course, or you could just trust the people who make it best (you know, Italians). With nothing but good fresh ingredients, Dolmio Bolognese sauce will take you right to the heart of Italy and make a good base for all your tomato dishes. Try a creamy tomato cannelloni bake, or find other recipes on their website.

6. Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

Preparing your own Pesto alla Genovese will give your taste buds an experience they just won’t get with most prepared pesto (though you can find some pretty decent ones at Waitrose). This recipe is super simple and you can pimp it with your own twists once you’ve mastered the basics (make it with rocket or cashews for example).

Get a basil plant to grow on a south-facing window sill so you always have stock (be Italian and curse the absence of fresh basil), and smother pesto on meats, grilled bread, fresh pasta or a tomato & mozzarella starter.

7. Tiramisu

Tiramisu

You didn’t think we would leave out desserts did you !? Especially as Italians gifted the world with the wonder of Tiramisu. “Lift me up” is the literal translation for Tiramisu. Which you can understand when you savour a spoonful of heavenly coffee and mascarpone goodness. We like our Tiramisu classic, infused with loads of coffee and booze, but you can tweak the recipe to your taste and the season by making it with red fruits, limoncello, spices…

8. Pana cotta

Pana cotta

Another classic Italian dessert, perhaps even easier to make. Cream and vanilla are the main ingredients you’ll need, plus toppings to your liking. We recommend fresh raspberries and a raspberry coulis if you can bother. Do yourself a favour and use liquid fresh cream and real vanilla pods. Thank us later.

9. Pretty much anything and everything off the Italian menu

From Pesto-rosso to Gelato, to Pizza Napolitano and Carbonara and all the way to Cappuccinos, we’re not sure which ones we prefer. While most of them can be made at home, maybe the thing to do is move to Italy and live off of this authentic, sunny cuisine full of [not so] well-kept secrets…