My first cooking challenge in Italy was not learning the new measuring system but instead finding all my staple pantry items in Italian! The problem is that if you are looking for a translation of “puffed pastry” you will not actually see on the label “gonfio pasta” which is what I thought when I first moved here, that in language all modes of saying things stayed the same. Unfortunately, it is not that easy, you have to learn how Italians word things apart from just understanding food vocabulary. I had to first translate what I needed, try to recognize it, ask people, and then finally just learn by experimenting. I did searches online for blogs with beautiful pictures of everything described for me, but never found one.
So…since Thanksgiving is nearby and this is the season for cooking I’m writing this post to help facilitate the cooking process for all those who have moved to Italy and are frustrated with rock hard cookies.
Baking Soda (Bicarbonato)
Baking Powder (Lievito, oftentimes they add vanilla)
Dry yeast (Lievito di birra/Lievito fresco)
Vanilla (Aroma-Vaniglia) comes in little tiny tubes like this, or you can sometimes find powdered vanilla, the one in the picture is almond
Powdered sugar (Zucchero a Velo)
Instant vanilla pudding (crema istantanea vaniglia) or pudding in general is called budino
Corn starch (Amido di Mais)
Cream of whatever to equate to Campbell’s canned creams (crema con asparagi in this case)
Heavy cream (panna)
Sweetened condensed milk (latte intero concentrato zuccherato)
Bouillon cubes (dado per brodo)
Whipped cream (panna da montare) they do not have cream already whipped besides in the spray cans, if you need a lot you have to just whip it up yourself *don’t over whip, make sure the date on the box is good, it helps to stick it in the fridge for a few minutes as well
Cream cheese (Formaggio Fresco) you can also find the Philadelphia brand
Corn flour to use for grits, cornbread, and such (Farina di mais)
Puffed pastry (Pasta sfoglia)
Tomato concentrate (concentrato di pomodoro) This also comes in tubes but it can be double concentrated, make sure to read
There are some pre-packaged things that you will just not find in Italy such as compact brown sugar, boxed pancake mix, sour cream and such. Take a look at my last post How to Throw Thanksgiving in Italy for a guide on how to make some of those things yourself.
My first year cooking in Italy was a disaster. I made my mother’s cinnamon rolls 6x before I got the dough to rise properly. I cracked all sorts of nuts just to find pecans and sadly realized there are none. I made rock hard cookies over and over because I didn’t have the right flour. I didn’t know how to whip cream correctly and ended up with this flat milky substance because I whipped the heck out of it. What I can say is that I was a very unexperienced cook then, I’m definitely an experienced cook now! Italy has a way of turning people into true cooks because the convenience is often not there.
Please leave comments if you have anything to add!