Italian Ingredient Glossary O to Z

OCA – Goose. Commonly roasted, often served with chestnuts.

OCTOPUS – See Polipi

ODORI – Refers to aromatics such as onion, carrot and celery used in recipes.

OLIVE – Olives. A wide variety of olives are grown across Italy, most being used to produce olive oil. Both black and green olives are eaten raw or used in cooking many Italian specialties. See more about Olives.

OLIO DI OLIVE – Olive oil. In Italy, olive oil, or olio di oliva, is the most commonly used fat. It is pressed from the pulp of ripe olives. Different regions produce very different flavored oils depending on the growing conditions. Tuscan oil is most often considered the best tasting oil of all. Extra virgin olive oil is made by pressing the olives with no further processing. It’s regulation is very strict, and produces oil with a very distictive flavor. Olive oil is used as the fat of choice for most Italian recipes, while extra virgin olive oil is used uncooked as a condiment only.

OLIO SANTO – Translated as “holy water”, this is a spicy olive oil flavored with peperoncino.

ORATA – Sea Bream. This fish has a tasty, flaky white flesh, and is usually baked, broiled or cooked on a grill.

ORECCHIETTE – Called “little ears” for it’s shape, this pasta from Puglia is made from flour and water, and is often served with a vegetable based sauce. See recipe for Orecchiette.

ORIGANO – Oregano. This herb is used more commonly in southern Italian cooking, while marjoram, maggiorana is more commonly used in the north. Oregano has a stronger flavor, and is often used in sauces as well as a flavoring for meat. See more about cooking with Italian Herbs.

ORZO – Barley, also Pearl Barley. Barley is used in porridge and soups, but also for making hot and cold beverages. The name is also given to a small dried pasta, similar to rice in shape but larger, ideal for soups.

OSTRICA – Oysters. Most commonly consumed raw or baked.

PAGLIA E FIENO – Translates as “Straw and Hay.” This is a mix of green spinach pasta and yellow egg tagliatelle or tagliolini, commonly sauced with cream, ham and peas. A Tuscan specialty. See recipe for Paglia e Fieno

PAGNOTTA – A large round loaf of bread.

PALLIARD – Thinly pounded slices of meat, often veal, chicken or beef.

PALOMBO – Dogfish. Commonly stewed or used in soups.

PAN AL LATTE – A light, spongy, cake-like type of bread.

PAN BIGIO – “Gray bread.” Coarse gray-colored bread made of unrefined flour.

PANCETTA – Unsmoked bacon made from pork belly and then cured in salt and spices giving it a mild flavor. It can be eaten raw as an antipasto, but is usually cut into strips and fried to flavor many Italian dishes.

PAN CON UVA – Raisin bread.

PAN DI RAMERINO – Bread flavored with rosemary, a Tuscan specialty.

PAN DI SPAGNA – Sponge cake. Used in many Italian desserts such as Cassata, and Zuppa Inglese.


PANETTONE – A tall, fat cylindrical egg-rich cake studded with candied fruit and served traditionally at Christmas and Easter. A specialty of Lombardy. See recipe for Panettone.

PANFORTE – A dense, cake filled with dried fruits, nuts and spices that is a specialty of Tuscany at Christmas. See recipe for Panforte.

PANINO – A bread roll, generally made for sandwiches.

PANNA – Heavy Cream. Used in sauces and deserts. The most famous sauce using cream is Fettuccine Alfredo.

PAPPARADELLE – A favorite in Tuscany, this pasta consists of long ribbons of fresh pasta about 1 inch wide.

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO – Parmesan. One of the best known Italian cheeses which is made in a strctly regulated fashion around the Parma area. Parmesan is a dry cheese, and has a mild flavor. It can be eaten on it’s own, or grated and used in many dishes in an Italian kitchen, particulary to top a finished pasta dish. See more about Italian Cheese.

PASSATA – Pure of Tomato. Also used to make sauces. If you pass chopped or whole tomatoes through a food mill or blend them you will get passata. See more about Tomatoes.

PASSATELLI – A traditional first course in the neighboring regions of Romagna and the Marche, passatelli were named because they are passed through a special iron that looks like a slotted spoon mounted on two horizontal handles. In Romagna, the dough is made with fresh bread crumbs, eggs, Parmigiano, and a grating of nutmeg and lemon zest; beef marrow can be used to make passatelli particularly rich. In the Marche, passatelli include ground beef, and the lemon is omitted.

PASTA FROLLA – Short pastry used in baking both sweet and savory dishes.

PASTA GRATTUGIATA – Pasta dough that has been dried and then grated into very small grains, and cooked as couscous or served in broth.

PASTA SGOGLIATA – Puff Pastry. Also called millefoglie.

PASTA VERDE – Green Pasta, most commonly made with chopped or pureed spinach. See recipe for Pasta Verde.

PASTELLA – A basic batter used for deep frying, consisting of flour and water, and sometimes eggs.

PASTINA – Any tiny dried pasta most commonly used in soups, as for Pastina in Brodo.

PATATE – Potato. Patate fritte are french fries, and patatine potato chips. See recipes for Potatoes.

PECORINO – All Italian cheeses made from sheep’s milk are called pecorino although they may vary greatly in texture and flavor. See more about Italian Cheese.

PELATI – Peeled Canned Tomatoes. You can either peel fresh tomatoes, remove the core and seeds or buy bottled or canned varieties, either whole or chopped. Buy a good imported brand, as the good brands are less acidic and give a good proportion of tomatoes to liquid. San Marzano tomatoes are an exceptionally flavorful tomato either canned or fresh. See more about Tomatoes.

PENNE – Shaped like a quilll from where it’s name originates, this dried pasta shape is very common.

PEPATO – Sicilian pecorino cheese, with black peppercorns set in the middle of the cheese. Has a very sharp flavor.

PEPE NERO – Black Pepper. Pepe bianco, white pepper, and pepe rosso, red pepper are also commonly used.

PEPERONI – Sweet Peppers. These peppers, also know as capsicums, come in a variety of colors. They have a sweet taste and crunchy texture, and are used in many regional recipes across Italy, often being roasted first. See recipes for Peppers.

PEPERONCINI – Red chilies. These dried, hot peppers are added to many southern Italian specialties, including pasta sauces and pizza.

PERA – Pear. Eaten fresh in place of dessert but also made into preserves, sorbetti and pastries.

PESCA – Peach. Eaten fresh in place of dessert but also made into preserves, sorbetti and pastries.

PERCIATELLI – Dried, thick strands of spaghetti with a hollow center.

PERSICO – Fresh Water Perch. Most commonly fried.

PESCE SPADA – Swordfish. Most often sold in steaks, they can be found throughout Italy. Often grilled or roasted, they are also sliced thinly and rolled around a flavorful filling before grilling. See recipe for Swordfish.

PESCIOLINI – Tiny fish that are coated in a light batter and deep fried.

PESTO – A sauce made from blending fresh basil with garlic, parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. Traditionally, it is made by hand with a mortar and pestle. This sauce is used on pasta, as well as to flavor other dishes such as soups as a garnish. See recipe for Pesto.

PIADINE – Thin rounds of bread that are grilled on a special pan called a testo and served with cold meats and cheeses such as prosciutto, salami and provolone. See recipe for Piadine.

PICCIONE – Cultivated Pigeons. Also known as torresani. These are farm-grown birds, preferably less than seven months old. Piccione selvatico, is a wild pigeon, also called colombaccio or palombaccio.

PICI – Twisted Tuscan noodles made by hand with a grooved rolling pin like tool.

PINOLI – Pine Nuts. These are actually the seeds from the stone pine trees that grow along the Adriatic sea. They are usually toasted before using, and are used in many Italian dishes both sweet and savory.

PISELLI – Peas. Usually boiled and served with onions and garlic as a side dish, or added to soups and stews. Pisellini are small or baby peas.

PISTACCHIO – Pistachio. A favorite nut for snacking, pastrymaking, gelato and as a flavoring.

PIZZA – A flat yeasted bread topped with a variety of toppings, commonly including tomato sauce, cheese, meats, and vegetables. See more about Pizza.

PIZZA DOLCE – Sweet Pizza. A dessert form of pizza which is topped with a variety of nuts, candied fruit, citrus and sweet flavorings.

PIZZA RUSTICA – A savory tart made with ricotta, mozzarella, prosciutto, mortadella and seasonings that originated in Abbruzzi.

PIZZOCCHERI – Fresh buckwheat noodles that are usually 1/2 inch wide and 4 to 5 inches long. The dish is completed with chopped potatoes, cabbage, cheese, butter and garlic.

POLENTA – A staple in northern Italy for centuries, polenta is a type of cornmeal made from ground maize. Generally, in Italy two common types are used, coarse and fine. Polenta can be served soft as a porridge type of dish topped with sauce and meat, or allowed to cool and harden and then served fried or grilled. See more about Polenta.

POLIPI – Octopus. Much larger than squid, they are generally coked long and slow to tenderise them after being pounded with a mallet before cooking. Great in salads with other seafood, or on it’s own. See recipe for Octopus.

POLLO – Chicken. Very popular in many dishes such as Chicken Cacciatore, or Chicken Parmiagiana. A gallo is a cock or rooster, a gallina a hen. The free-range variety is pollo ruspante, while pollastro or galletto is a young chicken. See recipes for Poultry.

POLPETTA – Meatball. Made from a variety of ground meat, fish or vegetables, that is most commonly fried, boiled, or cooked in sauce. See recipe for Meatballs.

POLPETONE – Meatloaf. Commonly made with a combination of ground meats, often with some vegetables such as mushrooms and onions, and cheese added. See recipe for Meatloaf.

POMMAROLA – A simple tomato sauce.

POMODORI – Tomatoes. Most definately one of the most important ingredients in Italian cuisine, a number of varieties of tomatoes are grown across Italy. The best tomato for cooking is always said to be the San Marzano tomato which can be found now canned and imported from Italy. See more about Tomatoes.

POMPELMO – Grapefruit. Eaten fresh or made into marmalade.

PORCHETTA – Whole suckling pig, boned, stuffed with herbs and roasted over an open fire or in a wood-burning oven. In North America, porchetta can also refer to a boneless, rolled roast of pork studded with garlic and herbs.

PORCINI – Porcini mushrooms are definitely the most famous of Italian mushrooms and many varieties can be found across Italy. Young, fresh porcini can be sliced and eaten raw, while larger caps are best grilled or sauteed. Dried porcini are also popular, and added an earthy depth of flavor to many dishes. See more about Porcini Mushrooms.

PORRO Leak. Most commonly used in cooking, particulary soups and stews.

POWDERED SUGAR – Icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar.

PREZZEMOLO – Parsley. The Italian version is the flat leafed variety which has a fresh, robust flavor. It is used throughout Italian cooking to flavor an unlimited number of savory dishes. See more about Parsley.

PROSCIUTTO – Italy is famous for it’s prosciutto crudo, or cured ham, and the most famous ones come from the area around Parma. San Daniele hams, produced in the Friuli region are also a very popular prosciutto. Commonly eaten fresh as an antipasto, it can also sometimes be cooked to flavor other dishes.

PROVOLONE – This is a southern Italian cheese that is straw white in color, with a smooth texture. Milder, fresh provolone can be eaten on it’s own, although once aged it is generally used in cooking. See more about Italian Cheese.

PRUGNA – Plumb. This fruit is commonly eaten fresh, stewed, or made into preserves and dessert pastries. Prugna secca refers to dried prunes.

PUNTARELLE – Wild chicory spears, with a sharp, bitter flavor that are eaten raw and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and anchovies.

QUADRUCCI – Stuffed pasta squares that are added to soups, or clear broth.

QUAGLIA – Quail. A popular small, wild game bird that is usually roasted or grilled.

QUINQUINELLE – Quenelles. Dumplings commonly made from a mild fish like pike, which are bound together with egg whites and seasonings.

RABARBARO – Rhubarb. Usually sweetened to overcome it’s tart flavor, and then made into a condiment or pastry. There is also a liqueur made from it. Rhubarb should be cooked because cooking inhibits or destroys the oxalic acid it contains. The oxalic acid in raw rhubarb or in rhubarb leaves is toxic.

RADICCHIO – Red chicory. Generally two main varieties are found , including the round Radicchio di Verona and the long leafed Radicchio di Trevisio. This leafy vegetable has a bitter flavor, and is generally better cooked which tempers the bitterness. It can be found in salads in small quantities however, as well as being cooked in many ways.

RAGU – Meat Sauce. The most famous is Ragu alla Bolognese, which contains tomatoes, beef, cream and vegetables.

RANA – Frog. A specialty item, often served fried or in risotto.

RAPE – Turnips. Often roasted which brings out it’s sweetness.

RIBES – Currants. Either black or red which are usually used in cakes and cookies.

RICCIO DI MARE – Sea Urchins. Eaten raw when fresh from the sea, as well as being added to pasta.

RICOTTA – Ricotta is actually a byproduct of cheese making, and is made from reheating the leftover whey mixed with milk. It is creamy and smooth, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. See more about Ricotta.

RICOTTA SALATA – Ricotta cheese, usually made from ewe’s milk, conserved in salt, then left to age until hard. Pleasantly salty yet creamy in flavor. A favorite for grating over pasta, particularly in such famous dishes as Pasta alla Norma.

RIGATONI – Larger than penne, but similar in shape, these are fat tubes of dried pasta with ridges. Read my Dried Pasta Review.

RISO – General term for rice, of which Italy has over 50 varieties, including both short and long grain.

RISOTTO – Italian style of rice. The best variety of rice to use for making risotto are Italian arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli. Risotto is used interchangebly with pasta as a first course, and is much more commonly seen in nothern Italy, particulary in Lombardy than it is in southern Italy. See more about Risotto.

ROBIOLA – Fresh robiola is used in numerous dishes both sweet and savory, from pies to pasta to antipasti, and is sometimes marinated in extra-virgin olive oil with herbs and spices. Made mostly from cow’s milk (sheep’s and goat’s milk were more common decades ago), robiola is mild and buttery when fresh (aged only 8 to 10 days) and sharper when matured (aged 40 to 50 days). See more about Ricotta.

ROGNONE – Kidneys. Lamb and veal kidneys are usually considere the best.

ROSMARINO – Rosemary. This popular culinary herb grows wild across Italy. Rosemary is often used with grilled or roasted meats, and is a delicious addition to roasted potatoes. See more about Rosemary.

ROSOLIO – Rose Liqueur. A cordial, traditionally made from rose petals, rose oil and sweetened with honey.

ROTOLO – A roll of meat or pasta, usually stuffed, and commonly poached.

RUCOLA – This is a bitter, pungent green used in salads, and in pasta sauces. Grows wild in the Italian countryside, although is also now cultivated commercially.

SALAMI – There are an endless number of different types of Italian salami from the various regions across Italy.

SALE – Salt. A fundamental flavoring and preserver of foods, and in Italy it is almost always drawn from the sea.

SALMONE – Salmon. Salmon is usually poached, grilled or roasted. It may be served cold as part of an antipasto table. See recipe for Salmon.

SALMORIGLIO – Calabrese and Sicilian condiment of olive oil, salt, garlic, oregano, parsley and lemon, often used as an easy delicious sauce for seafood.

SALSA – Sauce. A general term referring to a number of dressings or condiments.

SALSICCIA – Sausage, of which there are hundreds of varieties in Italy, most made with pork and seasonings. See recipe for sausages.

SALUMI – generic term for salt-cured meats, such as salame, salsiccia, prosciutto, bresaola. A salumeria is a shop where salumi are sold.

SALVIA – Sage. This is another popular Italian culinary herb that grows wild across the Italian countryside. It has a very strong flavor, so needs to be used sparingly, but it combines well with most meat and vegetable dishes. See more about Sage.

SAMBUCA – A colorless Italian liqueur with a strong flavor of aniseed.

SARDE – Sardines. Small fish under 5 inches in length with an oily flesh. Best eaten when very fresh, although they can be bought preserved in both salt and oil. Fresh sardines are often fried, or baked. See recipe for Spaghetti With Sardines.

SAVOIARDI – Ladyfingers. Little, dry, finger-shaped sponge cakes. Used for such famous desserts as Tiramisu and Zuppa Inglese.

SCALOGNO – Scallion. A variety of onion with small bulbs, and long stiff green leaves. Usually eaten raw. Also called spring onion, or green onion.

SCALOPPINA – A thin, pounded piece of meat, commonly veal, either breaded and fried or sauted with a wide variety of ingredients on top.

SCAMORZA – Uncooked Abruzzese and Molise stringy curd cheese made from whole cow’s milk, and even smoked. Often used in place of mozzarella. See more about Ricotta.

SCAMPI – Prawns. It is most often cooked in wine and garlic or grilled with olive oil and lemon.

SCAROLA – Escarole. Either used in salads or soups, or stewed with garlic and served as a vegetable side dish, cold or warm.

SCHIACCIATA – A thin Tuscan flatbread, usually topped with olive oil and salt.

SCOTCH BONNET PEPPER – Capsicum tetragonum. Similar to Habanero Pepper.

SCUNGILLI – Also a Mollusk Gastropod – “Buccinidae” – found in more temperate waters than conch, with a darker meat and stronger flavor, perhaps less “sweet”. This is more properly known as “whelk”. These are generally removed from their shell and sold already steamed and ready to eat. The meat is kind of a circular meat, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, perhaps 10 to 20 of these in a pound.

SEDANO – Celery. Also called accia. Used in soffritto as a flavor base for many Italian dishes.


SEMI DI SESAMO – Seame Seeds. Used on specific regional breads as well as some cookies.

SEMOLINA – A yellow flour ground from high protein Durum wheat. Semolina is used in many brands of dried pasta because of its ability to stand up to kneading and molding. It is also used to make Gnocchi Romana.

SEPPIA – Cuttlefish. Ink from this seafood is used to make black pasta, a Venetian specialty.

SHALLOTS – Small pointed members of the onion family that grow in clusters something like garlic and have a mild, oniony taste. Not the same as green/spring onion.

SHRIMP – See Gamberetti

SOFFRITTO – A combination of celery, onion and carrot that is lightly fried in olive oil. It provides the base for many Italian recipes, especially soups and pasta sauces. Optional addition of a clove of garlic, maybe a tablespoon or two of parsley, or a few leaves of fresh sage are added.

SOGLIA – Sole. A delicately flavored flatfish that takes well to sauteing, grilling and marinating.

SOPPRESSA – Minced pork “pressed” into form similar to a large salame in Veneto; soppressata refers to various types of salumi in Italy.

SORBETTO – Sherbet or sorbet of soft texture based on fruit, sometimes with wine or spirits, usually not made with milk as in other countries.

SOTTACETO – Foods preserved in vinegar, generally vegetables, including mushrooms and pickles.

SOTT’OLIO – Refers to foods preserved in olive oil such as vegetables, mushrooms, tuna, sardines, anchovies, small cheeses, and salami.

SPAGHETTI – Long, thin strands of dried or fresh pastathat is the most popular form of pasta in Italy if not worlwide. It is made both fresh and dried. See recipes for Spaghetti.

SPALLA – A shoulder of veal, lamb or pork, or pork shoulder salt-cured like prosciutto.

SPATZLE – Originating from Germany, these small dumplings are popular in the Alto Adige region. They can be made with many different ingredients, and are often served in a meat broth.

SPECK – Bacon that is made from boned pork flank, and either brine – or smoke-cured.

SPELT – See Farro

SPEZZATINO – Refers to a stew containing small pieces of meat. Often cooked in a casserole or earthenware pot. See recipe for Spezzatino.

SPINACHI – Spinach. Often sauted and served as a side dish, although it is also used as a salad when the leaves are young. Older leaves are ofyen blanched, and used in soups, or in fillings for pasta.

SPREMUTA – Juice of freshly squeezed fruit. Succo is the generic term for juice.

SPRING ONION – See Scalogno

SPUGNOLE – Morel mushrooms. Not as well used as the porcini, but they are found in many recipes.

SQUASH – See Zucca

STIGGHIOLE – Grilled lamb intestines or caul-wrapped bunches of lamb innards and vegetables popular in southern Italy.

STRACCHINO – A very young cheese with a very soft, creamy texture. It is most often eaten as a dessert cheese, or used as a stuffing in focaccia. See more about Italian Cheeses.

STRANGOLAPRETI – Translated as “priest stranglers,” these are small potato gnocchi of Trentino served with tomato sauce. It is said they received their name because visiting priests would gorge themselves on them and choke.

STRINGOZZI – Thick Umbrian spaghetti, often served with a truffle or hearty meat sauce.

STREGA – A bright yellow Italian liqueur with a bittersweet taste.

STRUTTO – Lard. Lard, strutto, or butter are generally used for most Italian baking. Shortening is solid, white fat made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, and is more commonly found in North America.

SUGO – Sauce or gravy, when based on cooked meat. Also called ragu, and most often is used with pasta.

SUN-DRIED TOMATOES – Pomodori secchi in Italian. Preserving tomatoes in this manner intensifies their flavor and gives them a unique sweetness that is delicious in many dishes. They can be found dried, or dried and preserved in oil, and are most often soaked in water before using in soups or sauces.

SWORDFISH – See Pesce Spada

TACCHINO – Turkey. A New World bird, usually roasted, though the breast meat is made into scaloppine. See recipes for Poultry.

TAGLIATELLE – Long, flat, ribbon-like fresh pasta.

TALEGGIO – A square, creamy cheese produced in Lombardy. See more about Italian Cheese.

TANGELO – Citrus fruit cross of a tangerine and a pomelo. Larger than a mandarin and a little smaller than an average-size orange. Skin colour is a bright tangerine and they mature during the late mandarin season. Mandarins, Tangerines or Oranges may be used instead.

TARTUFO – Truffles. These are part of the mushroom family, and are found underground near oak trees. They are firm, and irregular in shape, and have a very pungent, earthy aroma and flavor that is prized throughout Italy. Very expensive in price, they have a short season. Truffled flavored oil is much more reasonable in price than fresh truffles, and is now readily available.

TIMO – Thyme. An herb pungent in flavor and excellent in soups, stuffing and seafood recipes. see more about cooking with Italian Herbs.

TOMATOES – See Pomodori

TOMATO SAUCE – A red sauce generally flavored with garlic and spices served on such foods such as pasta. See recipes for Tomato Sauce.

TONNARELLI – Roman spaghetti with squared off sides, similar to maccheroni alla chitarra in Abruzzo.

TONNO – Tuna. Tuna, referring more to the red meat variety than the albacore. It is eaten fresh, cooked in a variety of ways, or more often preserved in oil. Tonnato refers to tuna-flavored sauce most commonly served on veal scalopini.

TORTELLI – Fat elongated ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach or winter squash.

TORTELLINI – Small stuffed pasta nuggets filled with various ingredients, usually meat or cheese.

TORTIGLIONI – Short fat tubes of dried pasta with grooves.

TOSCANELLI – Variety of small Tuscan brown beans.

TRENETTE – Traditionally made with flour and water, this pasta shape from Liguria resembles small twists. Commonly topped with a pesto sauce.

TRIGLIA – Red mullet. These are small, bony fish that are red in color and have a unique flavor similar to shrimp.

TRIPPA – Tripe. Usually prepared by stewing it in a tomato sauce.

TROCCOLI – Apulian ribbon-like egg spaghetti cut with a ridged rolling pin called a troccolo, commonly served with a tomato-and-garlic sauce to which a mixture of egg and pecorino is added, then fresh asparagus.

TROTA – Trout. Most often served grilled or baked.

UCCELLETTO – General term for little bird or fowl, although there is a famous Tuscan bean dish called Cannellini all’Uccelleto referring to the fact the beans are cooked as they commonly prepare small game birds. See recipe for Cannellini all’Uccelleto.

UNSALTED BUTTER – Often recommended for cooking, particularly in baking. Many people prefer the taste of unsalted butter.

UVA – Grapes. Italy is the world’s largest producer of grapes, most being used for wine production.

UVA PASSA – Raisins. Used in the making of many desserts as well in other savory dishes particularly in Sicily.

UOVO – Egg. Italians are not big egg eaters, particularly for breakfast, but they do make fritattas with eggs and vegetables which are often sliced in wedges and added to an antipasti platter.

VANIGLIA – Vanilla. Vanilla, used almost exclusively as a flavoring for pastries and desserts in Italy, both from a bottled extract or preferably, utilizing the scraped seeds from fresh vanilla beans.

VERDURA – Usually refers to green,leafy vegetables, though the term does refers to garden produce in general, including legumes and roots. Italians eat a wide range of vegetables, both fresh and cooked.

VERMICELLI – Literally translating as “little worms”, it is the name for very thin spaghetti, less than a tenth of an inch thick, well loved in southern Italy.

VERMOUTH – Vermouth can be either white (dry), or red (sweet), and both are made from white wine flavored with aromatic extracts and spices. While both types of vermouth are consumed in assorted beverages, white, dry vermouth is also used in cooking in place of a dry white wine.

VERZA – Savoy cabbage, usually boiled or sauted.

VIN SANTO – A “holy” sweet wine from Tuscany made from semi-dried grapes with a long, slow fermentation. Often served with small almond cookies called cantucci for dipping.

VINEGAR – See Aceto

VITELLO – Veal. This is one of the most commonly used meats in Italian cuisine. See recipes for Veal.

VONGOLE – Clams. There are many types of clams found across Italy, and they are commonly used in soups, pasta, risotti, and salads. See recipe for Spaghetti alle Vongole.




ZAFFARINO – Saffron. This flavoring ingredient consists of the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus. Very expensive, it imparts a warm golden color and subtle flavor to risotti and sauces. The most famous Italian dish using saffron is Risotto Milanese.

ZAMPONE – This is a specialty sausage from Modena, and is a pig’s leg stuffed with minced pork shoulder and other cuts of meats. It has a unique flavor and is quite fatty. It is commonly served with stewed lentils as a side dish.

ZITI – Tubular maccheroni originally from Southern Italy. See recipes for Pasta Sauces.

ZUCCA – Commonly known as winter squash in North America. A family of vegetables that has a thick, hard, usually inedible rind, rich-tasting meat, and lots of seeds. Pumpkin is a popular filling for tender tortelli in Mantua, and is also used in risottos and soups.

ZUCCHERO – General name for sugar.

ZUCCHINI – A long, green squash that looks something like a cucumber. Also known as vegetable marrow, and courgette. See recipes for Zucchini.