Tennents of the Italian kitchen.
1) There is very little that is nationally true in Italy, very little that would be considered ‘Italian’. Everything is regional (There is no ‘French’ bread in France either, no ‘Italian’ sausage here, etc). ‘Is it true that in Italy….’, will get you a bad answer because it’s the wrong way of looking at the place and its food.
2) Having said that, most food here is ‘market-driven’, in that more hustle is needed in sourcing and choosing the ingredients than time spent in the kitchen, another way of saying, Buy good ingredients, Don’t screw them up.
3) Don’t be scared of salt. Unless your doctor has explicitly told you to avoid salt in the kitchen when cooking fresh ingredients you’re most likely getting much, much more salt in prepared, boxed, frozen and tinned (jarred) foods than you are in the kitchen (If you’re doctor has indeed told you this, email me: I’d love to hear his or her opinion on this. My guess is that the recommendation is to ‘avoid excess salt’, but not that you shouldn’t be cooking with it with fresh food).
4)Keep your techniques clean and precise. When sauteing, keep the flame high and really keep things moving around the pan. Boiling pasta? Use a lot of really salty water. Searing? Have the pan scorching before the room temperature meats goes in. If you can’t describe what you’re doing at any given moment with one, precise verb, it’s time to stop and consider what you’re doing.
5)Do what it takes to really enjoy cooking and to see it as recreating rather than yet another task to perform. Open a bottle of wine in the kitchen. Buy a nice knife that you enjoy using. A few pan. Put on some great music that you love. Steal kisses and pinch butts if cooking with the appropriate person. Preparing food is one of the great pleasures in life and those that enjoy it live more successfully.