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A Pastry Chef’s Italian Pantry

A pastry chef and Appetito contributor shares the Italian delicacies she keeps in her pantry for snacking or last-minute desserts.

Fabbri Amarena Cherries.

Fabbri Amarena Cherries.

Traveling through Italy is a feast for the palate as each region has its own food treasures to reward those eager to indulge. As a pastry chef, savoring local ingredients has always been a vital component of my trips, and I usually bring back some as gifts or for myself. Although tasting them in their region of origin is a little more fun, you can procure many of these items directly from the producer, at select stores in the USA or even on Amazon.

Here are some of the favorite ingredients I keep in my pantry as snacks or to whip up a last-minute treat.

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Salt

Sicilian Sea Salt from Bona Fortuna.
Sicilian Sea Salt from Bona Fortuna.

Salt is a magical ingredient. Add a pinch of it to any dish, sweet or savory, and it will completely transform its flavor, taking it from bland to delizioso by just the use of a few crystals. Sicily boasts hot summers and vibrant sunshine that create the perfect setting for salt harvesting. While some windmills have been replaced by more modern processing methods, these ancient windmills still line the coastline of Trapani, situated on the Western side of the Island. Harvested by hand, the Sicilian Sea Salt from Bona Fortuna is a staple in my pantry. Use it on….everything, but it’s particularly good as a finishing touch on salads, on extra virgin olive oil used for bread dipping, and to sprinkle on desserts.

Cherries

Fabbri Amarena Cherries.
Fabbri Amarena Cherries.

Fabbri Amarena Cherries in the blue and white ceramic jar are legendary and known the world over. Grown in Bologna, where the company is based, these wild cherries are candied and the resulting fruit is sweet with sour notes, tender and juicy. They’re very versatile and can be used to turn ice cream into a sundae along with chocolate sauce, to spoon on cake, added as a garnish on a cocktail or my favorite, served on almond semifreddo with a dollop of whipped cream.

Nutella

Nutella.
Nutella.

Nutella: It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and Nutella brings this adage to life. Chef Pietro Ferrero created the idea for the beloved spread in a bakery in Alba, in Piedmont, during WWII, when cocoa was scarce. He had the ingenuity to add hazelnuts—at the time inexpensive and abundant in the region—and sugar to cocoa to create a paste, which was further developed into the creamy spread we know and adore today. Perfect to eat by the spoonful, it also makes a delicious snack on toast, the perfect filling for crèpes combined with banana slices, or turned into a mousse as a cake filling.

Maraschino Liqueur

Luxardo Maraschino Liquor.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.

The formula created by Girolamo Luxardo in 1821 is still used today to produce the Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur with cherries harvested from Luxardo’s own trees in the Veneto region of Italy. Aged for four years, the resulting liquor is dry, sharp and with a subtle cherry flavor. It’s my go-to when making a soaking syrup for cakes combined with simple syrup and also perfect to spice up any fresh fruit salad or dessert sauce, such as a berry or chocolate sauce.

Pistachios

Bronte Pistachios.
Bronte Pistachios.

Grown in the foothills of Mount Etna in the town of Bronte, Sicily, Bronte Pistachios are known as “green gold.” Meaty, sweet and a gorgeous green color with purple hues, this Sicilian pistachio is harvested by hand, every two years, to preserve the plant and the quality of its fruit. Pistachio Biscotti is a favorite of mine, but these nuts can be used on virtually anything to add crunch and texture to dessert, on a citrus salad, or lightly toasted on their own as a healthy, delicious treat.

Coffee

Lavazza Coffee.
Lavazza Coffee.

As a coffee lover, I’m never far away from a cup of joe, and this ingredient I’m addicted to also beautifully enhances desserts, especially the chocolate kind. Started as an artisan roaster in Turin in 1895, Lavazza Coffee is the brainchild of visionary Luigi Lavazza, the first to take coffee beans from plantations all over the world to produce blends to satisfy varying tastes in the market. For our dolce purposes, mix coffee with cake batter, and the resulting baked good will have more balance and depth of flavor. Or keep your Lavazza Coffee on hand to brew and then dip ladyfingers in for the beloved tiramisu dessert known the world over.  

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