All types of cuisines, from Italian to Latin to Asian, have a set of core staples that are essential to creating a distinctively authentic meal.
More often than not, Italian fare rises to the top of the preferred cuisines list, so Chef Paolo Lafata, director of Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany, provides a little education about Italian dishes by sharing the top five essential ingredients needed to prepare fresh and delicious Italian dishes.
• Extra virgin olive oil: To qualify as extra virgin, the oil must be cold-pressed, with no chemicals or hot water added during the process. For the most authentic taste, make sure it’s made from 100 percent Italian olives
• Pasta: Different pasta shapes are better suited for different sauces. Wide noodles complement thicker sauces, while delicate pasta holds thinner sauces better.
• Cheese: As an historical staple of the Italian diet, cheese adds flavor to recipes, pairs well with pastas and vegetables, and enriches creamy sauces.
• Bread: Italian kitchens use bread in many ways. Breadcrumbs often serve as a topping for baked pasta, and bread figures prominently in the preparation of soups and meatballs. Like wine, without bread, a meal is simply not Italian.
• Wine: Wine complements the flavors of different foods and enhances the dining experience. Not only does wine complement a meal, it’s also a common ingredient used in the cooking process.
Of course, the best way learn about Italian cooking is to immerse yourself within the Italian culture. Olive Garden, along with Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is offering a chance to do just that. Enter to win a Culinary Tour of Italy at www.olivegardentriptoitaly.com now through May 9. The sweepstakes will reward four grand-prize winners with an eight-day trip for two to explore Italy, including an insider’s experience at the Culinary Institute of Tuscany.
Not one of the lucky winners? You can still experience Tuscany in your own home by making this Culinary Institute-inspired dish, Chicken Milanese, for your next authentic, Italian meal. Video instructions for this recipe can be found at www.OliveGarden.com. New Culinary Institute-inspired dishes, like Grilled Chicken Fonduta or Grilled Steak Fonduta, can also be enjoyed at your local Olive Garden restaurant.
Sauce and pasta
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup spinach, chopped
8 roasted garlic cloves, minced
1 20-ounce package tortelloni or tortellini, cooked according to package directions
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 lemon wedges
Directions: Flatten chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap by pounding gently until chicken is approximately 1/2 inch thick. Whisk eggs and milk together in a flat-bottom bowl. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, fresh parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic and pepper. Transfer to a flat plate. Dredge chicken in flour, coating both sides.
Dip chicken pieces in egg mixture, coating both sides. Dredge in bread crumb mixture, coating completely on both sides. Set aside. Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for one minute. Add flour and stir well until well-blended. Add white wine, chicken broth, heavy cream and cheese. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture starts to thicken. Add roasted garlic, pepper and salt. Stir until well blended. Add tomatoes and spinach to sauce and allow to simmer over low heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-heat. Add breaded chicken to pan and cook until both sides are golden brown and internal temperature reaches 165 F. Add cooked, drained tortelloni pasta to sauce and blend well. Transfer chicken to a large platter and serve with hot, creamy tortelloni. Garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.