There's a certain magic that comes with authentic Italian food. At the heart of these traditional Italian recipes lies an appreciation for fresh, high-quality ingredients prepared with love and enjoyed with family. I’ve rounded up some of our favorite Italian recipes and am so excited to share them with you. From eggplant caponata to Roman chicken cacciatore, there's something here for everyone who loves authentic Italian food!
Authentic Italian food is celebrated around the world for its simple yet bold flavors and endless list of classic regional dishes.
In Italy, traditional Italian cooking is considered an art form that has been passed down for centuries. Italians have taken time-honored recipes and perfected them over time, resulting in some of the most flavorful dishes you can find.
Over the last 20 years, I've taken my culinary training and have embraced my Sicilian heritage by creating a collection of delicious authentic Italian recipes.
Whether you are a seasoned cook or just starting to explore Italian cuisine, these recipes will help you create flavorful meals that capture the essence of authentic Italian food.
Note: Looking for some authentic Italian appetizers? Check out these 26 delicious antipasto recipes to make tonight!
Why you’ll love authentic Italian food
- All you need are the simplest of ingredients to make the most delicious meals.
- Many recipes can be made in one pot, making them a great choice for busy weeknights.
- Italian cuisine is so varied that it’s full of surprises – you’ll never get bored with the endless dishes to choose from!
- Most traditional Italian recipes are quite simple and don’t require any special cooking skills.
- Italian food is always an occasion. It's meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family!
Essential Italian Cuisine Ingredients
If you’re looking to make traditional Italian recipes, it’s important to get acquainted with some of the most commonly used ingredients.
- Olive oil - For starters, extra virgin olive oil is a must-have for any authentic Italian dish. All across Italy, you will find different types of olives and oils, each with its own unique flavor. For the most authentic flavor, choose a high-quality oil. It will serve you well and taste amazing in a variety of authentic Italian food.
- Tomatoes - Another staple ingredient, tomatoes are used in many different Italian dishes, from sauces to soups. Fresh tomatoes should only be used when in season; otherwise, look to canned or sundried varieties.
- Garlic - This is another essential ingredient for making authentic Italian food. A simple smashed clove or mince of garlic can add a huge amount of flavor to any dish.
- Cheese - A must I'm sure that many think of when Italian food pops up is cheese. In Italy, there are hundreds of types of cheese, from parmesan to mozzarella to ricotta. A sprinkle of your favorite cheese in your Italian recipe can make all the difference.
- Herbs - Of course, you can’t talk about Italian cuisine without mentioning fresh herbs! They are an indispensable part of Italian cooking and provide great flavor to any dish. Basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are all commonly used in Italian cooking. It's the perfect way to add a bit of freshness and earthy flavor to a meal.
Tips for Preparing Authentic Italian Food
When it comes to preparing traditional Italian food, there are a few tips that will help you make the perfect dinner dish...
- Use the freshest ingredients available to you. This is especially true of herbs and vegetables, which can make or break your dish.
- Embrace seasonality when it comes to building your ingredients list for an Italian recipe. Cooking what's in season just tastes better overall, but it's also less expensive. Plus, cooking with seasonal foods makes the dish even more special since oftentimes, those ingredients can only be enjoyed at certain times of the year.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of Italian cuisine from different regions. Each region has its own specialties and unique flavor profiles, so exploring them can be really fun! For example, in Sicily, the cuisine is heavily influenced by Greek and Arab flavors. In Puglia, you’ll find dishes with more tomato-based sauces.
- Adapt your Italian recipes to use what you have, like a locally caught species of fish instead of something imported. Most of the time, it's easier to find, fresher, and more affordable.
- When it comes to Italian cuisine, the saying “less is more” rings true. Simple ingredients can yield delicious results if used properly, and you don't have to go overboard on flavors or cooking techniques.
- Don’t forget that the most important thing in Italian cuisine is LOVE! Taking time to appreciate the food, the company, and the process will make your meals even more memorable.
33 Authentic Italian Recipes to Try
Ready to get cooking? Here are some of our favorite recipes that are sure to make your next meal an authentic Italian feast!
The start of any meal should be a delicious appetizer. Here are some classic Italian starters you can make at home:
Classic Tuna Carpaccio with Arugula, Capers and Pine Nuts
Topped with with coarse sea salt, buttery pine nuts, tangy capers, and a mound of peppery arugula dressed simply with lemon and extra virgin olive oil to really highlight the delicate flavor of raw tuna. Ready in 20 minutes!
Farinata di Ceci: Italian Chickpea Pancake (Socca)
A savory Italian chickpea flour pancake that’s soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and is made in under 15 minutes with just 3 basic ingredients.
A classic Sicilian eggplant dish made with sweet and sour flavors, better known as "agrodulce." This recipe is made with eggplant, olives, tomatoes, and celery as the base. Perfect for an antipasto platter.
Scaccia Ragusana: Sicilian "Pizza Babka"
This classic street food of Southern Italy is made with layers of dough filled with cheese, vegetables, and herbs. Think of it as the Italian version of a Jewish babka. A perfect addition to any Italian gathering.
Italian Chickpea Fritters with Veggies
Another popular authentic Italian food, these chickpea fritters are served hot and crispy. They're incredibly easy to make and can be served as a snack or as an accompaniment to a meal. All they require is 8 simple ingredients.
Putting together a main course for an Italian dinner can be daunting, but with these recipes, you’ll be sure to impress your guests with the authentic Italian flavor!
Easy Baked Flounder Oreganata
Tender flounder fillets are generously topped with lemony, garlic-infused breadcrumbs and baked until crispy. Ready in under 30 minutes!
Crispy Chicken Milanese with Tomato Arugula Salad
This breaded chicken dish is a classic Italian favorite. All it takes are a few simple ingredients like chicken breasts, eggs, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs to achieve that melt-in-your-mouth texture. Serve with a side of roasted vegetables or a fresh salad for the perfect quick dinner.
The Best Italian Meatballs
There's nothing quite like a plate of these classic Italian-style meatballs. This recipe is easy to make and made with three different proteins. A great recipe to add to your meal prep rotation.
Authentic Italian Lasagna Alla Bolognese
An authentic Italian version of lasagna alla bolognese with homemade béchamel sauce and a classic beef ragù. It takes some time to make, but it's definitely worth it!
La Ribollita: Authentic Tuscan Soup
This is a traditional Tuscan soup made with vegetables, beans, and stale slices of bread. Even better to enjoy after a few days of sitting in the fridge!
Authentic Italian Beef Braciole
Beef Braciole is an Italian favorite. The flank steak is rolled with parmesan cheese, golden raisins, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and herbs before being cooked in a tomato sauce until it's fall-apart tender. Serve over creamy polenta or your favorite pasta for a hearty Sunday night dinner.
Unbreaded Eggplant Parm
A nod to how the dish is traditionally made in Italy, eggplant slices are coated with herbs and Parmesan cheese and baked until golden brown, then served with fresh mozzarella and a simple tomato sauce. Delicious!
Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, Mascarpone + Walnuts
The mascarpone adds a decadent creaminess to the spicy Italian sausage and nutty walnuts. A delicious combination that will become a regular in your dinner rotation!
Vegetable Minestrone with Parsley Pistou
This classic Italian soup is packed with veggies like carrots, celery, onions, zucchini, and Swiss chard. It's a great way to use up any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge. Topped with parsley pistou.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
These sweet potato gnocchi are a delicious twist on the classic. Sweet potatoes give these pillowy dumplings an extra boost of flavor, and they pair perfectly with sage brown butter sauce.
Pasta with Olives, Anchovies, Tomatoes + Breadcrumbs
This easy pasta dish is made with olives, anchovies, garlic, and Parmesan breadcrumb topping. A great way to dress up a weeknight dinner!
Cacio e Pepe
A classic Roman dish is made with spaghetti, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese. The key to this dish is getting the right balance of flavors. A simple yet delicious meal in under 20 minutes.
Spiedini alla Siciliana
Different from the Roman Spiedini, this Sicilian version is made with breaded meat cutlets with tomato, cheese, and onion filling that’s then skewered and baked until cooked through.
Italian Tuna + Green Bean Salad
With 7 basic ingredients, this salad is a healthy and hearty meal. Canned Italian tuna, green beans, red onions, and parsley are all tossed together with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice for a light yet delicious meal.
Italian Side Dishes
The perfect accompaniment to any Italian meal is a side dish. Here are some delicious options to choose from:
Sicilian Pesto alla Trapanese with Almonds and Tomatoes
This pesto has only 6 ingredients, including almonds, tomatoes, and basil, and is prepared in just 15 minutes! I've used these several ways as an appetizer, as it works well on an antipasto board, spread over crusty bread, or drizzled on roasted vegetables.
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) with Garlic and Oil
Also known as rapini, this is a classic Italian side dish that's very easy to make. Broccoli rabe is cooked with fresh garlic and crushed red peppers until tender for the perfect bite!
Authentic Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe
This sauce recipe is made with canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. It's a classic sauce to serve with pasta or as an accompaniment to your favorite authentic Italian food.
Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Did you know you can make your own ricotta cheese with just three ingredients? This recipe yields soft and creamy ricotta that's perfect for spreading on toast or incorporating into pasta dishes.
Zucchini alla Scapece
With just five ingredients and 30 minutes of your time, you can make this healthy vegetarian dish with a few spices, garlic, fresh mint, and an abundance of zucchini!
Peas with Prosciutto + Ricotta
A simple yet flavorful side dish made with just a few seasonal ingredients. Sweet, tender peas sautéed with salty prosciutto, served over creamy, lemony whipped ricotta cheese and finished with fresh mint. The combination of creamy ricotta and salty prosciutto is to die for.
Easy Shaved Asparagus Salad
A light and refreshing salad made with raw shaved asparagus and salty pecorino romano and topped with a homemade lemon vinaigrette. A great way to showcase the fresh flavors of spring.
Escarole with Olives and Capers
Escarole is a bitter green that's popular in traditional Italian food. This recipe is a simple version, tossed with capers, olives, and garlic and finished with a sprinkle of crushed red peppers for a spicy kick.
Sweet Italian Desserts
Every Italian dinner wouldn't be complete without a sweet treat! Here are some delicious recipes to try:
Ricotta Gelato with Pistachio and Fig
Ricotta makes this gelato ultra creamy and dreamy. The combination of pistachio and fig makes for an unforgettable dessert.
Blueberry Peach Crostata
Easy to make with few ingredients, this crostata is a rustic Italian tart made with sweet stone fruits and blueberries. Perfect for summer or fall!
Easy Authentic Italian Pignoli Cookies
Last but not least - pignoli cookies are a traditional Italian almond-based cookie made with pine nuts, almond paste, and egg whites. Deliciously sweet and nutty, they're the perfect finish to any authentic Italian meal.
Authentic Italian food is focused on fresh, simple ingredients. A lot of the time, they focus on seasonal and local ingredients you can find in Italy. Dishes are meant to be light and nutritious while the flavors of each ingredient shine through.
In contrast, Italian-American dishes often heavily feature cheese and tomato sauce, with many dishes also containing additional meat or processed ingredients. They can also be a bit more complicated and require more prep.
Italian cuisine varies depending on the region of Italy. For example, in northern Italy, you can find dishes with more grains and dairy, while southern Italian recipes often incorporate more olive oil and tomatoes.
Additionally, each region has its own specialty dishes, like a particular style of pasta or dessert.
Yes! It's important to learn some traditional Italian cooking techniques if you want to make authentic dishes.
Italian cooking uses similar techniques to French cooking with slight variations. Many Italian dishes call for high-quality ingredients that are treated with French techniques, like braising, simmering, or roasting, to bring out the amazing flavor.
Another French-inspired technique is the soffrito. Commonly used in Italian cuisine, you cook onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil until tender. This adds flavor to many sauces and soups. Think of it as the Italian version of the French mirepoix!
Italians also have many different techniques when it comes to making fresh pasta. It can vary from region to region. Sometimes, it comes down to pasta shape, cooking method, and what ingredients are used in the sauce.
A popular way to cook pasta across Italy is to boil it in lightly salted water until al dente. Then cook/toss in the sauce for a few minutes along with some of the pasta cooking water so the sauce clings to each noodle. Don't just dump sauce on top of drained pasta.
And, when it comes to pasta sauce, some Italians prefer to use a mortar and pestle to make various types of pestos and salsa cruda, and also to crush their own herbs, seeds, and spices.
These are just a few popular Italian cooking techniques!