In North America, Italian isn’t the first cuisine we typically associate with words like “light” and “fresh”, but it’s not all about hearty lasagnas and creamy pastas either. As summer approaches, don’t forget that local produce and fresh seafood are equally as part of the Italian repertoire!

Chef Joshua Stoddart – Sugo

“Italian cooking is all about simplicity,” says Chef Joshua Stoddart of Sugo. The goal is to show off meat and vegetables for what they are.

Basic ingredients like good olive oil are all you need. Chef Stoddart prefers more bitter, astringent oils, that don’t taste amazing on their own but pair wonderfully with simple salads. Salt is also very important to counteract that bitterness.

The warmer months are also especially well suited to firing up your BBQ. “You can cook entire meals on the grill,” Chef Stoddart says. He likes to cook salmon directly on the grill and serve it with grilled fennel, complete with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. To ensure your fish doesn’t stick, don’t turn it too soon! Wait until it’s almost cooked through on one side and then finish it briefly on the other. If it doesn’t release from the grill willingly, it’s not ready to flip yet.

Check out Chef Stoddart’s recipes for Ricotta Gnocchi with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil and Grilled Spring Salmon with Garden Vegetables and Marinated Cucumber.

Chef Pat Gallo– Prego Cucina Italiana

If there’s one basic mantra in Italian cooking, it’s an emphasis on minimalism. “5 to 6 simple ingredients are all you need to make a great dish,” says Chef Pat Gallo of Prego Cucina Italiana.

Risotto is a classic example of a dish that is stereotypically rich and heavy, but doesn’t have to be. Adding cream to risotto is completely unnecessary if you cook it properly. Canaroli or Arborio rice used in risotto are naturally high in starch, so simply stirring throughout the process allows a creamy consistency to develop without any added fat.

Chef Gallo also advocates using plenty of herbs for added flavour and freshness. Parsley is often a thoughtless garnish but has unlimited potential. Not only can you use it to flavour oils, it makes a great salad green in itself. Or try making a gremolata with chopped parsley and lemon, the perfect summer condiment atop just about anything!

Check out Chef Gallo’s recipes for Risotto Primavera and Pasta e Fagioli.

Photos by Ingrid Kuenzel

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