Agriturismo: A blend of “agriculture” and “tourism.” A working farm that doubles as a tourist destination for “farm stays”. Some agriturismi have fine restaurants serving the local ingredients grown on or around the farm, and many offer the opportunity for guests to work the fields.
Antipasto: Starter, appetizer
Aperitivo: Aperitif, an alcoholic drink for before or the beginning of the meal
Barrique: Originating in Bordeaux France, barriques are large wooden barrels which hold 59 gallons (225 liters). Most commonly used for aging wine (though sometimes used creatively in vinegar or even beer aging), barriques are generally made of oak though other varieties of wood are sometimes used.
Bronze Dies: Part of traditional pasta making machinery, bronze dies are bronze cutouts through which the dough is extruded to form specific shapes; this artisanal method takes more time and effort, but adds more texture and surface area than industrial techniques allowing sauce to better cling to the pasta and feel better in the mouth.
Brine: A salt-water solution used to preserve, pickle, or cure meats, vegetables, and cheeses in place of salt or vinegar.
Cantina: A wine cellar or wine shop.
Colazione: Breakfast. In Italy, this usually consists of an espresso or cappuccino along with a small pastry the type of which varies by region.
Contorno: Accompaniment, side dish, frequently vegetables
prepared in a simple manner
Curd/Cagliata: Curds are created when milk proteins (caseins) bind together after rennet or acid is added to milk. Curds are then heated and shaped or pressed into forms to become cheese.
Digestivo: Digestif, digestive, an alcoholic drink, typically very bitter, meant to help digestion after a meal. Italians frequently drink grappa as a digestivo. Other digestive vary from region to region and are often made of a combination of herbs or aromatics.
DOCG: “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita”, “Designation of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed”; a very specific series of regulations requiring a product be produced within a specified region using specific methods and satisfying a defined quality standard.
Dolce: Sweet, dessert
DOP: “Denominazione di Origine Protetta”; “Protected designation of origin”, the EU classification for protecting regional wine and food products.
Filiera: Supply chain. Italian artisans often speak of the “filiera corta.” They appreciate knowing where their ingredients and resources (milk, wheat, pork, produce) come from close by thereby guaranteeing them freshness and a higher quality final product.
Formaggio (plural Formaggi): Cheese. The name derives for the word forma, which refers to the mold in which curds were shaped into large wheels of cheese.
Grana: Grain, or referring to a category of cheese which gets its name from the grain-sized curd and crumbly, grainy texture of cheeses such as Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano.
Grano Duro: Durum wheat, a hard wheat with a higher protein content.
Grano Tenero: “Soft wheat”, has a low protein content which makes it ideal for baking tender, soft items like cakes and pastry.
IGT: “Indicazione Geografica tipica”, a less stringent form of wine classification than DOCG or DOC, indicating that a wine is representative of their geographic region; not at all indicative of quality
Maiale: Pig, also pork
Mold: Microscopic fungi that grow on or in biological products. While detrimental to many food products, cured meats and cheeses require certain molds to add flavor and break down proteins. Bloomy rind, washed rind, and blue cheeses all benefit from mold, blue being the most recognizable with its distinctive marbling of penicillium mold.
Monocultivar: A product cultivated from one single variety a certain plant. Most commonly refers to olive oil pressed from a single variety of olive.
Mostarda: A condiment, most famously produced in the city of Cremona in the region of Lombardia, made with candied fruit like citrus or apples mixed with powdered or essence of mustard.
Morning/Evening Milk: Denotes when in the day a cow was milked. Evening milk has a strong, fruity flavor from having been produced while the cow is grazing and moving over the course of a day, while morning milk has a rounder, softer flavor from having rested overnight. Many cheeses are a blend of morning and evening milk.
Mucca: Cow, specifically milk-cow
Must/Mosto: Produced during wine-making, must is the extracted juice of fresh grapes. Often reduced by boiling to become the syrup known as mosto cotto (cooked must) or saba, it is also used in the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
Panino: Sandwich (Panini is plural!)
Pasta Filata: “spun paste”, a style of cheese making in which curds are heated in water or whey until they soften, then pulled and stretched like taffy into long, elastic strings, and then formed into shapes. Mozzarella is the most well-known cheese in the pasta filata family which also includes scamorza and provolone.
Pasta Fresca: Fresh pasta, the variety most popular in Italy’s northern regions like Emilia Romagna. Made from a dough of grano tenero and fresh eggs, and usually rolled or cut into shapes by hand, fresh pasta is too fragile to be dried and stored. It is best cooked within a day of being made.
Pasta Secca: Dried pasta originates in Italy’s south. Made from nothing but water and Durum wheat, artisan pasta secca is pushed through bronze forms, known as dies to create its particular shapes, dried slowly at low temperatures to ensure the best texture upon cooking, and stored for many months.
Primo: First course, usually, a pasta or rice dish or a soup.
Rennet: Enzymes found in the stomach of young mammals that help them to digest their mother’s milk. Rennet causes the coagulation of milk, which helps it to form into a gel-like substance, allowing the curds to be separated from the whey. Most commonly extracted from young calves, rennet can also come from goats, or lambs, as well as vegetable sources like thistle and cardoon. Synthetically manufactured rennet also exists bus is very rarely used.
Salume (plural Salumi): The name referring to cured meat. Salumi encompasses products most frequently made from prok like prosciutto and capocollo, but also refers to more unusual products made from beef (bresaola) or even goose (salame d’oca). Salami is one specific kind of salumi. most frequently made from pork
Secondo: Second course, main, typically meat or fish
Whey/Siero: The liquid remaining after milk has been curdled to make cheese; typically a by-product of cheesemaking, whey is frequently discarded, but Italian producers have found two ingenous uses for it: They feed it to pigs that will become prosciutto in order to sweeten and tenderize the meat and they reheat it to make ricotta, which literally means re-cooked.