Garlic Might Not Be As Vital To Italian Cooking As You Think

When Americans think of Italian food, chances are garlic plays a vital role in the dishes that come to mind like pizza, garlic bread, and a myriad of pastas. But garlic might not hold the position many assume it does in authentic Italian food. Not only do Italians not use garlic in the same way as Americans, but some might hold a completely different view of the aromatic bulbs.

According to Taste Cooking, garlic has been associated with poverty since ancient Roman times. Since garlic imparts so much flavor into any dish, it was thought that the ingredient was used by the poor to improve the lesser ingredients they had to work with. While garlic use still comes down to preference, using a lot of garlic or including it in the final dish continues to be looked down on in Italy. But that doesn't mean Italians skip garlic completely in their cooking. They simply use it in a slightly different and more delicate way.

This is how Italians really cook with garlic

According to Milk Street, Italians do not leave pieces of garlic in their food when cooking with garlic, which can be overwhelming to more delicate flavors. So, instead of leaving chunks of garlic in their sauces and other dishes, they actually infuse garlic into olive oil before removing the cloves.

By infusing the oil with garlic, the dish will still get the aromatic and lighter flavor of garlic without it taking over everything else. Of course, major garlic fans might not go for this change. But for those who like very little garlic (or those who simply want to be authentic when cooking), using garlic-infused olive oil just might be the key to balancing out your favorite homemade Italian dishes.  

For cooks seeking to try a more traditional take on pasta, you can easily infuse olive oil with garlic right on your stovetop. To keep the garlic from burning or cooking the oil too long, stay with the pan while the garlic cooks for no more than five minutes according to Ina Garten. Once the garlic has just started to turn brown, you can add the strained oil to your cooking — or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks.