If you want the word on authentic Italian cooking, where better to find it than in Italy? Today’s guest post is contributed by that modern-day Renaissance Man best known as Guilherme Zo’C — and I think you’ll enjoy his joyful approach to cooking! ~ Jen

How to cook original Italian style

Guilherme Zühlke O’Connor Many of the delicacies gourmets use and abuse these days, were created to overcome food difficulties of the past.

Sun dried tomatoes, just as most other dried food, were invented mostly to overcome food shortage on winter. In southern Italy, people dried the tomatoes in the sun and, to make them last even more, they conserved them into olive oil, a mix that could easily last for a long winter.

These days, anyone can have dried tomatoes just because is delicious, and just because of this, about a month ago I decided to make my own conserve of Sun Dried Tomatoes.

Because I had never done one, I found it appropriate to google a bit before I start. I found many pages with similar, although different, procedures. After a bit of reading I put my thoughts in order and my hands into it.

You can dry the tomatoes yourself by cutting them into halves, cover them with a mix of sugar and salt and let them dry in the sun for a couple of days, but I decided to buy them already dried because it was the conserve I was actually interested in.

For the conserve, pick a clean and preferably sterilized glass pot and pour some Extra Virgin Olive Oil nto it. Put a layer of sun-dried tomatoes, then cover them with olive oil, then another layer of tomatoes and so on.

Be sure the olive oil covers entirely the tomatoes. Cover and let them rest for 2 weeks before using it. If the oil properly covers the tomatoes and you keep the jar from dust, they can last for the whole winter as in the old days before the refrigerator and canned food.

So far, so good, but what is so interesting in this conserve, why didn’t I just buy the conserve, once I have bought the tomatoes already?

Well, the fun part is that you can chose your favorite oil other things to go into the jar with the tomatoes and oil. Among the recipes I read, I found suggestions to add garlic, basil, oregano, peppers… but I also found a warning:

“Take care not to invent too much or you will end up spoiling the originality of this recipe.”

Sorry, I must disagree!

A good part of original Italian cuisine was developed by housewives, little local restaurant cooks and even the poor and the people in general trying to survive to winters, wars and misery. What makes it so good is the intimate cultural relationship they have with food, that naturally becomes a cooking instinct.

I think the only way to really cook Italian style, is to develop an instinct and invent your own dishes on a daily basis, even if your first attempts are so bad that Italians themselves would laugh at it.

Guilherme is a Web Designer and works freelance in northern Italy.

His past work life includes also developing software prototypes for Sony Ericsson mobiles, teaching Photoshop, compiler design and photography.

He is happily married to Anna, and in his free time he enjoys cinema, traveling, cooking and eating.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. HI Ivan, I was ready to be beaten up to death for my outrage when I’ve sent you the post. I’m glad you liked it. ;-)

  2. IvanDM

    Well, I’m Italian, I’m from the South, I know very well what you are talking about and… you are indeed right.

    I started inventing stuff when I was a kid, and got some very wrong in the process, but that was training.

  3. Ric

    Thanks Gui, and cheers Jen, I really like your site too!

  4. domestika

    @Gui, I’ve just been reading on Mediterrasian.com, and you’re right — it’s an amazing resource for anyone interested in healthful, delicious, inventive food as part of a whole healthier lifestyle. I’ve bookmarked it, and will definitely be spending some time there.

    @Ric, so glad you dropped by to comment — otherwise, I might never have had the pleasure of discovering your site!

  5. Good idea to use the salt. Garlic and rosemary sounds delicious.

    By the way, to all the readers, Ric’s site, Mediterrasian is a must see. I love it because is more philosophy than recipes, but still there are good recipes galore. Ric, I miss your blog :)

    We are having a great time here, thanks for asking. Any meal is a feast, it is amazing. Just our style of eating.

  6. Ric

    Great ideas Gui. I think a tasty and simple seasoning combination would be garlic, rosemary and sea salt (and the salt would also help preserve the tomatoes even longer).

    By the way, I hope you and Anna are enjoying your new life in Italy — especially all the delights of authentic Italian cuisine. L’appetito vien mangiando!

  7. @domestika – Here some suggestions:

    * A couple of spoons on the rice for a risotto (or rice in general ;-)
    * In the dough for bread or pizza (Sounds good, Oda?)
    * On the water to cook pasta
    * On an omelette
    * In the water to rehidrate TSP (ideal for vegetarians)
    * Reuse the oil to do a dried-tomato-flavored eggplant conserve (this deserves a post of its own)

    I’d love to hear other ideas :-)

  8. domestika

    I’m all in favour of cooking by instinct, just from the love of food… really, recipes are more of a ‘suggested method’ than a scientific procedure, aren’t they?

    Gui, I really like the idea of using the leftover dried-tomato-flavoured olive oil for other cooking adventures — it appeals to my frugal nature!

  9. @Oda – Lol, not true, you know there is no recipe. That is why invite people home to cook with me when they ask me for it.

    Nice to have you around here :-)

  10. oda

    Nice guy, nice post.
    I’m a luck man: I ate his pizza a couple year ago, the recipe is gorgeous! Ask him some tips about it!

  11. @Michael Martine – Yes, you are right, it is very cheap to make, even cheaper if you dry the tomatoes yourself.

    And after you have eaten the tomatoes, you can use the remaining scented oil for salads, or whatever you want or use even to make another conserve :-)

  12. Michael Martine

    This sounds fantastic — and super easy! Buying this stuff already made must cost a lot more, too.

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