Learn how to transform your kitchen into una autentica cucina italiana with Melissa's hints and tips.

Breadcrumbs are a necessity in a lot of Italian recipes. Back home we don't use the chunky Panko style but very fine breadcrumbs. Traditionally these were made by leaving stale bread out to dry and then grating it. Nowadays you can speed up the process by using a food processor, just make sure you sieve out the larger chunks. If you're in a hurry some supermarkets stock fine breadcrumbs, check in the world foods isle.

Some days there just isn't the time to spend a couple of hours preparing dinner. Did you know many dishes can be stored in the freezer for a healthy ready meal when you're in a hurry. Look out for the snowflake icon on my recipes for dishes that can be easily frozen and make a bit extra so you always have a home made treat in the freezer.

There's now a selection of online Italian grocery stores where you can find those items that just aren't available in regular shops. You can find all sorts of speciality baking ingredients, oils and deli items such as salame, prosciutto e formaggio.

At the end of lunch and dinner il caffè is served.  In Italy milky coffees such as cappuccino and caffè latte are only served in the morning. Throughout the rest of the day espresso or at most un macchiato (espresso with a dash of foamed milk) is what Italians will drink. If you're throwing an authentic Italian style dinner party don't forget to offer il caffè at the end of the meal.

In Italy how the table is set is quite different. You never receive a plate with food already on it. Empty plates are set on the table and the food is served directly at the table. Italian housewives are very houseproud and they enjoy showing off their fine china. Check out the 'Kitchen Tour' page to see examples of some Italian serving dishes.

Back home it's extremely rare to do a single weekly shop for groceries. Families will stock up on the bulkier items such as mineral water, peeled plum tomatoes and pasta but fresh ingredients are bought on a daily basis. This is partly because of how Italian towns are designed, shops are usually within walking distance so cars aren't used as much as they are here. It's also because they understand the importance of using fresh ingredients rather than pre-packaged goods. If you have one nearby visit your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer to see what they stock.

Good chefs always tidy as they go. Any meal you cook from scratch will involve pots and pans and plenty of utensils. It's best to cook in a clean and safe space so make sure that when you finish using something you clean it afterwards. It might slow things down slightly but there's nothing worse than having to face a mountain of washing up when you've got a full tummy from a yummy meal!

Plan your meal carefully. Think about how many people you're cooking for and in what order you should cook your chosen dishes. Make sure that your kitchen can accommodate. For instance if you only have 1 oven make sure that everything can fit.

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