BACCALA – Salted dried cod. Also known as stoccafisso although true stockfish is dried but unsalted. Baccala must be soaked for a couple of days, changing the water often before it can be used.
BAGNET – In a dialect of Piedmont, this means sauce (“little bath”). A red and a green version are common, and both are used to accompany bollito misto, a typically Piedmontese assortment of boiled meats. The red bagnèt features tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic that are cooked for half an hour, to which wine vinegar and sugar are added; the sauce is then simmered for two more hours. The green bagnèt is a piquant blend of anchovies, hard-boiled egg yolks, parsley, garlic, capers, bread that has been soaked in milk and squeezed dry, extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.
BARBABIETOLE – Beets. This red, succulent root of a biennial plant (Beta vulgaris). Often dressed with vinegar and served cold and sliced, but can also be served hot. Beets have a sweet, earthy flavor when roasted.
BASILICO – Basil. An herb with an intense aroma and sweet flavor it is associated with Italian cuisine more than any other herb. Often used in tomato sauces, pizza, salads, soups and omlets.
BATTUTA – A mixture of onion, garlic, fatback, and other ingredients added for flavoring a stew or soup. If sautéed, it is called a soffritto.
BAVETTE – Ribbon shaped long pasta.
BECIAMELLA – Béchamel sauce. A white sauce made from butter, and milk thickened with flour that is used in many dishes in an Italian kitchen.
BEL PAESE – A creamy, light Italian cheese with a mild, sweet flavor. Used as a spread or in cooking as it melts well.
BIETOLA – Swiss Chard. Popular all year round across Italy and used in many dishes.
BIGA – A starter made for bread from flour, yeast and water.
BIGOLI – Long, spaghetti-like dry pasta with a hole in the center. Traditionally they were made with buckwheat flour, but are more commonly made with whole wheat flour now.
BISCOTTI – Cookies whose name means “twice baked” that are very crunchy and made to dip into coffee or wine. See recipes for
BOCCON – A style of pasta from Veneto traditionally made with ricotta cheese and spinach mixed into the dough.
BOCCONCINI – “Little balls” of fresh Mozzarella. Mozzarella cheese is produced in Albruzzi-Molise and Campania and is made from fresh cows milk. Mozzarella is the larger of the balls of cheese produced in the process. The smaller balls are the bocconcini.
BORLOTTI BEANS – A small red speckled pink bean often used in soups and stews. Most often used dried rather than fresh.
BOTTARGA – These are dried, salted and pressed roe of grey mullet or tuna and a specialty of Sardinia, Sicily and Veneto. Most often it is served as an antipasto thinly sliced and dressed with olive oil, or grated over pasta.
BOVOLO – Snail. Usually sautéed with garlic and olive oil.
BRANZINO – Also known as spigola, this fish is known as sea bass in North America. Often cooked whole, it is delicate in flavor and has few bones.
BRESAOLA – Cured raw beef similar in appearance to prosciutto. A specialty of Lombardy, but enjoyed across Italy. Most often it is served as an appetizer, sliced very thin and drizzled with olive oil and lemon.
BROCCOLETTI – Broccoli. Usually boiled or steamed, sautéed in olive oil and garlic or served cold with olive oil and lemon.
BRODETTO – A general term for any fish soup or chowder.
BRODO – Broth or stock. Can be made from vegetables, meats or fish.
BUCATINI – Long strands of dry pasta with a hole in the center.
BURRO – Butter. Italian butter usually contains a higher fat content than American butter. It is used more in the north of Italy, particularly with pastries, and in some pasta or risotto dishes, but very little is used to cook with.