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How to Make an Italian Gourmet Gift Basket

Ingredient Inspiration for an Italian Gourmet Gift Basket

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This Italian-inspired gourmet gift basket includes everything the recipient needs to enjoy a special pasta dinner. Choose artisan-crafted ingredients — the goal is to create a basket brimming with gourmet delights and specialty food finds that your recipients wouldn't ordinarily treat themselves to, but would love to taste.

Whether you want to create a small, well-edited basket or offer up a huge bounty, we've got gift basket ideas and shopping sources to help guide you. And don't forget to check out local specialty and discount shops — you may find fantastic gourmet bargains for your basket!

 

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
© 2010 Miri Rotkovitz

A fine bottle of extra virgin olive oil will last far after the pasta is gone, so treat your giftee to a special one. Many gourmet shops have olive oil tasting bars, so try several and pick one that strikes your fancy. And don't feel restricted to Italian oils — there are wonderful olive oils from Greece, Spain, California, Israel, Australia, and more.

More About Olive Oil

About Italian Olive Oil

Before You Buy Greek Olive Oil

2. Grissini

Grissini
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

Include a sack of skinny grissini, so there will be something fun to munch while the pasta cooks.

Tenuta Castello makes its Rubata Grissini in small batches from family-grown grains and extra-virgin olive oil. The classic Piedmontese-style breadsticks come in plain and rosemary flavors, as well as in a rice flour version. Buy online at TheShopAgora.com. Price: $6/5.3 oz.

3. Artisan Pasta

Artisan Pasta
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

We often think of dry pasta as a humble busy night go-to. So a handmade pasta in an unusual shape or made from a rare flour can be a real revelation. As a bonus, artisan pastas are often beautifully packaged, and can add aesthetic appeal to your basket.

  • Ditalia.com carries artisan pasta, along with squid ink and farro pastas.
  • TheShopAgora.com offers stunning, rare pastas, including hand-stamped pasta coins, orange-infused Stringozzi, and gluten-free corn and rice pastas.
  • FormaggioKitchen.com stocks several hard-to-find lines of artisan pasta, including Gioie di Fattoria, which turns out whole-grain pasta made from Saragolla, an ancient wheat variety. Formaggio Kitchen is also a great source for farro pastas.

4. Gourmet Tomato Sauce

Copper Pot Tomato Sauce
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

There are tons of jarred pasta sauces on the market, but only a relative few can boast superior homemade flavor and texture. Look for an all-natural sauce made with simple ingredients — tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, basil — and skip anything made with corn syrup, inferior oils, or lots of sugar.

  • CubeMarketplace.com carries a wide range of pasta sauces, from unusual pestos — like Wild Burdock Pesto — to Arrabbiata, Porcini Mushroom, and Zucchini Saffron Cream Sauces.
  • The D.C. based CopperPotFoodCo.com offers 3 chef-crafted sauces made from locally-sourced ingredients: Blended Late-Harvest Tomato, Roasted Shallot & Barolo, and Smoky Bacon & Parmesan. ($6/16 oz).
  • Supermarket shopping? Dell'Amore is a solid choice.

5. Capers, Olives (or Both!)

Capers and Olives
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

Capers and olives are ideal for serving alongside antipasti, doctoring jarred sauces, or serving over fish or poultry.

  • Cybercucina.com has a nice selection of olives from around the world. They also stock both brine- and salt-packed capers.
  • iGourmet.com offers olives, along with several tapenade options.

6. Tuna or Anchovies

Ventresca Tuna
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

Gourmet canned fish makes a brilliant addition to Italian gift basket — it's a great way to add some satisfying protein to the mix without perishability concerns. Better yet, it's so versatile. Serve the fish with aperitifs, or add them to the meal. Anchovies are perfect for turning that jarred sauce into a quick puttanesca. Ventresca tuna, which comes from the prized belly of the fish, also makes a great pasta addition.

LaTienda.com is a fantastic source for artisan-made canned and jarred fish. You'll find line-caught, hand-packed Bonito and Ventresca tuna, anchovies packed in olive oil, tiny sardines, and more.

7. Parmesan, Grana Padano, or Pecorino Cheese

Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
© 2011 Miri Rotkovitz

If the trip to your hosts is short or temperature controlled enough to allow the inclusion of perishables, definitely consider adding a hunk of aged cheese to your gift basket. Not only will a great cheese pack big flavor, but it can do triple duty as an antipasto, a dinner accompaniment, or as dessert.

  • As the name suggests, FormaggioKitchen.com is a great source for cheeses. You'll find many Italian options, including Parmigiano Reggiano along with several wonderful sheeps' milk Pecorinos.
  • ArtisanalCheese.com is another excellent cheese vendor with a well-edited selection of top-notch Italian cheeses. 
  • iGourmet.com offers a large selection of Italian cheeses, including Grana Padano, along with helpful information about each.

8. Biscotti or Amaretti

Adding a little something sweet to wrap up the meal is a nice touch. Biscotti, amaretti, or other cookies are all versatile options that can be served solo, or alongside fresh fruit, cheese, or sorbetto.

TheShopAgora.com offers beautifully packaged Baci di Dama, amaretti, and even multigrain and farro cookies.

Ditalia.com stocks lots of sweets, including gluten free options like Primo Pan's excellent gluten-free "Drolo" chocolate cookies.

9. Great Extras

Want to add a little something extra? Try some of these add-ons:

  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Jarred antipasti, such as marinated artichokes, beans, or vegetables
  • Espresso
  • Wine
  • Limoncello
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