side view of glass bottle of tuscan olive oil on white table setting with bunches or rosemary and candles around it.
Home » Italian Culture » Handpicked Italian Cooking Gifts (2024)

Handpicked Italian Cooking Gifts (2024)

Last updated on March 10th, 2024

Looking for the best gifts for someone you know who loves to cook Italian food? These are my handpicked Italian cooking gifts for all the Italian cooks out there!

When I first moved to Italy and got to spend more time in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, I noticed she was using many tools that I had never tangoed with in the kitchen before. These were just some of the many things that most Italian kitchens keep as everyday tools. 

After years of living in Italy and building my own kitchen repertoire, I now know what are the best tools, ingredients and items that I find myself using over and over again and that every Italian cook should have as well in their kitchen and pantry. 

Many of these items you can get in the USA (convenient if you are tight on space and don’t have space in your luggage) yet are authentic and of great quality. 

Olive Cutting Board

Olive oil cutting board with radishes, cheese, and greens on top.

Food presentation is just as important in Italy as the food itself and there is nothing more beautiful than a hand cut and sanded olive wood cutting board. Olive oil cutting boards are so versatile: you can use them for cheeses, charcuterie boards, serving a nice bistecca, or for putting together a plate of pinzimonio, raw vegetables served with extra virgin olive oil. 

Choose one with a small groove if you plan on primarily using it for serving grilled meats to catch the juices. You can always just flip it over if you are making a cheese board. 

Good To Know: Many of these items can also be paired with souvenirs to make a more substantial gift.

Parmesan Cheese Knife

hand holding a parmesan cheese knife with a green handle on a dark, wooden, rough surface

Serving really good parmigiano-reggiano as a small nibble with cocktails is a classic in Italy, especially in Emilia Romagna

We eat a lot of parmigiano in our house because firstly, it’s so good we can’t get enough of it and secondly, because it’s really good for you! 

Serving large chards of parmesan is an artform and I loved sharing how we do it in my family. You do need the right knife, however, called a coltello a goccia or a ‘droplet knife’. There are several varieties, some with a point, some with a squared edge at the end, but you want to achieve large chards of parmesan cheese instead of slices. The individual knife makes a great small gift but consider the cheese knife set which makes for a nicer presentation.

Mezzaluna

Italian mezzaluna on a white marble counter.

The mezzaluna is one of the tools I first noticed in my mother-in-law’s kitchen but wasn’t really sure what she was using it for. 

I soon learned that many traditional rustic, Italian sauces are still made by hand in Italy such as pesto and salsa verda, or green sauce. 

This somewhat strange looking knife is a staple in most Italian homes (at least in rural areas) as it really speeds up the process of chopping herbs, nuts, and garlic and into an almost paste-like consistency. 

Food Mill

Food mill sitting on a white marble counter.

I honestly put off getting a food mill for the longest time because I didn’t really have the space in my (once) small kitchen, but at a certain point I just couldn’t take it anymore – the amount of times I needed it in my Italian cooking adventures was one time too many!

If you know someone who is doing a lot of authentic Italian cooking then they will certainly be in great need of this kitchen tool, if they don’t already own it. Many Italian recipes call for passata, such as in authentic pizza sauce, which is pureed tomatoes but it’s very hard to get in the USA. A food mill makes the perfect consistency every time! 

Crushed Calabrian Chili Peppers

Crushed Calabrian Chili Peppers are a must-have for cooking southern Italian dishes. So many of Basilicata and Calabrian dishes are enhanced with these peppers and there really is no substitute. 

I gave these to my sister last year (who loves spicy food) and she uses them all the time, even non-Italian dishes. While the ones you buy in Italy are also sold dried, these are a fine alternative and I can tell you from first hand experience that anyone who cooks a lot of Italian food will be thrilled to get these. 

Essentials of Italian Cooking

top view of essentials of classic Italian cooking book on a wooden table with a wooden spoon on the side

Essentials of Italian Cooking is the bible for Italian cooking by Marcella Hazan and it should be in every cook’s collection. From basics to more complicated and complex regional dishes, Marcella has it all explained step by step, making it accessible not only to newbies but also a good reference book for experienced cooks. 

Check out my full cookbook guide for my top Italian cookbook recommendations!

Pasta Maker

a bright red pasta make for sale on a shelf outdoors of a shop next to various other pasta making tools

While many Italians still roll out their pasta dough by hand,m, it’s very common to use a pasta maker in Italy for fresh pasta. What I most love about these kinds is that they are not going to break the bank – if you opt for a stand mixer with an attachment, it’s going to set you back. This is a very beautiful gift but doesn’t carry the price tag of some of the larger options. 

Pasta Drying Rack

close up of a box of a pasta drying rack displayed outside of a shop in montepulciano

Making homemade pasta is certainly a “check the box” type of operation for many cooks but for the Italian cook, a pasta drying rack is a tool they will use time and again.

This is essential for making long strands of homemade pasta – take it from someone who has done a lot of pasta drying on the back of chairs and regretted it shortly after when my kids run by and brush up against them, sadly pushing them to the floor.

Pizza Cutter

Pizza cutter sitting on a white marble counter.

My Italian husband and I received a really nice pizza cutter as a wedding gift and I swear it’s  one of my favorite gifts we got!

It sounds strange because it’s such a simple item but I had never had one and it totally has changed my pizza night experience. My husband and I race to cut the pizza first when it comes out – it’s that satisfying to use. You don’t need to purchase a very expensive one to get really good results either!

Apron

side view of a traditional handwoven fabric store in Tuscany selling various towels, tablecloths and napkins with a display of aprons in foreground

I never used to wear an apron but once I started getting really into cooking, Italian cooking specifically, I quickly learned I needed one. 

If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves Italian food then they are probably in need of a good, themed apron. Italian cooking can get a bit messy at times with all the pan frying, tomatoes and splattering going on so do your friend a favor and get them an apron! 

Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil

close up of shelf lined with various artisan olive oils in tuscany with small price tag below on brown paper

Extra virgin olive oil is something I give my relatives every year when I come back from Italy but in the years when I can’t come back, I simply order it online and have it shipped to them. I prefer Tuscan extra virgin olive oil because that is where my family is based but all extra virgin olive oil is going to be quite good as long as it’s from the last year and the olives are from Italy (double check the fine print before purchase!).

For a slightly more luxurious olive oil gift, opt for this option.

Adopt an Olive Tree Gift

view of a tuscan olive groves with pruning branches littering the ground under blue skies with a few clouds.

Gifting an olive tree is definitely another luxury gift item but it really is for a good cause. A fellow Smith College alumnae started this business with her father some years ago, bringing the opportunity to ‘adopt’ an olive tree by supporting all the resources and energy that goes into maintaining a healthy and productive olive tree or grove. 

My dear Italian friend Olivia once said to me, “We make olive oil because it’s a passion, not because it’s lucrative”. Producing olive oil in a sustainable, healthy way is very hard to do in most of the mediterranean but it can be done with enough love and hard work. 

They have several different options available and in exchange for your help, they send you extra virgin olive oil on a regular basis from the area that you have committed to supporting. 

Giadzy Box

The Giadzy Box is certainly more of a luxury item but if you know someone who is learning to cook Italian food for the first time and is really invested in improving, then this is the gift for them. 

Giada De Laurentiis has put together this food gift box with all the essentials to cook Italian classics with attention to artisan craftsmanship and food production. 

Lady Fingers

close up of two packages of savoiardi cookies on a shelf

Lady Fingera is kind of a funny item because store bought cookies don’t really seem like a well thought out gift but if the person you are giving them to is an Italian cook they will absolutely appreciate them for making a good tiramisù.

Italian lady fingers aren’t the easiest or cheapest thing (considering they are commercially produced cookies) to get your hands on so I like to pair them with something else like the following item, the Italian version of baking powder (if they are following Italian baking recipes it will call for this), maybe some Italian salt and modica chocolate and without much effort you have a pretty good looking foodie basket.

Italian Rising Agent for Bakers

Three packets of Italian rising agent sitting on a white marble counter.

If the person you are looking for is an avid Italian baker, they may have come across Italian baking powder before. This is what Italians use for their baking at home so any authentic, Italian recipe is going to call for this (most likely written in Italian. If it’s in English, the author has most likely done the conversion to an American equivalent). 

Although a bit of a niche item and really for experienced bakers who are looking to follow recipes in Italian, this is a must for them. Pair it with some other baking essentials such as some Italian chocolate and an apron and they are ready to get their hands dirty!

Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes

stack of Italian cook books.  On the top is 'Spritz.'

Spritz is a fantastic book to give in general as it’s a perfect little read with aperitivo recipes included. The vintage look and artistic styling makes it suitable for anyone but in particular, I chose it for my cooks out there because it’s the ideal small addition to their cookbook collection without being ‘overbearing’. 

I don’t love getting enormous books because if I don’t use them they are just taking up a lot of space. This one, however, is slim and narrow, perfect for a bookend or the topper for a book stack. 

Cervia Salt

In the years of becoming a very experienced cook, I have learned to greatly appreciate a good finishing salt. Cervia salt is exactly what this is and any cook to whom you are giving this will also be ecstatic. This salt from Cervia in Emilia-Romagna is artisan made, using natural methods of extraction. 

What makes this salt really unique is that it’s the one used to make the region’s famous parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto di Parma

Alessi Cheese Grater 

Top view of Alessi cheese grater on marble counter.

This is the cheese grater we use in our home, the same one my husband was using 12 years ago when I first met him and I cannot recommend it enough.

It’s perhaps not the most elegant of cheese graters, surely not the one you are going to choose for a fancy dinner party but as a daily workhorse, this is the cheese grater you want. 

Side view of Alessi cheese grater on marble counter.

I’m not a fan of grating cheese but it’s actually not half bad with this and if you don’t use it all, just cover it with plastic wrap, pop it in the fridge and save it for the next time you need it!