A key ingredient in Italian cooking is REAL Balsamic Vinegar. My love for this wonderful ingredient has grown over time. I liked balsamic vinegar before, then I tried REAL balsamic vinegar. Now it’s LOOOVE!
The usual grocery store balsamic vinegar—often just flavored vinegar with possible colorings—has a pungently acidic taste. REAL balsamic vinegar is made in Reggio Emilia or Modena, Italy. Grapes, aged in barrels, are the sole ingredient used to create the wonderful depth of flavor.
Modern day labeling laws have made it difficult to determine real food from fake food. Here are a few items to look for when searching for REAL balsamic vinegar.
- Real balsamic vinegar is labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
- The bottle carries a D.O.P. – “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production method and place of origin. Always seek out a D.O.P. stamp to verify the true identity of your balsamic vinegar.
- Balsamic vinegar of Modena I.G.P. (this is also a stamp not to be confused with the D.O.P stamp) is sometimes simply wine vinegar. This vinegar is from Modena, and is a better option than other vinegars made from grape juice and coloring, but still does not compare to traditional balsamic vinegar. Always look for the D.O.P stamp to verify the true identity.
Unfortunately, there is A LOT of food fraud out there. If a product claims to be balsamic vinegar, but does not originate from the Reggio Emilia or Modena regions of Italy, then it is an impostor. Real food does tend to be more expensive, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. In order to eat real food, you really have to cook more. But, just as Larry Olmsted writes in his book, Real Food Fake Food—
It’s worth the time to cook Real Foods. It is also worth the effort to shop for them and worthwhile to support the real people who make them. Keep it real.
Of course, this dish can also be made with a standard balsamic vinegar. But we recommend using a bottle of REAL Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale of the Reggio Emilia or Moderna regions of Italy.
Let’s rethink the standard.Print
Deliciously easy and packed with fresh tomatoes and arugula. Real balsamic vinegar adds the perfect burst of flavor!
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (ideally Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pint of tomatoes, halved
- Big bunch of arugula, washed and patted dry
- Garnish with juice of half a lemon, Parmesan and basil (julienned)
- Bring a medium pot (2/3 full of water) to boil, add pinch of salt to water. Stir in pasta, cover and cook according to package. Drain finished pasta, reserve 1/4 cup pasta water
- In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Whisk until combined
- Heat large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil until hot, then add garlic, saute until fragrant (about a minute). Reduce heat to low, stir in tomatoes, cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add pasta to pan with tomatoes, add 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
- Add balsamic mixture to pan, simmer 1 minute
- Remove from heat, stir in arugula until slightly wilted
- Garnish with lemon juice, basil and Parmesan
- Serve and enjoy!
Have you ever tried REAL balsamic vinegar—Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale of Modena?
Comment below with your thoughts! We’d love to hear them!