If you’re from Chicago, chances are you know what giardiniera is, but for many of us, this unique Italian style condiment has pretty much flown under the radar. And that’s a shame, because giardiniera is one of the most versatile and tasty additions to just about any meal. Here’s a brief introduction to giardiniera and a few tips on how to use it…
What Is Giardiniera?
Long a staple in many Italian-American communities, giardiniera is a specialty Italian style condiment that is usually packed in shelf stable jars with olive or vegetable oil. And while recipes to make giardiniera differ, most consist of a mix of chopped celery, mild or hot peppers, carrots, olives, and a blend of spices.
Normally, there are two versions of giardiniera. You will find it labeled as either hot or mild, and depending on your taste buds, you’ll fall in love with either or both! The hot style is enough to give your appetizers or main courses a kick, but not too hot to overwhelm flavors. The mild version adds a unique taste accent reminiscent of a favorite Italian restaurant with a home spun touch.
This unique condiment is created on a large mixing table. The celery, peppers, carrots, and other ingredients are usually coarse chopped and then tossed with a specialty blend of spices. Traditionally, pitted green olives are then added to the mix. Then, the mixture is packed into containers and a shelf stable oil mixture is added.
How To Use Giardiniera
The beauty of this condiment is its versatility. In Chicago, we like to say “It’s not just for breakfast any more!”, and in actuality there is some truth to the statement. Add some giardiniera to scrambled eggs for an eye opening twist, or similarly, fold some into an omelet.
For the most part though, plan to add a few fork fulls to any Italian style dish. It is the ideal addition to a beef or meatball sandwich, accenting the flavors perfectly. Bake it in with pasta, particularly lasagna. Or, add it to a plate of spaghetti to liven up your dinner.
Most giardiniera will remain fresh for a year or so without need for refrigeration. In fact, refrigeration will negatively affect the taste because it changes the complexion of the oil. Be sure to check the label to see if refrigeration is necessary. We recommend shelf stable varieties and suggest storing them in a kitchen cabinet, just as you would with cooking oils and spices.
No matter how you use it, giardiniera will add a flavorful kick to your next meal. Whether you choose a hot or mild variety, you can bank on a unique and delicious addition to eggs, sandwiches, salads, pasta, and more.
Look for authentic Chicago style giardiniera from specialty online retailers to experience what your meals have been missing! Simply put, if you like Italian food, you’ll embrace the taste of giardiniera.