If you were to ask Silvia Colloca what is unique about Italian home cooking she would steadfastly assert its point of difference is the cooks themselves. "In breaking down the principles of Italian home cooking, we quickly learn that they are centres around four fundamental pillars - tradition, pride, creativity and simplicity - and Italians adhere to them like eggs and pecorino on carbonara!" she says. "We grow up immersed in culture that celebrates the act of cooking and that of eating every single day. And such reverence is offered in equal manner for a simple biscotto dunked in morning espresso a chunky piece of bread dripping with extra virgin olive oil or a more elaborate dish of homemade pasta." Colloca is a regular contributor to food magazines and has co-created and co-produced and hosted four television shows, Cook Like an Italian, Wok vs Pot and Made in Italy for SBS, and Silvia's Italian Table for the ABC. Her latest book The Italian Home Cook is full of recipes that will show you how to cook like a true Italian, using the most humble of ingredients. "Italians are natural inventive home cooks but such creativity is expressed thriftily and ingeniously more than with sophistication," she says. "It takes far more imagination to cook a delicious meal out of just three or four ingredients and a wooden spoon than it does using 15 ingredients and as many kitchen gadgets." Her nonna, mother and brother were her food models growing up. "They were very different cooks with one thing in common, a love of feeding the people they love," she says. Now Colloca and her husband actor Richard Roxburgh live in Sydney with their three children. At the end of a long week they'll enjoy a minestrone, changing the base ingredients depending on the seasons. In the pantry you'll find extra virgin olive oil, garlic, anchovies, tinned tomatoes and dried pasta. The makings of a simple meal right there. "We are all home cooks," she says. "We all speak the same language, regardless of where we come from. Our language is made up of ingredients, gestures and intentions, and it tells stories of love, unity, resilience and friendship." Stocking your shelves with the right ingredients is the first step to approaching cooking like an Italian. Here is Colloca's list of absolute essentials. Canned tomatoes: Stock up on good quality canned tomatoes, either chopped or whole. As a rule of thumb, if they taste delicious from the can, your sugo has the best chance of turning into a culinary delight. Canned tuna, anchovies and legumes: The most versatile ingredient, you can use them with pasta, on toast, in salads or to top crostini. Anchovies in particular can bring a dish to life. Dried legumes: Stock your pantry with dried chickpeas and beans, or cans for when you don't have time to cook your own. Dried pasta and rice: Italians worship fried pasta. Under no circumstances is it "cheat's pasta". When in doubt pasta is always the answer. Rice offers much versatility, if you have arborio or carnaroli rice you have risotto. Extra virgin olive oil: Italians use extra virgin olive oil on virtually anything, from sweet to savoury. Never skimp on quality. Flour and dried yeast: I may not bake every day, or even once a week, but knowing it's there provides me with comfort. Salt, pepper and vinegar: Seasoning is everything. Stock: With a few fresh ingredients like garlic, onion, potato, lemon, herbs and parmesan, you have a meal. If I was told I could only have one type of torta for the rest of my life, it would definitely be apple cake. It is my idea of sweet heaven every time I sink my teeth into soft slices of this warm cake. The addition of apple sauce in the batter supercharges the appleness of this tea cake, creating the perfect home for ripe, juicy blackberries. 1. Preheat your oven to 170C. Line the base and side of a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper. 2. Toss the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice and set aside. 3. In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Sprinkle in the salt, sift in the flour and mix well to incorporate. Add the apple sauce and melted butter and stir well, then mix in the apple slices and half the blackberries. 4. Pour the cake batter into the tin, level with a spoon and top with the remaining blackberries. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until the top is deep golden brown and softly firm to touch. To be sure, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake - if it comes out clean, the cake is ready; otherwise give it another two to three minutes and test again. 5. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for one hour, then transfer to a plate and serve with whipped cream. Serves 8. Panelle are an iconic Sicilian street food, traditionally sold from trucks on the side of dusty, prickly-pear-adorned roads. They merely consist of chickpea flour and water cooked into a polenta-like mixture that is then set, cut into squares and fried. They can, of course, be flavoured with herbs or chilli, and need a generous squeeze of lemon to complement their nutty taste. You can serve them cut into squares as a vegan aperitif or, as the locals of Sicily do, stuff them into warm bread rolls. Bedda Madre! 1. Whisk the chickpea flour and 800ml of water in a saucepan until lump free. Season with salt and pepper, stir through the herbs and chilli flakes (if using) and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly as if making polenta, for four to five minutes or until creamy and thickened to a polenta-like consistency. Turn off the heat. 2. Spread the mixture onto an oiled, non-stick 4030cm tray until about 3cm thick. Cover with a tea towel or beeswax wrap and allow to set at room temperature for one to two hours (you can also do this the day before and set in the fridge overnight). Cut the set panelle mixture into four to six portions. 3. Pour enough olive or vegetable oil into a large heavy-based saucepan to come three-quarters of the way up the side and heat over medium heat. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping in a little piece of panelle. If it sizzles straight away and bubbles up to the surface, the oil is ready. Add the panelle in batches and deep-fry for one to two minutes or until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper. 4. To serve, stuff each bread roll with a panella (singular for panelle), squeeze a little lemon juice on top and add a few spinach leaves and pickled vegetables, if desired. Serves 4-6. The act of cutting up a tomato and seasoning it with salt and olive oil also applies to pasta recipes. In fact, many hot summer nights have been saved by this clever dish, which is ready in under 10 minutes. The raw sauce is mixed together as the pasta cooks to al dente perfection. Combine the two with a little glue provided by the pasta cooking water, add some parmigiano and, magically, a creamy fresh sauce is created. 1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the spaghetti and stir to separate the strands. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente (generally one minute less than the cooking time recommended on the packet). 2. In the meantime, to make the sauce, place the tomato in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, grated parmigiano and one to two handfuls of the basil leaves. 3. When the pasta is ready, lift it out with a spaghetti spoon and drop it into the bowl with the sauce, dragging a little cooking water with it. Alternatively, drain in a colander, and reserve two to three tablespoons of the cooking water to add to the sauce. Toss well to combine and emulsify the sauce. 4. Add any of the optional extras, if you like, and toss through the pasta. Divide among serving bowls, sprinkle with the remaining basil leaves and serve with extra olive oil drizzled over the top, if you like. Serves 4. Here's something I would like to tell eight-year-old Silvia: "Non ci poi credere, ma da grande ti piaceranno i cavoletti di Bruxell!" ("You are not going to believe this, but you will grow to love Brussels sprouts!"). Eight-year-old Silvia would probably recoil at the mere thought, but in her defence, in Italy in the 1980s, Brussels sprouts and all their brassica friends used to be boiled into a grey, pungent mess that was responsible for many childhood kitchen table dramas. Mercifully, we have now learned that these green buds need very little time to cook, and preserving that crunch is the key to enjoying their nutty, slightly bitter flavour. And chilli always makes everything better! 1. Clean the sprouts by removing the dark green outer leaves and scraping the stems with a paring knife. Cut them in half, or quarters if they are big. 2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic and chillies and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the sprouts and pan-fry for four to five minutes or until slightly softened, golden brown and glistening. Turn off the heat, discard the garlic, squeeze over the lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Serves 4.