Foodpairing: is the right match-up a matter of instinct, experience, or App?

Bites & Bubbles

Is it a good combo? And what about this one? Maybe it’s better… These doubts are pretty common in front of a wardrobe, but they may come in front of a fridge, too. How often do you go home and wish to prepare an original, unusual and refined dish without being insecure about the right combination? You can always call a sommelier friend to match a dish and a wine, but pairing single ingredients may be not that easy.

In this case, venturing on unknown paths can be challenging but also quite dangerous for your dining companions. So why don’t you start studying a little FOODPAIRING? It’s a discipline that ranks among science, art and technique, telling you how to successfully combine ingredients in a harmonious and pleasant way. The secret is to follow seasonality and always consider the opposition or similarity of tastes.

The SCIENTIFIC BASIS of this subject is the analysis of molecular and aromatic composition of food; in this way, you may know how much two ingredients have in common and harmonize for similarity or how different they are and may work together for the unwritten law of attractive opposites; finally, you can check if they naturally match for seasonality reasons. All these studies require a chromatograph, an object that is not so common in the kitchen!

Therefore, it may be very useful to CONSULT BOOKS or websites which discuss this topic systematically and in-depth, clearing your head and satisfying your curiosity. All this bearing in mind – always! – that the cabbage shining in your fruit basket, the bream you received as a gift, the eggs from aunt Mary’s hens are your cabbage, your bream and your eggs and will have their own, unique flavour; the book or website may describe a hypothetical cabbage, bream and medium egg, analysing them in their molecular components that are typical, but not universal.

And then you must bear in mind that your taste – and the appreciation of two flavours together – is largely a CULTURAL ISSUE: what seems absolutely normal for an Italian, could be bizarre and unappetizing for a Samoan and vice-versa (remember it when you compile the guest list). Moreover, as far as you can be considered a citizen of the world and open to experimentations, some tastes will always be complete strangers to you and some other ones definitely life companions.

" is available in several languages, but unfortunately not in Italian"



Having said that, a website like Foodpairing is really interesting and can be a gold mine of ideas; as well as Niki Seguit’s book, The grammar of flavours is certainly a pleasant reading. Personally, I always recommend to study a bit before moving on to practice: reading and getting informed is a pleasure and a good habit, as well as a duty, when you approach a new discipline. is available in several languages, but unfortunately not in Italian and you must register to access to the trial version. Do it: it’s funny to write an ingredient and see what “science” answers you about the best matches; and if you don’t like it, you are not obliged to buy the paid version, that seems to be a must-have for many Italian and foreign chefs.

On the other hand, the book is available in Italian, easy to read and full of recipes, so when you’re no longer interested in foodpairing, you can still try them.

By the way, anybody who’s not exactly a newbie in the kitchen and enough open minded knows that experience counts a lot. For example, I adopt a very simple cuisine, made more of quality raw materials than egregious preparations; I don’t wanna be a champion of regional traditions (of any region at all, since I don’t live in the one where I was born) or to be consulted as an expert of gastronomic exoticism.

But I like to experiment. In my blog, L’Orata Spensierata, you can find recipes that mix the sweetness of chestnuts with the extra salinity of smoked mullet; or the acidity of tomatoes with the sweet scent of vanilla; cauliflower with bottarga and broccoli with pears; broad beans with hazelnuts and salmon with cherries. Nothing exceptional, but little signs that encourage my readers to experiment, following their instinct; after all, the worst damage you may suffer is to throw something way. And since it’s not a nice thing to do, maybe consult your cat or your dog before doing it: you could always find new admirers.

Cristiana Grassi aka Orata Spensierata