Everyone knows this dark, sweet-tart ingredient is suited to vinaigrettes, but when you think outside the salad bowl, balsamic really reveals its potential. It's an instant source of tangy depth in marinades for meats and in sauces and glazed vegetables.
The Real Deal
True balsamic is made by aging boiled Trebbiano grape juice in barrels for 12 to 25 years, giving it a concentrated sweetness. Many versions at supermarkets aren't true balsamic -- instead, they're made from regular wine vinegar with added sweeteners. These balsamics cost $3 to $14, while prices for true balsamic start at $50 and can reach $200 or more.
For an everyday value, look for bottles labeled "Aceto Balsamico di Modena" at supermarkets. As an indulgence, seek out a small bottle of higher-grade balsamic (marked "condimento" or "tradizionale") from a specialty shop or an Italian market.