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When I first saw Nigella Lawson use a mezzaluna to chop up a mountain of parsley without breaking a sweat, I rushed out to get my own. The crescent-shaped curved blade is often used in Italy for pesto and soffritto, the small dice of carrot, onion, and celery that is the base for so many soups and stews. I use mine to dispatch herbs, garlic, ginger, nuts, and anything else that I want either roughly chopped (done in seconds) or finely minced (more like a minute). It works a dream for the likes of salsa verde— the whirring blades of a food processor can create heat that dulls the vibrant taste of herbs, but a mezzaluna preserves every bit of fresh flavor.
Mezzalunas come in a variety of sizes (if you want to impress your mates by slicing up a pizza like a pro, opt for a larger one), with one or two parallel blades. The latter will give you twice the number of chops in the same amount of time, but you risk getting bits of food stuck between the blades. For me, the traditional single-blade ones are best.
Operating a mezzaluna is simple: Grab the two handles and rock back and forth while the curved blade does its thing, gliding over the board. It makes a pleasing whooshing sound when seesawing—somewhere between a rocking chair and a samurai’s sword. Your fingers will be tucked safely away too, as you use both hands to grasp the sturdy handles instead of guiding the blade as you might with a conventional knife. In other words, they are foolproof—which is useful when you want to keep all your fingers intact.