A Knife With Chops

With its long, curved blade and double handles, the mezzaluna may look threatening, but it is actually a remarkably friendly kitchen tool. Built for efficient chopping and mincing, it makes tiresome tasks a breeze, saves time in the kitchen and makes it easier to prepare quick, healthy meals at home.

In Italian, mezzaluna means "half moon," a clear reference to the tool's trademark curved blade. With a handle on each end, the user rocks the blade back and forth to cut, chop and mince. Mezzalunas have a single stainless-steel blade or double parallel blades, and most conventional versions range in size from five-and-a-half inches to nine inches in length.

Some mezzalunas come with a concave cutting board that fits to the blade's curve, keeping food under the blade path for more efficient cutting. Great for anyone intimidated by a large chef's knife, the mezzaluna's handles keep hands away from the blade. Because it allows both hands to control the blade, the mezzaluna is a useful tool for people with arthritis. Mezzalunas can cost as little as $9, but spending more often results in a higher-quality product with a sharper blade and solid construction.

Mezzalunas are especially handy for finely chopping large, leafy items such as herbs and greens. They also can handle smaller-scale tasks from mincing onions and garlic to chopping nuts, chocolate and whole spices. The single-blade version is excellent at cutting pizzas while the double-blade version can function as a pastry knife when cutting butter into flour to make dough.

While the mezzaluna has many convenient applications, there are a few disadvantages worth mentioning. First, mezzalunas should be hand-washed. This can be a difficult task when handling a large, awkward and sharp blade. Most mezzalunas don't come with a storage case, but a thick piece of cloth or fabric can be used as a makeshift shield. It's also hard to make precise, uniform cuts with this tool, which limits its use to rough chopping and mincing tasks.

Mezzalunas certainly have a place in the world of healthy cooking. Minced herbs and spices, and aromatics such as garlic and onion, form the base for many flavorful and healthy pestos, chimichurris, marinades and pastes. Chop canned, whole tomatoes quickly to prepare homemade tomato sauces. Cut onion, lettuce, egg, turkey and herbs together to make a fresh chopped salad.

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Sara Haas
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based dietitian and co-author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook. Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.