A mezzaluna is a curved knife which typically has a handle on either end, allowing the cook to use a rocking motion to chop, cut, and mince foods. This style of knife can be extremely useful in the production of a wide range of foods, and while it is not a vitally necessary kitchen tool, you may find yourself enjoying and appreciating one if you have access to it. Many kitchen stores sell mezzalunas, and some also offer sharpening services for these unique knives.
The name of this knife means “half moon” in Italian; some English speakers refer to mezzalunas as “crescent knives.” The crescent-shaped blade is sharpened along its whole length, allowing people to rock it from one side all the way to the other for a clean cut. The handles allow people to control the blade without the risk of injury; they are typically made from wood, although ceramic and plastic handles can also be found.
It can take a few tries to get used to using a mezzaluna. You can experiment with both flat cutting boards and rounded bowls to get the hang of it; some cooking stores sell special cutting boards with small depressions which are ideally suited to the use of a mezzaluna. If you haven't used this style of blade before, do yourself a favor and purchase a bag of carrots or celery to practice with before you embark on the production of a major meal.
Once people learn to control mezzalunas, they can use these knives for things like mincing garlic and herbs, finely chopping tomatoes for sauces, and engaging in a variety of other tasks. A mezzaluna can also be used as a pastry knife, chopping shortening into flour to make an assortment of doughs. Some people find that once they start using a mezzaluna for such tasks, it can be difficult to use an ordinary knife.
When seeking out a mezzaluna in a store, look for one of solid construction made from good-quality metal. Check the blade carefully for pits or holes at the join of blade and handle where food and bacteria could cluster. To care for your mezzaluna, always hand wash it and dry immediately; wrap the mezzaluna in a sheath or a piece of thick canvas to protect the blade and prevent injuries when not in use.