Spices and herbs are the hallmarks of popular Italian dishes. So if you love Italian food, then you should start learning about the most common Italian spices and herbs.
Italian food is known for its rich taste, flavor, and simplicity. Each Italian region has a unique set of recipes, flavors, ingredients, and products, but do they have one thing in common – the spices and herbs that enhance the flavor, texture, and color of popular Italian dishes.
What are Italian Spices
Italian cooks are skilled at combining farm-fresh vegetables and fruits, sauces, fresh herbs, spices, and sauces to prepare mouth-watering dishes. If you want to replicate those Italian flavors in your food, then you’re in the right place. Here are the most common Italian spices and herbs that you can use in your dishes.
Garlic is the most common seasoning used in Italian food. It has a rich earthy sulfur flavor that complements other seasonings and tomato-based preparations. Garlic has many health benefits as well. It is rich in minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, manganese, and antioxidants. Garlic also helps improve blood flow thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Oregano is usually used in Sicilian and southern Italian dishes. This herb is more flavorful and aromatic in its dried form. Oregano is packed with Omega-3s, antioxidants, iron, and manganese. It’s often used in grilled fish and tomato-based pasta sauces.
Basil adds a hint of mint, lemon, and licorice to your food. Unlike the pungent and minty basil found in many Asian cuisines, Italian basil is pleasantly peppery and sweet. You can add basil to your salads or pizza. Basil is also essential for pesto and tomato sauce. You can make the pesto by crushing fresh basil leaves with olive oil. A spoonful of basil pesto is enough to upgrade your favorite everyday dishes.
Rosemary is often used in vegetable preparations and meat marinades. Fresh rosemary has a potent flavor and fragrance. You can use this herb when you are roasting or grilling meat, poultry, and fish. The herb’s pleasant aroma will permeate your food. Just add a sprig of rosemary to your food and the herb will give your dish a spicy, woody flavor.
Parsley is one of the most popular traditional Italian spices. It comes in curly-leaf and flat-leaf varieties, but the latter is more common in many Italian cuisines. Flat-leaf has a stronger flavor, but the curly-leaf variety is better for garnishing and fine chopping. Parsley works well with spicy elements due to its ability to enhance the other flavors in many dishes.
Thyme has a minty and lemony flavor that goes well with roasted and grilled food. The most common varieties with culinary uses include wild thyme, caraway thyme, citrus thyme, and common thyme. Dried thyme is a suitable replacement for fresh thyme. When you’re using dried thyme, you only need to add 1/3 of the amount of fresh thyme required in the recipe. Dried thyme should be stored in airtight containers, away from light and heat. When stored carefully, the herb should retain potency and flavor for a year. Thyme is a common ingredient in oven-roasted and grilled fish recipes. For grilled and roasted meats, thyme works well with rosemary and sage.
Sage is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This herb has a citrusy and slightly bitter aroma that can brighten up any heavy dishes. Sage works well with bean soups, pasta, aromatic oils, mild cheeses, risotto, and bread. It is great in non-tomato based dishes like ravioli and gnocchi, roasted butternut squash, and arancini. Sage also blends well with fatty meats and chicken, beef, pork, and duck dishes.
Marjoram has a mild, woodsy, and floral aroma and flavor. The herb is more flavorful than its dried version. Marjoram is often used in marinades, sauces, and salad dressing. It also works well with seafood-based dishes and stews.
Hot pepper is a common ingredient in Southern Italian cuisines. Here, cheeses and salumi are usually made with hot pepper. Crushed hot pepper flakes are used to add a clean, spicy heat and peppery flavor to food. You can also use it to make a bowl of spicy pickles or spice rub.
Bay leaves can add a complex peppery flavor to your dish. It is used to flavor meat marinades and white sauces. The spicy flavor blends well in meat, vegetable, and fish sauces for various pasta dishes. Just don’t forget to remove the leaves from the food before serving it to your guests.
If you love Italian food, then you should learn about the herbs and spices that are used in Italian cuisines. Once you’re familiar with these herbs and spices, you can make your Italian spices list and get yourself a gourmet spice set so that you can make your favorite Italian cuisines anytime.