Useful Tips

12 popular Italian herbs and spices


Do not despair if the kitchen runs out of herbs or spice mixtures. Show a little imagination, and this will help you find decent replacement options. In the middle of winter, it is not possible to pick fresh rosemary in the garden, which is necessary for the recipe, but you can always store a small amount of dried grass in the pantry. Pick a grass similar in aroma if you run out of fresh and dried herbs. You can do the same if you didn’t have all the necessary ingredients for a spice mix. In some cases, you can use mixtures instead of one type of grass. Everything related to experiments with culinary herbs requires certain compromises and a creative approach.

Traditional italian herbs

Definitely a spice - the king of Italian cooking, although his homeland is India. Now two types of basil are common - green and purple. Violet grass has a pronounced pepper taste and a bright aroma, and fresh mint notes dominate in green. Italians, seeking a balanced taste, prefer green. It is present in most baked goods, vegetables, goes well with cheeses and meat. There are several dishes with basil that have become the hallmark of the country:

  • pesto,
  • Lasagna Bolognese
  • caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Combination with other Italian herbs - spices: mint, coriander, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cumin.

It is a plant with strong coniferous aroma and pleasant island flavor. Due to its very pronounced aroma, rosemary herb is used in small quantities. It’s worth a bit to overdo it, and it completely eclipses the smell of the main ingredients. The combination of rosemary spice with olive oil and potatoes has already become classic. This dish has already reached our shores. Also in Italian cuisine it is added to fried meat and poultry, in soups and marinades. Rosemary is one of the herbs that stimulate the production of gastric juice and increase appetite. Therefore, people with diseases like gastritis or ulcers should use it with caution.

Often called oregano. It is used in dried and fresh form. To season salads with fresh vegetables, simply tear fresh oregano grass into large pieces, they also serve pizza before serving. By the way, in Italy, rare pizza is served without the addition of oregano, this is the main seasoning for her. It is added more often in dried form to meat, soups and other hot products. Oregano is the most delicate seasoning of all Italian spices, so it is present in most dishes.

The second name is thyme. A spice with a spicy aroma that tastes like caraway and zira. The range of application is wide: meat, fish, vegetable dishes, soups. Sometimes used to flavor drinks. Italian cooks use thyme in culinary products with the addition of eggs, as well as pickling cheese or olives. Unlike most herbs, thyme slowly gives its taste to the dish, so it is added at the beginning of cooking.

In Italian everyday life, fennel is a plant known to us as dill. The seeds of this herb are used for food; they have a sweet, slightly refreshing taste. In the Italian tradition, fennel seeds are used to make desserts, spicy drinks and vegetable marinades.

Fresh spicy herb with a delicate lemon flavor. The dried fraction is added to marinades, to stewed vegetables and meat. Leaflets are used in vegetable and fruit salads, pasta, in pizza and desserts for decoration. Melissa, or as it is also called lemon grass, has a subtle taste, so you should not use spices with a bright aroma in combination with it.

Italian cooks are more often used in the form of chopped stems and leaves. They are flavored with a filling for sausages, and cheese pies. A classic dish with its addition is ravioli with pumpkin and sage sauce. Commonly used in conjunction with rosemary.

Marjoram is like oregano, it tastes a little bitter with a sweet, tart aroma. During heat treatment, the herb partially loses its flavor, so the spice is added at the very end or in the already prepared dish. An important component of minced meat and minced meat, often used for homemade sausages. In Italian cuisine, it is added to ravioli and pie fillings. The leaves are used to decorate dishes and in fresh seasonal salads.

Italian seasonings

These are the unblown fruits of the caper bush. In raw form they are not used for food, as they are very bitter. They are pickled in vinegar and saline. Pickled capers taste sour, spicy, islandy. It is best combined with meat and fish dishes. In Italy, they prepare amazing topping for cheese from them, just rub them with salt and pepper.

Combination with other Italian spices: thyme, garlic, oregano, rosemary.

This Italian spice in our latitudes is well known and loved. In Italy, it is also an element of traditional rustic cuisine. I use it both in dried and in fresh form, marinate, stew and flavor them with frying oil. The garlic flavor is poorly correlated with fish dishes, while perfectly complementing seafood, such as shrimp or scallops.

With its help, meat is pickled.

So we used to call one of the most popular Italian pizzas, but this is a language distortion. Italians call pepperoni a spice of red chili peppers. If you find yourself in Rome and decide to order such a pizza, ask with spicy salami. Red pepper is the most versatile seasoning of all, it will complement any culinary product and add piquancy and pungency. Combines with all other herbs.

Bay leaf

The most international seasoning. Laurel is found in the kitchens of all nations. In appearance, the leaves are small, richly olive in color, with a soft, slightly bitter aroma. Most often, the spice is used in dried form, but some people, due to the territorial proximity to the laurel trees, get it fresh. It is used in the preparation of Italian soups, cereals, sauces. It is enough to dip a few leaves in boiling water for five minutes, leaving it to be cooked all the time is not recommended.

Popular combinations

So that you do not have to rack your brains on how to better combine herbs, we have stocked several mixes generally accepted in Italy:

  • to the bird - thyme and coriander,
  • for fish - pepper, fennel, oregano,
  • for meat - thyme, pepperoni, garlic, capers,
  • for seafood - fennel, thyme, green basil.