7 basic Herbs to Have in Your Italian Herb Garden
Ahhh.. The joy of Italian cooking. When most people think about delicious Italian food, the dishes that usually come to mind include pasta and pizza. But what really gives Italian food its flair are the basic herbs that are used in Italian cooking. To make sure that you have the proper elements, here are 7 herbs that are basic to have in your Italian Herb Garden:
Basil – What would the world be like without Basil? Basil is not only used in Italian cooking but also can be found used in several Asian cuisines. It is most noted as the dominant flavor of Pesto with is great for flavoring pasta or used in spreads or marinades.
Basic Recipe for Pesto
· 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
· 1/2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
· 1/2 cup additional-virgin olive oil
· 1/3 cup pine nuts
· 3 garlic cloves
· 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
· Juice of 1/2 lemon
Place all elements in a food processor and pulse until well blend. Make sure to scrape the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula in case any of the elements find themselves clinging to the wall and not blending.
Oregano – Oregano is most commonly used in Southern Italy and can almost always be found in tomato based sauces. In fact, it is the dominant flavoring agent in pizza sauce, aside from the tomatoes of course.
Marjoram – People commonly confuse marjoram and oregano, which isn’t surprising because they’re related and taste similar. Marjoram has more of a delicate, flowery flavor while oregano is more pungent. Because of marjoram’s delicate flavor, it isn’t suited well for drying. But it’s great fresh anyway just like most herbs.
Rosemary – Rosemary is a very strong herb and has a very strong flavor and aroma. It grows well in dry, hot, and shaded areas. Because of its strong flavor, it’s a great flavoring agent for meats, potatoes, and bread.
Parsley – When people think of parsley, they usually associate it with a bad garnish in a cheap restaurant. That kind of parsley is curly-leaf parsley. Curly-leaf parsley is best used dried and only if you don’t plan on using fresh flat-leaf parsley. Flat-leaf parsley is best used fresh but doesn’t keep its flavor well when dried.
“But what is this stuff good for anyway?” I’m sure your asking. Flat-leaf parsley is found all over Italy and is used in many shared dishes and sauces. It is an basic part of any Italian herb garden.
Sage – Sage is an herb most commonly used in Northern Italian cooking. Because of its strong distinctive flavor it’s best used sparingly. Sage is best used when blended with other herbs and spices instead of being used as the dominant flavoring agent.
Thyme – Thyme is an herb that you usually see used with cooking meat. It’s a hardy plant that can find itself easily growing in various conditions. It’s a very versatile herb and is great in almost any Italian dish. Except for maybe gelato. I don’t think that thyme flavored gelato would last too long in the grocery stores, or in my mouth for that matter.