Herbs are a very important component of Italian cuisine, everybody in Italy has a little “garden”, even if it has to be on the window! Herbs can be grown easily during the summer and be stored in a freezer during the winter. Once dry, they should be stored in an airtight container.
In Italy herbs are so popular that people used to prefer them over spices, in fact in popular Italian recipes there are no spices used – but lots of herbs!
Even though you can find a variety of different herbs in Italy, Italian people tend to always use the same few kinds. Compared to many other cuisines, Italian food is very simple: it does not contain an array of complex ingredients, but rather a balance of a few simple ingredients.
Parsley is the herb that is used most throughout the year in Italy. The Italians even have a common saying involving parsley, which is “to be like parsley” (“essere come il prezzemolo”) meaning “to always be involved in things”.
Parsley is the only herb used to prepare the plain tomato sauce for pasta (the simplest Italian pasta sauce).
The most popular summer herb is basil, you can use it to prepare plenty of summer Italian recipes! Basel is mainly found in Pizza Margherita, in “bruschetta” with tomatoes and in pasta, rice, or faro salads.
Basil is very tasty and fresh: the herb that represents the summer by definition!
Rocket is used in Italy as a fresh herb to flavour simple salads or side dishes, it is also a very important ingredient of “tagliata”: the most popular and liked Italian tagliata is the one which only contains rocket and cherry tomatoes! As eating a tagliata in a restaurant is pretty expensive, why not prepare your own tagliata at home?
(By the way, Italian tagliata is very different from what the English know as tagliata which involves strips of beef!)
ROSEMARY and SAGE
Usually (but not always) rosemary and sage are used together to prepare meat and lentils (a very common recipe for New Years Eve dinner!). When using rosemary and sage to prepare meat and lentils, the most common method is to prepare a bouquet, tying together some small branches from the two herbs and letting them rest in your preparation for some time.
If you are interested in learning more about the use of herbs in Italian cuisine why not join us on a cooking holiday?