Chalk it up to geography, but for a good sixty years or so, Italians enjoyed a handful of specific herbs almost exclusively. Today, these herbs are available widely but still strongly associated with the distinctive flavor of classic Italian fare. These are the herbs that lend richness and a savory, flavorful bite to any dish, but they also fall into the superfoods category, which is characterized by foods exceptionally high in nutrient content.
Have you guessed these four essential Italian herbs yet?
Perhaps the most commonly used of the top four Italian herbs, basil is a kitchen staple across the globe. It’s commonly paired with tomato, and it balances acidic vegetables beautifully as well. From pesto to soups, sauces and marinades, basil is one of those ingredients whose absence is sorely noticed. It’s also a great source of vitamin K.
This fragrant herb has a surprising number of health benefits. It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K, a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, and it’s an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal. All of that, and it adds a warm, aromatic flavor to favorites like salad dressings, marinades, sauces, vegetables, fish and eggs.
More of a shrub than a true herb, rosemary is still an essential part of this list because of its wide use in Italian cooking. You’ll find its intense, lemon-pine flavor used generously in many meat and vegetable dishes and to add an additional aroma and flavor to everything from olive oil to sauces and pizza. Interestingly, rosemary retains its flavor despite long cooking times, which isn’t true of many aromatic herbs. Grown as an evergreen shrub, rosemary can be a beautiful and functional addition to landscaping, even here in northern Nevada. Plus, it’s believed to keep memory and attention sharp – another reason to include it in your cooking!
This one is as loved as it is despised, even it Italy. Some chefs shun the use of the “stinking rose,” while others find it enhances Italian fare when used appropriately, which means in moderation. It has a number of health benefits, including helping to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. And research links those who include garlic as a regular part of their diet with fewer incidences of cancer.
For dishes that bring out the very best in these classic Italian herbs and others, join us for weekday lunch and dinner seven day a week at La Famiglia here in Reno. We can’t wait to see you!