Italy is a country steeped in tradition and history that dates back to hundreds of years, and its food is a critical element of its rich culture. From the food served in homes and restaurants to Italian dining etiquette, the Italian touch can’t be denied. While there’s no clear-cut list or rigid identification of the top dishes in Italian cuisine, all favorite dishes can be categorized into antipasto, primo, secondo and dessert. Regional dishes like pasta, minestrone and risotto are some of the popular Italian dishes that have continued to satisfy and inspire both Italians and guests in homes and restaurants. But you don’t need to fly out of the country and your comfort zone just to enjoy. With a recipe book, lots of inspiration and access to authentic herbs and spices, you can fully enjoy the authenticity of Italian cooking right inside your home.
The secret in authentic Italian cooking comes in the use of authentic ingredients and spices. A flavor can’t be achieved, and plating can’t be duplicated without including authentic ingredient into the mix. While substituting a readily available ingredient is possible like tarragon for basil, the magic and the authentic Italian pizzazz isn't completely captured. Just like in other regional cuisine, even a dash of spice or ingredient can work for deliver an authentic cooking experience. So if you are looking to duplicate a few dishes, then consider these must-have Italian herbs and ingredients that should form part of the grocery list.
Basil or basilico- If there’s one herb that’s a regular in almost all classic Italian dishes, its basil. Whether fresh or dried, basil is a great flavor enhancer and adds a dash of color as well in a variety of dishes like pasta and pesto. With a strong anise flavor, basilico easily matches with tomatoes.
Parsley or Prezzemolo- Chefs and homemakers may love basil for its flexibility, but parsley has its own place in Italian cuisine. This green can work in a variety of pasta sauces and dishes, and often the star in seafood-based concoctions. While chopped parsley is considered a colorful addition to soups and pasta, the extra texture and taste that it brings to the table are what makes this herb popular. This can also bring the magic in salads, peppers, eggplant and zucchini.
Blended spices and herbs- Blended spices or mixes are often the choices for recipes that call for two or more herbs and spices. Popular blends often include a combination of curry powder, chili powder and a variety of salts. Other combinations are possible, depending on the dishes to be prepared. Italian-inspired mixes are also available which can simplify a variety of dishes like pasta, soups and even meat or fish-based meals.
In Italian cooking, the key elements in a memorable dish are spices and fresh herbs. Herbs and spices are introduced into Italian recipes not just to add a dash of color, but to enhance taste and texture.