What Spices Are Used in Italian Cooking?
Italy is home to one of the worlds most popular cuisines. Italian cuisine is based on using simple, but high quality ingredients that have been perfected for hundreds of years. What many don't know about Italian cuisine, is that they grow and use many spices! Especially in the Southern Italian Regions of Calabria and Sicily. After traveling Italy extensively in search of new and amazing flavours I decided to put together this post into the exciting realm of Italian Spices.
How To Use Italian Spices
The Key to understanding how to use Italian Spices is always in moderation and temperatures. Italian Cuisine typically harnesses the flavours of ingredients without overpowering it. Using Italian herbs and spices lightly ensures your dish wont only taste like the spice itself.
Most herbs and spices from Italy also are not good for cooking at extremely high temperatures. Its important to keep this in mind and know exactly when to add the spice to your recipe.
Where Do Italian Spices Come From
The main growing regions for Italian spices are the Southern Italian provinces of Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, but a few are also grown in the north in Tuscany. South Italy however dominates this as the long hot and dry summer months are perfect for growing chilies or herbs. Many of these spices are protected by the Italian government to ensure their quality.
Where To Buy Italian Spices
Most Italian Spices in supermarkets don't actually come from Italy. This is because many of them are seasonal and very high quality, meaning the prices tend to be higher. So where exactly can you buy authentic Italian Spices?
Your in the right place! We here at the Spice Merchant make frequent trips to Italy scoring the countryside in search of the nations greatest spice! Our selection of Italian spices is constantly growing as we discover and meet new farmers. Check out our European Spices Page!
A List Of Italian Herbs
One of the favorite spices of the ancient Greeks and Romans to season meats is Rosemary. Rosemary looks like pine needles and has a unique flavor and when used it dominates the dish. It's still commonly used around the Mediterranean to flavor pasta’s, BBQ meats and many other Greek/Italian dishes. Using whole or grinding in a mortar Rosemary can be added early on in any dish but should be slow cooked to really release its pungent flavor.
Fennel Pollen is one of the rare spices of the world worth its weight in gold. Held next to Saffron and Vanilla as the world most expensive spices, this is due to the labourer’s process in order to harvest Fennel Pollen. In Italy every spring Fennel Pollen is harvested and quickly sold, so getting our hands on this delicious spice can be difficult! Italians love Fennel pollen for its flora, liquorice, and subtle cooling anise flavours it adds. It adds perfect to pasta sauce, soups, stocks, marinades but most importantly the slow cooked pork dish known as Porchetta! I highly recommend Fennel Pollen for this reason and so much more!
Liguria, Italy is said to be the birthplace of Italian Pesto. The key ingredient in this pesto is of course Basil! Our Italian Basil comes right from the cultural homeland Liguria. Ligurian Basil is grown in small batches ensuring its quality and freshness. Add this to pastas, sauces or for grilling meats!
In our search for the most delicious Oregano’s Sicily just happened to be a goldmine! Sicilian Oregano differs from other oregano simply because of its outstanding quality. Its strong aromas of classic oregano combined with basil and anise aftertaste makes this easily the most addictive, rare, and delicious oregano’s we have ever tried. Try replacing your everyday Oregano with is gem from the Mediterranean.
Roman Mint is of exceptional quality and is so strong it reminds us of sipping tea in the mountain villages of northern Italy! Mint is used in many spice blends and popular in North African Cuisine. England and India also are known to use spearmint in sauces and rubs adding to freshen up the flavor. Not all mint is created equal, however, quality is huge as much mint you find in grocery stores is old and has lost its flavor!
Our Dill Weed is grown in the hills of Lucania near the city of Matera in Southern Italy. Dill Weed is quite possibly the most popular spice in Italy, Cook in butter, added to soups, seasoning fish, Dill Weed can go with absolutely everything!
This delicious herb includes both the stems and the leaves, this makes it perfect for butter or olive oil basting, marinades and roasts. A traditional seasoning in sausages and stuffing recipes, sage is also a classic ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes for example, butternut squash pasta with sage brown butter.
A List To Italian Citrus Spice
This is a Southern Italian secret ingredient! Bergamot is fragrant, tart and distinctive. Bergamot is a highly aromatic fruit similar in size to oranges, but like other citrus fruits, bergamot orange peels are used in several culinary applications, specifically brewing and distilling. Bergamot peels are also a key ingredient in popular tea flavors such as Earl Gray.
The Amalfi region of Italy is stunningly beautiful. The seaside jagged cliffs give way to emerald, blue water and terraces of endless lemon orchards. This area is quite possibly the most famous lemon growing region in the world! Our Amalfi Lemons peel is dried in the sun naturally before ground into a powder, perfect for making vinaigrettes, marinades, pasta sauces and even cocktails!
The stunning seaside hills of Sorrento provide exceptional growing regions for oranges. Add Sorrento Orange peel into spice mixtures, pastas, vinaigrette sauces and anything Mediterranean inspired!
A List Of Italian Chilies
Fruity, Sweet, Slightly Spicy, these are all flavours of this amazing chile flake from Southern Italy’s Calabria Region. Also known as “Pepperoncino”, the Calabrian chile is harvested only two months of the year in which at these times the towns are filled with drying chiles. Use this rare chile flake in replacement of regular chile flakes and try one of Italy’s greatest culinary flavors! Try in seafood, marinades, salads and our personal favorite, pasta!
In the local dialect the crusco pepper is called Zafaran, that reminds one of the word saffron, the precious yellow-orange spice brought to Basilicata by Arabs. In fact in the past cruschi peppers were ground and added to enhance the flavour of the salami or used for food preservation. Cruschi peppers, also known as “the red gold from Basilicata” is a key ingredient in Basilicata culinary lineage, as well as in Michelin-starred recipes.
Spice Blends Used In Italy
Originally used in Italian sausage this will be your new secret weapon for everything Italian! Mixing some of the best quality Italian grown ingredients this spicy, garlicky, and fresh tasting blend from Calabria, Italy will add a punch to any of your Italian inspired dishes. Our favorites are in Pizza/Pasta Sauce, Lasagna, Cheese Boards and lemony salad dressings.
Tuscan Italian Blend
This is Italys version of the French "Herbs de Provence". This is not your average Italian seasoning. Hand blended with high quality ingredients like, Summer Savoury, Calabrian chilies & Tuscany Orange Peel; This Italian blend is sure to surprise you with a lightly spiced, grassy aroma & delicious citrusy herbal taste.