Flavours of Italy
I like using this board as inspiration for when I want my food to have an Italian essence. I know that using these herbs and spices will give me the essence of the region and the combination of them will taste great together. It’s a great way to build confidence in the kitchen and be able to start creating your own dishes.
A lot of these herbs are things that you will find across many other types of cuisines, but by adding a couple things you will make it distinctly Italian. Oregano can be used in Greek cooking but combined with basil, rosemary and sage you will give it an Italian edge.
Italy is one of my favourite places to visit. We took my son two summers ago and he couldn’t get enough of the fritto misto (fried seafood). We were in a small coastal town in Tuscany with tons of restaurants and they all had one common theme — simple, basic food with stellar ingredients. Everything was fresh and in season. The tomatoes actually tasted the way tomatoes are supposed to taste. There’s a reason sliced tomatoes with a splash of good olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of basil are best enjoyed in the summer. The tomatoes that we get in North America are mealy and tasteless in the winter months. This is also the reason that using canned tomatoes (preferably san Marzano, which is a region the tomatoes come from and is known as producing the best) are preferable to using fresh.
Knowing which basic flavours go into a region’s cuisine also helps if you are making something and you realize something is missing. It’s hard to know what to add if you don’t know what to work with. A pasta dish might seem a little bland until you add some fresh basil which can elevate it and bring freshness. If you’re trying to make a quick tomato sauce, adding bay leaves and garlic could take it from tasting like pureed tomatoes to a proper Italian tomato sauce.