3 potted herbs you need for cooking Italian dishes
Fresh and rich in flavour and taste, the essential herbs Italian cuisine requires!
Cooking the perfect dish is a matter of many factors: good quality ingredients, cooking skills and sometimes luck. Among these factors there are also herbs – they can really make the difference while cooking, and obviously fresh leaves give recipes an extra special touch.
Of course, this can be an issue, especially for the ones like me who can kill a plant only looking at it. There are basically all the herbs you need on sale, previously dried and ready to be used, but let's face it, it's not the same. So, if you have the possibility, you should always have herb pots to cook your dishes in the best way.
Italian cuisine is very aromatic and requires fresh ingredients and herbs. Even if, like me, you're far from having a green thumb, you should keep at least a few herbs fresh and ready to be used while cooking.
Basil is the king of herbs in Italian cuisine and there are many varieties. The most common in Italy is Genovese Basil. The plant has medium size leaves with a smooth border, it's produced in Liguria, and it's the base of Genovese pesto. Anyway, the common European basil is good and easier to find. Basil is used to garnish pasta, tomato sauce, pizza, bruschette, and Caprese salads. Where there are tomatoes, there's basil. Fresh it is the best, its perfume and typical taste give to recipes an extra flavour kick!
Easy to cultivate, basil needs sunlight and frequent watering.
Rosemary is a perennial herb, native to Mediterranean regions. It's a pretty resistant plant, and with its needles like leaves and beautiful flowers is a pleasant sight when growing in the wild. In the kitchen, it is quite useful when it's served with meat and potatoes. Rosemary, is perfect for marinating chicken for example, or for cooking roasted potatoes. It's widely used either for cooking fish or meat, especially lamb, chicken, and pork. Rosemary can be used also to garnish pizza or focaccia, and last but not least gives an extra touch to vodka and gin-based cocktails! A must-have indeed!
Rosemary needs sunlight and unlike basil, doesn't need to be watered often. Perfect if you usually forget to water your plants.
Parsley grows in the wild, its flavour is a little bitter and quite strong. It's widely used when cooking fish and seafood, and this herb is also the main ingredient in vegetable sauces like Salsa Verde, which is a mix of parsley, olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and capers. Perfect for meat or vegetable stews, and as a garnish for Risotto and soups.
Here in Italy, we say "Essere come il prezzemolo" which means "to be like parsley", referring to someone who is everywhere. This sums up quite well how largely used is this herb!
Parsley dislikes cold and loves sunlight. It needs to be watered often but avoiding water stagnation. It's better to keep it a little farther from other plants because he needs space and can be invasive.
Sage and mint
Lasts but not least, Sage and Mint deserve a special mention.
Sage is delicate and strong at the same time, perfect when used with butter to garnish ravioli or tortellini. This herb is also essential to pimp meat's taste, great for marinating or roasting, especially for pork and turkey.
Mint is largely used in Roman cuisine, perfect on artichokes or Trippa Alla Romana. Thanks to its rich and delicate perfume, it can be used for garnish fruit salads and cocktails.