Italian Herbs and Spices {recipe}

This entry is part 15 of 31 in the series My Italian Kitchen

There are certain herbs and spices that are used quite frequently in Italian cooking. I’ll break it down between fresh and dried as it does make a difference.

Fresh Herbs

Parsley – often used in vegetable dishes or sometime pasta sauce. Rarely used dried.

Basil – crowning glory on a pizza Margherita and insalata caprese. It is THE smell of summer! Also the key ingredient of pesto.

Mint – used in some vegetable dishes such as zucchine alla scapece.

Thyme – used in soups and some roasted veggie dishes.

Rosemary – often paired with meat such as pork or lamb or with roasted potatoes. Rosemary is an herb frequently used in Italian cooking. Come to my blog to learn about other herbs and spices!

Sage – mostly used with meats, especially pork (such as the pork pasta recipe I shared.)

Note: Try growing some of these herbs in a container garden or on a sunny windowsill. You can often find parsley and basil at grocery stores for not very much money. It will keep you in fresh herbs so you have them on hand whenever you might need them. These are annual herbs so they will die after a season.

Rosemary is a woody perennial which means it is heartier and will last quite some time. It prefers drier conditions so if you live in a wet environment, it would do well to planted in a pot so that it will drain well.

Dried Herbs

Origano – although it’s easy to grow, it’s predominantly used dried. In Sicily, it’s often sprinkled on pizza, on veggies, and used in marinades for meats on the grill. It’s a very powerful herb, though, and is not often paired with other herbs.

Thyme – used interchangeably dried or fresh.

Marjoram – used in some pasta dishes.


Origano is rarely used fresh whereas parsley and basil are rarely used dried. Thyme, sage and rosemary can be used either way.


A few spices, such as nutmeg, are used in Italian cooking. Others I’ve never seen (cumin). Red peppers is one “spice” that is used a lot, both fresh and dried. It can be used in pasta sauces, on pizza, in cheeses, in preserves such as pickled mushrooms or eggplant. A clue if a dish contains red pepper is if it’s called alla diavola (devil style).

Here is a quick, easy, favorite  pasta:

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Cook spaghetti in salted water until al dente. In the meantime, in a large frying pan, heat a good amount of olive oil, more than enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add chopped garlic, at least two cloves, but you can add more if you like it garlicky, and a healthy sprinkling of crushed red pepper, depending on how hot you like it.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and immediately toss with the garlic-infused oil, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle with minced fresh parsley and serve. (I have made it without the parsley and it’s still delicious.)

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About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

4 thoughts on “Italian Herbs and Spices {recipe}

  1. Now that’s my kind of recipe! Fast and garlicky! I keep toying with the idea of growing fresh herbs. I’ve just never known how to cook with them.

  2. Do you have an herb garden? I have tried to grow mint (which most can’t kill), rosemary and cilantro with no luck. Will try again. Thank you for another authentic recipe and great post.

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