Italian spices and herbs

Italy has maintained a strong tradition of using various spices ever since the times of the Roman empire. It is important to note that throughout most of history spices were a rather precious commodity and had to be delivered from distant locations at a great cost. This undoubtedly resulted in added appreciation for the taste of many spices and food ingredients. Prosperous trade of Italian states such as Venice, Genoa, Florence greatly contributed to their wealth. From Italy these little jars, vials and spice boxes found their way into other parts of Europe. One could even argue that dealing in spices sponsored the Italian Renaissance! Only in the 16th century Italian spice trade has seen a rapid decline. Here you can check which spices your kitchen is presently lacking, and of course learn the Italian words for those spices


CLOVES (chiodi di garofano) – found in meat dishes
CINNMON (cannella) – used in baking, as well as to spice meat dishes
CORIANDER SEEDS (coriandro) – used to spice pork, lamb and fish dishes
NUTMEG (noce moscata) – an important ingredient in some pasta stuffings (e.g. tortellini)
PEPPER (pepe) – freshly ground pepper is certainly the best
SAFFRON (zafferano) – especially used in fish dishes, but not only
SALT (sale) – indeed, despite its universal use salt is a spice!
VANILLA (vaniglia) – added to pastry, ice-cream etc.


BASIL (basilico) – often used in tomato sauces, as well as salads and soups
BAY LEAVES (lauro) – used in soups and salads
BORAGE (boraggine) – used in a variety of dishes, especially with cheese
CELERY (sedano) – often served raw
FENNEL (finocchio) – sometimes is served raw, also used with salt and oil
FENNEL SEEDS (semi di finocchio) – an important spices used in sausage making
JUNIPER (ginepro) – used in poultry dishes
MINT (menta) – used in salads, soups and fish dishes
MYRTLE (mirto) – used in meat dishes
PARSLEY (prezzemolo) – used in soups and salads
OREGANO (origano) – used in meat dishes
ROSEMARY (rosmarino) – a very popular ingredient in Italian food, especially in meat dishes.
SAGE (salvia) – used with pork and poultry dishes
TARRAGON (dragoncello) – a local favorite in Siena, used in soups and salads
THYME (timo) – sometimes used instead of oregano

See also:

Italian cheeses
Traditional Italian Meal Structure

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