Cooking With Herbs In An Italian Kitchen

Italian cooking is impossible without herbs. One cannot imagine tomato sauce without basil, roast pork without rosemary, or stewed beans without sage. When it comes to herbs, fresh herbs should be used as much as possible except for a few rare exceptions. Dried herbs also tend to have a concentrated, stronger flavor, so you generally need less of a dry herb than you would a fresh one. A good rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon of dried herb for every tablespoon of fresh herbs the recipe calls for. It is recommended however, to use fresh whenever the recipe calls for it if at all possible.

Luckily, growing fresh herbs is extremely easy, particularly if you start out with small plants bought from a nursery or garden center. Although such plants as parsley and basil grow well from seeds, others are much tougher to get started so the convenience of purchasing herb plants is both value and time saving in the long run. If you live in a small apartment and have no access to a garden, and think you can’t grow your own herbs, you should consider a container garden, which will grow well even on a balcony. I personally keep an attractive container of my most commonly used fresh herbs on a patio table right outside my kitchen door, allowing me the ability to cut a handful of them whenever they are needed for a specific dish.

Storing fresh cut herbs is easy, but they will generally last only a few days. Usually the best method of storing herbs I find, is to wrap them first in a slightly damp paper towel and then store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

When it comes to herbs used in Italian cooking some just stand out from the rest as being necessary. The following are essential fresh herbs I am never without in my kitchen;

Parsley (Prezzemolo): It is usually recommended that you use flat leaf Italian parsley in Italian cooking, and reserve the curly variety as a garnish. Parsley can be washed and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is a fresh addition to almost any dish, and is also great as a mouth freshener as it masks the odor of garlic.

Basil (Basilico): I think this herb more than any other is associated with Italian cooking. It is a fundamental seasoning ingredient in tomato sauces, soups and salads, and who could forget the wonderful pesto sauce? It is an aromatic herb, and shouldn’t be washed but instead wiped with a damp paper towel before using. Basil is very perishable and should be used within a day or two after cutting.

Oregano (Origano): This herb is particularly prized in southern Italy and widely used to season pizza, sauces and vegetable dishes. It stores well in the refrigerator, and is one herb that in my opinion is fine to use dry.

Rosemary (Rosmarino): Rosemary has been used in ancient times for it’s medicinal purposes but has become a mainstay in modern Italian cooking as a seasoning for roasts, potatoes, breads and vegetable dishes. Although when first picked it has a very strong aroma, after cooking it mellows quite a bit. It will store well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Sage (Salvio): Sage is often seen in Northern Italian dishes, particularly in Tuscany. Sage is often used in combination with rosemary to flavor roasts, by itself to season specific cuts of veal, pork and liver. The larger leaves are often dipped in a light batter, fried in oil and served as an antipasto, which is great with wine. The famous veal dish Saltimbocca gets it’s specific flavor from sage as well. Sage stores well in the refrigerator.

Thyme (Timo): Thyme is a very powerful herb so should be used sparingly. It is great to season meats, stuffing’s, marinades and some seafood. The easiest way to use fresh thyme is to simply pull the small leaves off the stiff stalks, using just the leaves in your cooking.

Although there are certainly countless other popular herbs used in Italian kitchens, these are the ones you absolutely shouldn’t do without. If you would like to try a few recipes that highlight some of these Italian herbs please consider the ones below!

Deborah Mele 2011


34 Responses to “I’m In Better Homes & Gardens Ultimate Italian 2012!”

  1. 1
    gretchen — August 28, 2012 @ 11:53 am



    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Gretchen!


  2. 2
    Terry Covington — August 28, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

    Congratulations! It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. Your blogs, recipes, writing, and photos are really wonderful and educational. I’m sure you’ll do your own cookbook one day, too. When I try your recipes, I know I can rely on them to turn out well and taste really wonderful. So many recipes are so bland, but yours are not. Thanks for all you do, and enjoy the excitement of this!


    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Terry, much appreciated!


  3. 3
    Jean Marie — August 28, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    I happened upon your site not so very long ago but was SO thrilled. I love everything about it and look forward to checking in to see whats new.
    I wish you much luck on writing your cookbook! I’m sure one day you’ll do it! It wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes a hit!
    Again Congratulations!! And thank you for so many smiles and wonderful recipes!!


  4. 4
    Joyce — August 29, 2012 @ 7:36 am

    Congratulations. I have been reading your posts for about 5 years now and I love trying your recipes. My husband is Italian and he used to joke that he wasn’t celebrating St Patricks Day until we started celebrating Columbus Day. So I decided one year to have friends over for a Columbus Day Dinner. I searched the internet for authentic Italian dishes which is how I found you and have been reading your posts ever since. The dinner was so much fun that it is now an annual event that everyone looks forward to. I have used many of your recipes which are always a hit. Thank you and continued success.


  5. 5
    Renee — August 29, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    So wonderful! So well deserved! Congratulations, Deborah! Your site and recipes are a treasure that I’ve shared with all of my friends.


  6. 6
    Anonymous — August 29, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    Congratulations! We have used many of your recipies and shared them with friends and coworkers.


  7. 7
    Mama Cissy — August 29, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    I will run out today to buy it! I stumbled upon it one day and now I get so excited when I see your post pop up in my email box. And, I was trying like heck to get 5-6 girls together to rent the farmhouse. Sigh….. Maybe one day!



  8. 8
    Linda Kastenbaum — August 29, 2012 @ 8:35 am

    Deborah, Bravo on your BHG publication! Your recipes and pictures are brilliant and I look forward to the slice of Umbria you dish out in your blog! Thanks for sharing them with us!


  9. 9
    Rosetta — August 29, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Che brava! Finalmente!! Deborah, kudos to you my dear on a job well done in the Better Homes & Gardens magazine. I daily check your website for ideas and recipes and needless to say they all turn out so wonderfully and so very delicious. Keep up the good hard work that you do and I look forward to seeing your first cookbook!




  10. 10
    christi lavoy — August 29, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Congratulations! How wonderful and so deserving you are. You recipes are creative as well as delicious!


  11. 11
    I — August 29, 2012 @ 9:08 am

    How fantastic and well deserved!! Congratulations!!


  12. 12
    Pamela — August 29, 2012 @ 9:10 am

    Tanti auguri, Deborah. Now I can say that I know a celebrity!!!! How exciting this must be for you. I will definitely buy the magazine.


  13. 13
    Jack Creamer — August 29, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    Deborah,congratulations. I can not wait to pick it up and read it. Jack


  14. 14
    Gene Frassetto — August 29, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    Congratulations Deborah! I am always happy to see someone get recognition they deserve.

    I have been visiting your site and receiving your email posts for 3 or 4 years. My wife does all the cooking (she learned southern Italian from her father and northern Italian from my mother) we have enjoyed many of your recipes.

    About a year ago my wife had some medical issues and spent 7 months shuttling between the hospital and a physical rehabilitation center. I just want to tell you that you and your site kept me alive and well fed during that period.

    Grazie tutti, sono molto in debito con te.


  15. 15
    Laney — August 29, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    Very nice! Congratulations! I really enjoy your wonderful recipes, fabulous photographs and interesting commentary…and always look forward to your posts.


  16. 16
    Janet — August 29, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    I am so excited for you. This issue is definitely a MUST HAVE! I agree, this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving gal. It was bound to happen! :D

    You go girl!


  17. 17
    Elisa Whittington — August 29, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    Congratulations, Deborah! This is so wonderful! I’m Italian and Irish and have been preparing Italian food for many years, with a culinary arts degree and several cooking shows and cookbooks contributions under my belt, and I will say that YOUR site is my go-to site for when I want to prepare something new and fresh. Your recipes are foolproof and always very tasty! Whenever someone asks me where the great Italian recipes are on the web, your site is always number one! I Love the way you make the recipes so personable, explaining how or where you obtained the ingredients and why you enjoy them so much. I’ve prepared about 25 or so recipes from this site and I can say that every one of them has turned out spectacular! You get rave reviews wherever I serve your dishes! You’re living a blessed life, Deborah, and you deserve it! Now go get to work on that cookbook of yours! We’re waiting! Montana Hugs for you.


    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Elisa!


  18. 18
    Vickie — August 29, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    Congratulations! I’ve followed your blog for years and have used many of the recipes. I’m of Sicilian/Italian descent and love seeing recipes that I know are the “real thing”. I love that the magazine found your site and featured you and your recipes. Go ahead and get going on that cookbook. I’m betting it will be a huge success and I’ll be one of the first ones buying it.


  19. 19
    JoAnn Cembrola Jennings — August 29, 2012 @ 11:25 am

    I am new to your blog and look forward seeing your newsletter in my inbox. When I read what you write and see your recipes they bring me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Congratulations!


  20. 20
    Adrienne — August 29, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    What great news…you certainly deserve it…The Chocolate Salami caught my eye…can’t wait to get the book and try that…Congratulations…keep these wonderful “old school” recipe’s coming…Thanks so much


  21. 21
    Jayashree — August 29, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Hi Deb,
    I’ve been visiting your website since its inception. I love Italian food and have learned a lot from this site. You stand out in the Food Blog world mainly because you are really passionate about what you do. All these years you have taken great effort to build this website with the users in mind. Unlike many blogs you are not just another home cook trying to be a food writer. Congratulations on the article in BH & G!!


  22. 22
    Tracy A. — August 29, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

    Congratulations – how very exciting!


  23. 23
    Lynn — August 29, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

    I love your recipes and so does my family! Thanks so much for sharing Umbria (in my opinion, the best part of Italy) with everyone. Congratulations on being included in the magazine…you deserve recognition!


  24. 24
    Anita — August 29, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    So happy for you!


  25. 25
    Diane — August 29, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

    I can’t wait to buy the magazine tomorrow!!!

    Your are the BEST!!



  26. 26
    Kathy — August 29, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

    Wow! How wonderful! Congratulations!


  27. 27
    Marie — September 4, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    Deborah, Congratulations, I saw the magazine, beautiful and well deserved!


  28. 28
    Lina — September 5, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    Congratulations!..I really like your website and tried some of your recipes, they’re awesome. Thanks so much for sharing your Italian food recipes!


  29. 29
    Shirley — September 5, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

    Congratulations. I bought the magazine yesterday. Great article. I always look forward to your blog , I always feel like I have visited a little of the life of Italy. Have tried a lot of your recipes and have loved everyone, so you are very deserving of having a article in Better Homes and Gardens. I’m glad it was in the special edition on Italian Cooking. Good magazine to use every week. Thanks so much for sharing Umbria with us.


  30. 30
    Tina — September 8, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

    Congratulations! I’m going out and buying the issue tomorrow. Love your recipes.


  31. 31
    Lisa Pavan — November 21, 2012 @ 6:52 am

    Congratulations! I have just discoverted your website and just love it so so much.
    I’m italian canadian, from Montreal, Canada and my dream would be to go live in Italy for a few months and cook with local people, You are very lucky Deborah God bless you !
    Can wait to go back to your recipes that I’ll try for sure
    ciao thank you <


Leave a Comment