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Italian Cuisine 101: Italian Spices

Say hello to salt, pepper, coriander, saffron, and vanilla!

Say hello to salt, pepper, coriander, saffron, and vanilla!

Italian cuisine has a rich history and expansive fan base, making it one of the most popular cuisines enjoyed in America today. So popular, in fact, that foods like lasagna, spaghetti, and pizza are practically American foods by now. Italian food has gone through many iterations and adaptations, but there are some things that remain constant. Among those things are the herbs and spices used to flavor Italian dishes.

All About Spices in Italian Cuisine

Last week we talked about Italian herbs and their benefits for flavor, texture, color, and aroma, as well as some unexpected health benefits. This week we’re back to flip the page to Italian spices!

Salt — Let’s start with the basics. Salt is a hugely important ingredient to bring out flavor in a dish, and is by no means exclusive to Italian cooking. However, Italy is known for its bold, robust, savory flavors, and does use salt abundantly. Italians typically use coarse sea salt rather than fine table salt for more flavor and texture.

Pepper — “Fresh ground pepper?” Black pepper is nearly as common as salt in all types of cooking, but you’d never be caught dead with a pepper shaker in an Italian restaurant. Whole black peppercorns should be ground at the table or straight into the cooking pot. Pepper has antibacterial properties and is rich in iron, potassium, vitamins C and K, and fiber. Alternatively, the shaker of red pepper flakes gives your dish a spicy kick as well as some anti-inflammatory benefits.

Coriander — Did you know that coriander is the dried seeds of a cilantro plant? Coriander seeds are typically crushed or ground into a powder and most often used to season meat dishes like lamb or pork. It’s a great source of fiber, iron, and magnesium, and could even have anticancer effects, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Journal of Food Science.

Saffron — Saffron is well known as one of the most expensive spices in the world. It gives a rich and complex flavor, a beautiful yellow-orange hue, and is used (very sparingly) to flavor dishes like risottos and fish soups and stews. To incorporate saffron into a dish, all you do is soak just a few threads in a bit of warm water or white wine for five minutes, and add that liquid to your recipe. This ensures that the flavor, as well as the minerals and antioxidants, are evenly distributed throughout the dish.

Vanilla — No, not the little bottle of vanilla extract you buy at the store! The only sweet spice on our list, Italian cuisine uses whole vanilla pods/beans to give flavor to all sorts of desserts. Vanilla bean has actually been shown to boost cognitive performance, along with smelling amazing.

Now that you have a little bit of a better handle on Italian spices and herbs, you can have a better idea of what’s making your dishes at Basta Pasta so tasty!

Enjoy Italian Spices at Basta Pasta

In 2004, Basta Pasta opened its doors to the public, and ever since has maintained the image and experience of casual Italian dining. In addition to fresh, delicious ingredients and recipes, the restaurant strives to uphold expert, attentive, and cordial service for its customers. Our Timonium location also features plenty of rooms for private parties and events. Enjoy a taste of Italy with hearty pasta dishes, endless salad and breadsticks, and fine wines right here in your hometown. For more information, visit our website.

Want to learn more about our wine selection? Need to get in touch with one of our locations? Here is some basic contact information for both:

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 at 6:00 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.