Basil is an essential herb in Italian cooking. Crushed basil leaves combined with oil, garlic, and pine nuts create a delicious pesto sauce. Basil is the perfect compliment to the flavor of tomato sauce, and works well in pasta dishes. Fresh basil is also commonly added to sauces, marinades, and soups.
The most common variety of basil is Sweet Italian Large Leaf, although Genovese Basil is used in authentic pesto. Plant the seeds in a sunny location to get the best crop. Seeds can also be started indoors in small pots and transferred directly into your garden. Harvest the leaves just before the plants actually flower, for the best flavor and most pungent aroma. Hang sprigs in a cool, dry place to dehydrate your herbs for long-term storing.
Fennel grows spontaneously in many regions of Italy, but if you want to add it to your herb garden, choose the location wisely. Harvest fennel seeds as soon as the flowers start to turn brown. For best storage, put the seeds in a brown paper bag and store them in a cool, dry place. The white bulb of the fennel plant is delicious in its own right, and is found in many traditional Italian recipes.
Italian cuisine just wouldn’t be the same without garlic! Garlic is a fundamental component in many or most dishes of various regions. The flavour varies in intensity and aroma with the different cooking methods, it is often paired with onion, tomato, or ginger.
Let your garlic bulbs dry in the sun for a few hours before storing in a nylon or mesh bag. It will keep best if there is air circulating around it. For long-term storage, you can freeze the individual cloves or pickle them to store in the refrigerator. It is not recommended to store garlic in oil, as bacteria can grow easily and spoil your harvest.
Oregano is best planted from root divisions or with stem cuttings from existing plants. Make sure your plants get a lot of sunlight and rest in well-drained soil that isn’t too rich. The more sun the leaves get, the stronger the flavor they will provide. Harvest your oregano leaves just before the flowers bloom, when the buds are fully formed.
Parsley seeds can be planted in direct sunlight or in light shade. Harvest your parsley when the plants reach six inches in height. Cut the leaves and as much of the stem as you can, as the stems provide a lot of flavor. Fresh parsley is best, but you can chop and dry it, or freeze it for later use.
The aroma of fresh rosemary is sure to make your mouth water for Italian roasted lamb with potatoes. This herb makes a wonderful addition to roasted meats and vegetables, and is extremely tasty added to focaccia.
Rosemary can be planted from seed or cuttings. Choose a well-drained spot in your garden with exposure to sunlight. The shrubs will grow with little attention from you – as a matter of fact, too much watering or fertilizing is sure to kill your rosemary plants.
Another herb that is delicious with meat dishes is sage. Sage is the star herb in Italian saltimbocca, and can also be added to salads and dressings. It makes a perfect addition to stuffing for poultry, pork, veal, and lamb. For something a little different, try dried and crushed sage with potatoes, or substitute sage for the traditional rosemary in focaccia bread.
Use seedlings or cuttings from existing sage plants for your garden; sage seeds are generally unreliable and take a long time to germinate. Plant them in partial sunlight, and don’t let the plants get too dry. Harvest sage before it blooms.
Chives are a commonly used herb and can be found in grocery stores or grown in home gardens. In culinary use, the scapes are diced and used as an ingredient for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests.
Home made italian Pesto alla Genovese
• 2 peeled garlic cloves
• 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
• 50 gr fresh basil leaves
• 2 spoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
• 15 g raw pine nuts
• 6 spoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• Coarse salt
• Use a damp towel to clean carefully basil leaves, do not wash them under the water.
• In a mortar (if you do not have one, you can use a deep bowl or electric blender with plastic knives), crush the garlic cloves.
• Add the basil leaves, salt (it will not only help to crush better basil leaves, but will keep the bright color of your pesto) and mash.
• Add the pine nuts and mix well.
• Stir in the grated cheese and grind everything intensely.
• Pour the olive oil, mix everything again until smooth mass.
• Serve with fusilli type pasta.