Italian seasoning is a dry herb mix, usually consisting of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. Each one of the Italian seasoning ingredients serves a distinct culinary purpose in the mix to help create an earthy, aromatic flavor that comes across with slight peppery and sweet notes. And each herb has a tie to classic Italian cuisine. Basil gives off a slightly sweet aroma and is often used on pizza or in the classic caprese salad. Oregano is a familiar herb in pizza and pasta recipes with its earthy, almost minty notes. Thyme’s floral flavor pairs wonderfully with poultry. Rosemary is often paired with thyme and its peppery fragrance goes well with fire-roasted meats. Marjorum’s sweet and bitter notes blend all the flavors nicely, especially when added to meat dishes.
Other popular Italian seasoning ingredients are dried sage, dried savory, crushed red-pepper flakes or fennel seeds. If you’re getting a store bought mix, check the label. They can sometimes include stabilizers and anti-caking agents that contain sugar, sodium, gluten or MSG, if you’re concerned about that kind of stuff.
How to make Italian seasoning
Here’s typically what is in Italian seasoning: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. You can make a pretty good homemade version by combining all those dried herbs in equal parts—around two tablespoons each—and keeping the mix in an airtight jar in a cool dry spot. It will last around six months. Dry herbs don’t really go bad, but they do lose their potency. If you think your dry herbs are old, just crush some up and smell it. If it doesn’t smell, it’s probably time to get a new bottle. Or, if nothing smells like anything to you, you need to go to the doctor. Some people add additional flavors to their mixes.
Where did Italian seasoning come from?
The short answer is, no one really knows. And there’s debate as to whether Italian seasoning is Italian or Italian American. These days, many foods in Italy are seasoned with fresh herbs as opposed to dry. The dry herb mixes were definitely popularized in the U.S. around the time of rising Italian American culinary influence. But many people also believe that Greeks and Romans developed the basic Italian seasoning recipe somewhere in the Mediterranean during ancient times. Italian seasoning is also pretty similar to herbes de provence, another spice mixture purported to use the flavors to use the flavors of southeastern France. It contains savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and sometimes lavender. However it got to our spice racks, I’m happy it did. Because my roommate/dad’s best friend Daryl won’t stop insisting I make things taste “more Italian.” And a couple of shakes of Italian seasoning really do the trick.