I use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, mostly what is growing on our property, both planted & foraged. Fresh is my preference; the flavor is richer and I love the colors of fresh herbs.
I buy spices from all over the world at Rome’s largest market in Piazza Victoria to make fanciful curries, tajines and other dishes, but mostly I use what’s local and growing wild.
In September the Roman countryside is covered with wild fennel; use it with lemon & garlic to roast fish. Dry the stems and flowers to use all winter long. I picked this fennel on our property.
Spaghetti with Gorgonzola cheese and finely chopped fresh sage leaves is one of the easiest and most delicious dishes. Sage grows year round in a Mediterranean climate. Each spring our sage bush is covered with gorgeous purple flowers.
Marjoram is the key flavor ingredient in the filling for Ravioli Caprese. Process marjoram with fresh mozzarella and a fresh caciotta cheese for this fabulous ravioli filling.
Use rosemary for everything you roast: meats, fish, vegetables. It grows prolifically year round in Rome and makes a great hedge and border plant.
Not to be missed each spring is FloraCult, a plant and plant paraphernalia show in North Rome. One stand features these edible herbs and a cooking class on how to use them.
Mentuccia Romana grows wild year round in the Roman countryside but it’s at its best in the fall when temperatures cool down. Good thing because it’s primary use is in the preparation of Carciofi alla Romana…stuffed artichokes…and artichokes come into season in late fall.
For this dish artichokes are stuffed with mentuccia, garlic and breadcrumbs, along with a drizzle of olive oil, then cooked until tender.
Mentuccia has an extremely delicate mint flavor which lends itself beautifully to the Roman cuisine. In addition to artichokes it’s often used in other vegetable and meat dishes.