Today I’m going to share my absolute favorite go-to Italian spice blend recipe. I use this all the time, in all kinds of ways, and I hope it becomes a staple for your cooking too!
Ingredients vs Marketing Terms
I personally can’t stand it when a recipe calls for something ambiguous like “pumpkin spice” or “Italian blend.” They are marketing terms used to sell a product, and erodes away our ability to make our own food. I never learned to bake bread (before now) because bread is made in a factory and put into a bag and sold to me from a grocery store shelf. If the grocery store went away, it would be a struggle for me to have bread until I learned how to properly combine the ingredients. It’s simply a way for businesses and corporations to exert financial control over us, the consumers.
I first encountered this concept watching a start-up show where someone had an idea for a level (the hardware kind) where other tools are stored inside, including a small hammer, two kinds of screwdriver heads, and a small box of nails and screws. The professionals analyzing the product commented that there wasn’t really a market need for the product because the hammer wasn’t as good as a regular hammer you can get for the same price or less. It was instead what they called a “marketing product” for “convenience” to be marketed to people who weren’t really serious about their construction work. The kicker was that they decided to paint it pink and market it to women. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was a little offended by this because I want a tool that gets the job done, pink or not. And clearly they were willing to market an inferior product to women simply to make money. That doesn’t seem fair, but it does seem symptomatic of our consumerist culture and why we as a planet are drowning in stuff that simply isn’t meant to last.
Looking Past the Veil
Now I try to look past marketing to see the quality and value of the essential product itself. Is it made of good materials? Is it meant to last? How does it compare to what a professional in the industry would use? Is it something that’s composed of other things so that I could make it myself for less but with better quality components? This was the founding principle of my jewelry. I was frustrated by the over abundance of cute but cheap jewelry sold absolutely everywhere. I won’t name names, but there are brands that are marketed heavily and sold through fine retailers for fairly high prices, but aren’t even sterling silver. It tarnishes quickly and often times gives me a rash or changes the color of my skin. Then it becomes garbage. These aren’t the kinds of things that become special heirlooms treasured by future generations. So I decided to begin making jewelry where all of the components were, at the very least, surgical steel, and where possible finer metals like gold and sterling silver.
In the same way, I always try to drill down into the essentials of ingredients. I am skeptical when a recipe calls for a premade vegan sour cream, or a store-bought something or other. Some things you can’t really get away from, such as nutritional yeast (which is insanely complicated to make yourself.) But many others are easily and cheaply made from scratch. My own vegan sour cream, my own bread recipes, my own marinara sauce. And it was when I exploring my own marinara sauce recipe that I discovered my absolute favorite go-to Italian spice blend.
So Versatile, So Easy
It’s so simple, and probably uses spices you already have in your pantry or cupboard. I use it for any recipe that calls for an Italian Spice Blend, including the Beefless Stew recipe from Straight up Food by Cathy Fisher, which I will be reviewing over at Blueshift Books this month. (Spoiler Alert: It’s amazing!)
In fact, I’ve got a whole stack of vegan cookbooks I’m ordering this month and will be cooking through and reviewing each one, including a vegan Indian, vegan Thai, vegan Southern, and vegan Mexico. Yum! I’m so excited!
Releasing the Flavor
One note about my process. For this blend, I put them in a small wooden spice grinder and give them a good crush to open up the flavor. I found this olivewood mortar and pestle set at Cost Plus World Market. I then brush clean rather than wash with soap and water, because I only use it for these kinds of leafy, savory spices and over time the flavors from my spice blends will grow in complexity.
You can also see pictured my stainless steel measuring spoons, which I purchased from Amazon and absolutely love. I’ve been gradually working all the plastic out of my kitchen, and these measuring spoons were one of my first and best purchases. You can get them here.
My Go-To Italian Spice Blend
- Mortar and Pestle
- Measuring Spoons
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- Mix well.
- Optional: Mix a double batch and store in a recycled glass spice jar that once contained one of the spices above.
- Optional: Put all of the herbs into a small mortar and pestle and crush to release the flavor.