Why would anyone ever want to make their own Italian seasoning when it’s so easy to just buy the pre-made kind in a jar? Because you can do it better by drying your own herbs. Unlike dried spices, dried herbs have a much shorter shelf life, and can take months — years, even — to get from the farm to the shelf. Even a freshly opened jar won’t be as potent or as flavorful as a blend produced in your own kitchen.
What is Italian Seasoning?
There is no 100-percent “authentic” Italian seasoning blend because, well, it’s an American culinary invention that has little to do with actual Italian cooking. The particular herbs and spices used in Italian seasonings vary by manufacturer, with some having a relatively simple list of ingredients, and some seeming to be all the herbs that have ever existed shoved in a tiny jar. For one that’s flavorful without being overwhelming, the best herbs to use are the ones that are normally easy to find in the average supermarket: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.
How to Make Homemade Italian Seasoning
Begin by washing and drying your herbs, then stripping off their leaves. It’s hard to determine exact measurements when drying your own herbs, which is why you should measure by rough proportions instead. The leafy herbs, parsley and basil, will lose much more volume than the much heartier sage, oregano. rosemary, and thyme will, so you’ll need to compensate accordingly. A good ratio to use is:
- 3 parts basil
- 3 parts parsley
- 2 parts oregano
- 1 part sage
- 1 part rosemary
- 1 part thyme
Spread out your herbs on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then put on the center rack your oven and set the temperature as low as it can go (for many home ranges, this is 180-degrees). Bake for two hours, then turn off the oven and let the herbs continue to dry out overnight. When cool and fully dried, roughly crush by hand, then store in an airtight jar.
Dried herbs will retain their potency if they are kept in a cool, dark place, so don’t store them in a drawer or cabinet close to the oven.
How to Use Italian Seasoning
Once you've got a jar of homemade Italian seasoning, you'll want to use it within a year, and you'll certainly find no shortage of ways to run through your stash much quicker than that. Used alone, this mix of herbs is ideal for adding to olive oil for dipping, or to liven up soups or oil-based sauces. When mixed with salt and a bit of melted butter, it becomes a rub that can breathe a bit of freshness into gently flavored proteins, like chicken breasts and white fish. Blended with Parmesan and crushed red pepper, it can make even a frozen pizza taste good; whisked with lemon and olive oil, it creates a salad dressing that tastes as if it's straight from the garden. Just remember that good dried herbs are potent, so always add just a little before you go off and add a lot.