In the past centuries, not only salt was a precious commodity, but also herbs and spices were kept in great care. While the herbs are typical plants of the Mediterranean area, and so spread throughout the Italian territories, spices were imported from Africa thanks to the Romans and, in medieval times, thanks to the Arabs. Once spices and herbs were widely used in preparing dishes to enhance their flavors, but today, unfortunately, their importance has become faint.
Spices have always been used in Roman cuisine to flavor the food. In ancient times, the most consumed spices were black pepper and chili pepper, omnipresent in the kitchens of the wealthy classes.
Other flavors were – and still are – a key element in the preparation of Roman recipes. Among the most popular herbs there are celery, basil, sage and parsley. Parsley is one of the main ingredients of artichokes “alla giudia”; basil is used in sauce and soup preparations; rosemary is the protagonist of roasts and marinated foods; sage, finally, serves to prepare the famous saltimbocca alla romana. The list then goes on with laurel, marjoram, oregano and fennel seeds.
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