Way Too Many Words About Italian Seasoning

Making spaghetti with red sauce last night made me think about Italian seasoning.

I start with jar sauce, usually Francesco Rinaldi. Wal-Mart’s store brand works too, but requires modification, whereas if I had to I could eat the name brand as is. That used to be the case for my long time favorite, Prego, preferably the chunky garden veggie variety, but a while back they changed the flavor for the far worse and sent me wandering in the sauce wilderness.

Generally I am taking a pound of ground beef, less if it’s all I have, crumbling it into a pan with a little butter and spices, cooking it up, dumping the sauce in, stirring, simmering, and further flavoring to taste. It’s never exactly the same, but it’s always good, and always within a certain range.

Anyway, a key ingredient is Italian seasoning. Was what is The Matrix Italian seasoning?

Apparently that’s a matter of opinion or taste, within a certain range. I have two brands. One is better, and the list of ingredients differs.

Before I go on, let me note that I am not at all a snob about premixed convenience mixtures of seasoning. Heck, that’s what chili powder is. Not to mention curry powder, which I don’t own (though I think I have all the component ingredients to make my own) but I know many people do. Pumpkin pie spice. Apple pie spice. Garam masala. Celery salt. Garlic salt. Pickling spice. Lemon pepper. You name it.

The Italian I use most is a plastic bottle by McCormick, subtitled “Classic Herbs.” When I open and sniff it, the smell makes me think of two or three herbs that each have a similar smell. Sure enough, one of those is first on the list, which goes:
Marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil.

The alternate Italian was part of a round spice rack, an awesome gift from my in-laws, and is one of twenty spice bottles that came with it. Speaking of Italian, we’ve entirely used and refilled the oregano bottle since getting the set.

When I open and sniff that Italian, it smells of basil. Which you’d think would make me prefer it, as basil has a sweeter taste. Perhaps I’ve been misguided all this time. Anyway, sure enough, the list on that bottle goes:
Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and garlic.

The difference is in the lack of sage, which I think of as more of a poultry seasoning, and savory, and the addition of garlic, which I happily add – but not always, and not necessarily in large amounts – myself.

Interestingly, I’ve cooked things like what I call random chicken with exactly the spices in the McCormick Italian, except the basil. Well, except I usually include red pepper, black pepper, ginger, and maybe things like celery. Which is why I’ve taken to sometime sprinkling in a bit of that, as well as whatever individual items I include.

None of the above tells us the proportions of the ingredients in the Italian seasonings, but it’s easy to imagine mixing and matching to create your own to taste. Or skipping the blend and using the separate ingredients. In my sauce, I usually use one or more of the individual ones to modify the flavor anyway.

Still, I’m likely to buy more of the McCormick after it runs out. Too convenient, and it has an excellent flavor. I’ve used it to season chicken that was fried, or baked with a crumb coating, and in other things. Makes me wonder how many other variants on “Italian seasoning” exist in the world.

1 Comment

  1. Kathy

    Believe it or not this born and raised on Italian food person does not like oregano! When I do make a sauce, which isn’t often, as dad does not eat it nor does he like the smell I simply use a little olive oil, chopped onion and finely chopped garlic. I do add the spice which I buy in VT which is dried basil and garlic. Made some last March when I happen to be in MA alone. Make mine meatless as that is how I really like it and since it is just for me thats it. Have to say it came out awesome! Made so much I shared with Laurie who agreed it was great! Always add splenda to the sauce.

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