What to Plant in an Italian Garden

Grow ingredients for pastas, soups and other favorite dishes in an Italian garden.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Elegant Eggplant

If Italian cuisine is your top rated food preference, why not try growing some of the key ingredients so you can use them in your favorite Italian recipes? Here are 14 vegetables and herbs you can easily grow starting with eggplant which is delicious grilled, in a side dish gratin recipe or in lasagna or the classic eggplant parmigiana.

Made for Roasting

Garlic is one of the most versatile of all edible plants and can greatly enhance the flavor of everything from meats like slow-roasted garlic chicken to vegetable dishes and pasta sauces. For a real taste treat, baste some garlic cloves with olive oil, roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or so and then spread the caramelized garlic on french bread.

Aromatic Basil

It is hard to imagine anything better than freshly made pesto sauce from basil and once you’ve tried it, there is no way you can go back to store bought brands. The popular Italian dish has become a mainstay for basil lovers and this recipe is a breeze to make. For the more adventurous cook, why not try the herb in a dessert like this exotic banana cake recipe?

Essential for Sauces, Soups and Other Cuisine

You can’t have an Italian garden and not grow tomatoes. They are an essential part of so many recipes such as your basic spaghetti sauce but also ideal roasted, grilled, in soups, salads and even breads such as this Italian tomato loaf.

A Delicacy Known as Allium porrum

For those who find the taste of onions too strong, you might consider trying leeks which are in the same family but more subtle in flavor. Try them in an Italian vegetable soup or on their own as a sautéed side dish.

Colorful Culinary Companions

Green, red, yellow, purple and orange bell peppers are great for adding color, texture and flavor to dishes but roasted peppers also make an excellent stand-alone antipasti. Stuffing peppers with different fillings and baking them is another innovative option.

Join the Fennel Fan Club

Fennel can be used as a flavor accent or a main dish and more chefs are using it in recipes as diverse as seafood and appetizers. It is also delicious roasted with parmesan cheese.

Their Heads Are Delicious!

You might not think of cauliflower as a typical Italian vegetable but it is used in a wide array of dishes. Just check any Italian cookbook and you’ll find recipes for it with penne or slow roasted or in fritters and even as an ingredient in pizza crusts. 

More Than a Plate Decoration

Parsley is not just a garish for plates but a healthy herb that has a refreshing, bold flavor and adds extra zest to salads and pastas. You can even make parsley pesto. Just substitute it for basil in your favorite recipe.

Did It Really Choke Artie?

Steamed artichokes with lemon butter used to be the most common way most Americans were exposed to this unusual vegetable. But the Italians taught us how to utilize it in tasty dishes such as grilled antipasti or roasted with fava beans and olives.

The Green King

If the idea of a spinach salad is boring to you, why not try it sautéed with garlic and olive oil like they do in Italy or in a hearty winter dish such as sausage and spinach strata? This is really a super-food, loaded with nutrition, fiber and other health benefits. Popeye was right.

Indispensable in the Kitchen

Red onions have their own sweet, pungent flavor and are much more versatile than their stereotypical image as salad or salsa ingredients (Calabria, Italy is particularly famous for its red onions). Try them with grilled or in baked with baby eggplants and fresh oregano.

Florets Are Fantasic

One of the healthiest vegetables you can eat due to a high level of vitamins and antioxidants, broccoli can be prepared in a variety of ways and many Italian recipes favor using the florets over the more fibrous stalks in recipes like orzo salad or a lemon chicken with pasta recipe. 

Good for Grilled Dishes

Rosemary is a hardy, drought resistant choice for any herb garden and well known for its fragrant needle-like leaves which make an outstanding basting sauce for grilled meats and seafood. It is also a pleasing flavor enhancement in potato dishes.

New Takes on a Universal Cultivar

If your idea of preparing green beans means a casserole or cooking them Southern-style with fatback, you might want to branch out and try a recipe that highlights the fresh flavor of this popular bean cultivar such as a simple blanching technique that includes toasted almonds or a more traditional Italian approach with anchovies and white wine.