The flavors added to dishes by herbs and spices are what make a cuisine unique and special. The right combination and amount of spices is the essential element of cooking.
Salt: Sea salt is particularly good in Southern Italian cooking as that is the kind of salt that Southern Italians use since they were surrounded by the sea.
Pepper: Grinding the pepper fresh from the peppercorn is the best way to add that all important pepper to that recipe.
Sage: has a strong flavor and is excellent in chicken, pork and fish dishes.
Rosemary: is a sweet herb with a slightly woody flavor. Sage is great on pork, lamb and wild game.
Basil: Has a lighter taste than rosemary and can be used the same way as rosemary.
Parsley: is another sweet herb and is used in soups and on salads. Parsley is sometimes used as a replacement for basil.
Oregano: is a very popular Italian herb. It is used in tomato sauces and other tomato based dishes.
Marjoram: is similar to oregano but with a lighter flavor. Marjoram is used in a similar manner as oregano.
Garlic: Garlic is a member of the onion family and has a sharp taste. Nearly all Italian recipes will use some garlic.
Thyme: has a strong and slightly minty flavor and used be used with a light hand. Thyme is often used in combination with other spices and herbs.
Capers: are the flower buds of a bush that grows wild in Mediterranean area. They are dried and salted then used in recipes.
Bay leaf: has a very strong flavor and when used in cooking should be used sparingly with the actual leaf removed after cooking.
Pine nuts: have a very sweet taste and are toasted before use.
Anchovies: This small fish are often dried and salted then used in pasta sauces and of course on pizza.
Nutmeg: has a sharp flavor and is often used in small amounts in meat sauces and in raviolis.
Peperoncino: This dried red chili pepper has a fiery taste and should be used in very small amounts but adds a nice kick to sausages and meat dishes.
Fennel: The seeds are a commonly used in spicy sausages.
Coriander or cilantro: has a warm, nutty flavor and used sparingly in sauces and soups.
Other important ingredients in Southern Italian cooking are the tomato, olives and olive oil.