Gremolata is a parsley-based paste used in Italian cooking, specifically dishes from Milan in Lombardy. The basic gremolata ingredients are parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. There are many versions with some blends including capers or anchovies.
The history of gremolata is not well documented though the word is a relatively recent addition to cookbooks and wasn’t widely used before the 1970s. That said, descriptions of condiments with a similar style and flavor profile as gremolata appear to have been around for many years. There are versions of gremolata from all over Italy.
Another possible explanation for the gremolata name is that it comes from the word for braking flax or hemp, which is to remove the tough fibrous part of the seed. Some theorize that the chopped parsley leaves resemble the torn fibers in the brake.
Gremolata flavor profile
The key to gremolata’s flavor is simplicity. While there are different incarnations of the blend with differing ingredients, most are simple and the classic version only has three ingredients. Gremolata offers a grassy and bright herbaceousness that is made even brighter by the presence of lemon zest, which also adds a little fragrant sweetness.
Finally, there is the earthy intensity of garlic to top things off and enable this condiment to bring some umami qualities to the table.
Health benefits of gremolata
Classic gremolata only has three ingredients, but two of those ingredients are fairly nutritious. Here are a few of the healthy compounds that you can get from gremolata:
- Vitamins: Gremolata is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K and you can get moderate amounts of various B vitamins. The parsley in it is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. You can get a little vitamin C from the lemon zest. Raw garlic contains various B vitamins including a significant amount of folate, as well as some niacin and riboflavin.
- Minerals: Garlic and parsley are both good sources of iron and both contain calcium, magnesium and potassium.
By adding gremolata to your dishes you can treat or prevent the following health conditions:
- Poor bone health: The minerals in gremolata like calcium and magnesium are all important for bone health and can help to improve bone density.
- Obesity: Gremolata contains no fat or sugar so it is a low-calorie condiment that provides a lot of flavor.
The traditional use of gremolata is as a condiment for osso bucco alla Milanese, a famous Milanese dish consisting of braised lamb shanks. The lamb shanks get cooked for a very long time, which can cause the seasonings to lose their brightness. You add gremolata at the end to give a little herbaceous vibrancy and to cut through the deep richness of the osso bucco flavor.
That said, gremolata has evolved to accompany a range of foods. These days, you will see it used a lot like France’s persillade or a salsa verde from Mexico so it may be served on numerous meats including fish and chicken that may be braised or grilled.
You can even use it as a topping for meats and stews since those might need to have their flavors enhanced after long cooking times. You aren’t limited to meat with gremolata as it can enhance eggs as well and is great on potatoes and in sandwiches.