Infused waters are all the rage. For those of us who are used to drinking from the tap, they make water interesting again with “spa” like benefits and healthy hydration. Store shelves and the internet are literally awash with brands, flavors, recipes and recommendations on the use and enjoyment of infused waters.
Italians discovered the benefits of water long before it was fashionable to carry around a spa water bottle. Their “infusions” were from underground springs that passed through deposits of limestone or volcanic rock absorbing nutrients and minerals along the way. A ubiquitous liter or two of bottled mineral water (d’aqua minerale) is served at the Italian table as an accompaniment to every meal. Either naturale (non-carbonated ) or gassata (with “gas” or natural carbonation) many Italian mineral waters have a devoted following. The “miraculous” waters of Italy’s iconic San Pellegrino have been appreciated since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, their mineral content thought to be of great benefit to one’s health and well-being.
Today, within Italy, you can find over 600 brands of bottled mineral water, many of these are local varieties unique to the terroir of the region. Brands like San Pellegrino infuse flavors like lemon, orange, mint, grapefruit and prickly pear, Italian versions of our sodas. One of these, Chinotto, made from the Sicilian chinotto a small bittersweet citrus fruit similar to an orange is a distinctive acquired taste.
Using Italian culinary herbs like basil or rosemary you can make your own version of an Italian infused water. Place herbs in bottom of a jar or pitcher and muddle with a wooden spoon to release some of the essential oils. Fill jar with water. You can add agave, honey or a natural sweetener if you choose. Refrigerate overnight to intensify the flavor.
Here are a few Italian inspired combinations to try for approximately a pitcher (6-8 cups) of water. WASH FRUIT AND HERBS THOROUGHLY. I prefer using organic produce.
1 fennel bulb thinly sliced plus a few green fronds + 1 ripe but firm pear thinly sliced
4 slices lemon + 4 sprigs fresh mint (each 2 in. long, slightly crushed) +2 sprigs fresh rosemary (each 2 in. long, slightly crushed)
1 cup strawberries (hulled and quartered) + 2 cups watermelon (cubed) + 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup strawberries (hulled and quartered) +2 lemon slices +3 basil leaves
1/2 pink grapefruit (sliced thin) +2 lemons +1 cucumber (sliced) +1/2 cup parsley