For most Italians, the smell of sweet basil is the fragrance of the summer.
You simply cannot have a tomato salad without the delicate aromatic herb in it!
Although it is an extremely popular herb in Italy and all over the Mediterranean countries, basil is originally from India. In the Asian Continent, however, it is known mainly as “Tulsi” (Sacred Basil in Hindi), and it is widely used in Indian and Thai cooking.
Like many other popular culinary herbs, basil has a dozen varieties. Still, Sweet Basil (Ocimum Bacilicum) and Basilico Genovese are the only varieties used in Italian kitchens.
The basil leaves are not only a fantastic addition to your summer dishes. In fact, according to folk remedies, they are great to cure nausea and bug bites. They are also widely used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
5 tips for growing your endless supply for the summer!
Basil can be used dried, though its spicy and peppery flavor is at its absolute best when fresh (some would say it has a hint of clove and mint to the aroma too).
Since running to the store every day is not an ideal situation for most of us, you can grow your own!
It can be effortlessly done either in your garden or directly in a pot next to a sunny window.
If you think your green thumb needs a little help for the first time you try to grow it at home, it would be best to get some starter plants at your nearest greenhouse or at the farmer market, and then transplant them in a bigger vase right away.
Alternatively, you can make a new plant from a stem: put it in water until roots start to grow, and then transplant it into a bigger vase.
Taking care of your little plant is easy: just follow these steps.
- Keep the plants well exposed to the sun, and try to avoid temperature lower than 60° F.
- Water them every day. Check the soil before doing so, as different temperatures will require different amounts of water. If you live in a very hot climate, you might need to water them even twice a day!
- Harvest Basil when you need it, but it is always better to cut off the stems so that the plants will create more in a few days!
- Pinch the flowers off! This action will get the plants to produce more branches and more leaves. Do not throw away the flowers: you can either add them to your favorite dressing or dry them to get the seeds for the following year!
- Basil leaves are very delicate, so we recommend picking them only when you need to use them directly.
Presto: let’s make some fresh Pesto!
Undoubtedly the most famous recipe with the amazing tasty herb is Pesto.
Let’s try making the authentic “Pesto alla Genovese” together!
See here the CONSORZIO DEL PESTO GENOVESE website, with the authentic recipe (in Italian).
Before gathering all the ingredients and following precisely the recipe from the Italian tradition, you need to find a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.
Ingredients for 300 grams of Pasta (3 generous portions):
- 25 leaves of fresh Basil (Genovese variety)
- ¼ of a glass of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (it would be best if from the Liguria Region)
- 3 Tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
- 1 Tablespoon of Pecorino DOP
- 1 clove of garlic (the sweetest variety you can find)
- ½ tablespoon of Pine nuts (alternately you can use walnuts)
- A few grains of coarse salt
- A lot of patience
- Wash the leaves in cold water and get them to dry naturally on a cloth
- Crush the garlic clove slowly together with your coarse salt, until it gets creamy
- Add the pine nuts and carry on, pounding delicately.
- Start adding the basil, about ten leaves at the time. Crush and pound them in a delicate circular motion. This action is necessary to keep in all the essential oil from the plant and get your sauce bursting with flavor. Once the first batch becomes a beautiful creamy paste, add the next batch and so on.
- You can add both of the cheeses and keep on pounding.
- Finally, slowly drizzle the Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the mix until it is all absorbed.
Well done: your fresh Pesto is now ready to be used!
The good news is that Pesto, just like basil leaves, is versatile and can be used in a great variety of dishes: Pasta, lasagna, rice, omelets, salads, soups, steam vegetables, or meat, and obviously pizza!
The only limit is your imagination.
Therefore, surprise your friends and family even more!
Try serving them this interpretation of the classic cocktail Mojito, with a unique twist!
Let’s prepare an exquisite Basito Cocktail!
- 4-5 basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons of cane sugar
- ½ lime, cut in slices
- 1,5 oz of white rum
- Ginger ale or club soda
Stir sugar and lime in a glass; add your basil leaves and muddle.
Add the rum and stir. Add the ginger ale or the club soda and stir.
Add some crushed ice and ENJOY!
If you want to see how versatile Basil can be, pop by and look at our Menu: from appetizers to Pizza and Pasta, mains, and cocktails!
If you love real Italian cooking, you must love Basil!
And we do!