Cooking with basil is one post in a series which will focus on cooking with fresh herbs. This week I’m featuring fresh basil. I think it’s my favorite herb, as it was one of the most versatile; common in both Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Basil is best used fresh, as it quickly loses its flavor when dried.
Where does basil grow?
While it’s easier for those of us in warm climates to grow herbs year-round, basil can still be grown in cooler climates. Plant it in small pot, on a sunny window sill, until the weather is warm enough for it to be planted outside. Snipping, or “pinching” the top leaves, actually helps keep the basil growing. (This post was originally published on April 12, 2017. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)
Types of basil
There are over 15 types of basil varieties. The most common type of basil, and the one you’re most likely to find in the supermarket, is Italian or “Genovese” basil. The slight “licorice” scent that basil gives off is heavenly, and I love to rub my fingers over the plants in my garden.
Thai basil, is sometimes referred to as “licorice” basil, has smaller, narrower leaves than Italian or Genovese basil. There is also dark opal basil, lemon, lime and lettuce basil.
Italian basil is best used for the culinary technique called “chiffonade”, because its leaves are large and easy to stack and roll. Click on my One Minute Food Byte, to see how to “Chiffonade” basil.
How to store fresh basil
If you’re not able to grow basil year round in your garden, you can also grow it in a small pot on your window sill. Snip off the leaves as needed. If you buy a bunch of basil from the store, you can also keep it in a container of water. It will eventually root and you can replant it into a small pot. Since basil is grows best in warm climates, it doesn’t need a lot of water. Water when the leaves look a bit wilty. Keeping the top leaves trimmed with encourage a fuller plant.
Basil is a key ingredient in pesto
Italian basil is an absolute must in Pesto, and makes the perfect garnish for nearly every Italian dish, especially when tomatoes are featured.
For a twist on classic pesto, how about Sundried Tomato and Pistachio Pesto?
Using basil in companion planting
Speaking of tomatoes, I like to also use my herbs as natural insect repellent. Planting basil around your tomato plants, is known as “companion planting”, something I learned about from this book, called The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden.
Use fresh basil leaves as a garnish
Fresh basil makes a perfect garnish for this Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Ricotta and Smoked Mozzarella .
Basil makes a pretty garnish in the Spicy Confetti Shrimp.
Cooking with fresh basil
Adding fresh basil to cooked dishes is a great way to liven up any dish. Here are a few recipes with using fresh basil.
Salmon in Basil Cream Sauce is a quick and easy weeknight dish.
Summer Pasta is one of the easiest recipes ever. Fresh tomatoes are tossed with olive oil, fresh basil and garlic for a light sauce, perfect for summer.
If you like basil, you’ll love this Tomato Basil Soup with Goat Cheese, ready in under 20 minutes!
One of my most popular recipes is this Whole30 compliant, Tomato, Mushroom Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Basil.
I hope you enjoyed this basil post! What’s your favorite way to cook with fresh herbs?
Here are some of the items featured in this post.
Great post. Basil is the best, isn’t it?!!
Christina | Christina's Cucina says
This is one thing we agree on: Italian basil is also my favorite herb! To me, it’s smell is intoxicating and makes my mouth water! I think one of my favorite ways to use it fresh is in bruschetta (pronounced: broo-SKAY-tah) 😉 You know I had to add that as I don’t want people reading it the other way!