Ingredient of the Month: Basil, the King of Herbs
It is not just a coincidence that basil is considered the KING OF HERBS.
The term “basil” in fact, derives from the Greek word basilikon which means indeed “regal”. It has been known for centuries for its diverse and unique properties…which are not limited just to culinary use!
For us Italians the smell of basil is, without any doubt, the one that reminds us of home more than any other among the typical mediterranean cooking herbs. Its perfume is quintessentially Italian, and basil is really a staple in our cuisine. We find it in the most famous Italian dishes and it goes with everything, and even if a dish doesn’t require it, sometimes we add it anyway “perchè ci sta sempre bene” – because it’s always good!
Varieties of basil
There are many varieties of Basil, just to mention a few, the one most commonly associated with Italian cooking is sweet basil, small or big leaves depending on the area but this is the one to use if you want to make a true Italian pesto. Another variety is the Greek basil, peppery with small leaves while Thai basil, also very popular, is spicier and with a hint of anise and its peculiar looks, purple stem and flower and narrow leaves, differentiate it from the rest.
How to use basil, a few suggestions
Pesto alla Genovese is THE one and only pesto everyone around the world knows. To prepare the best pesto of your life you will need a pestle and mortar (tradition calls for one made of marble – but I guess simple stone or wood would do) in which you will put all the essential ingredients: fresh basil leaves, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Sardo (Sardinian savoury sheep’s milk cheese), pine nuts, garlic and a generous dose of extra virgin olive oil. Fatto!
Pair it with Trofie, a traditional short and twisted pasta from the Liguria region.
We told you basil goes with everything, especially with tomatoes! Any dish that has tomato in it potentially can taste better if you add basil. We use it on our Pizza Margherita, tomato base and buffalo mozzarella and a few basil leaves as decoration or in the form of pesto on our Pizza Caprino, a couple of spoonfuls on top of roasted peppers, goat’s cheese and olives on a tomato base, and a bit of rocket salad to finish. #simplydelicious
Any white fish goes divinely with pesto… on its own or with some other ingredients like cherry tomatoes, small and sweet, capers, garlic, and olives. Prepare a mince of garlic capers and olives and put it on a pan with extra virsing olive oil to cook a little. Add cherry tomatoes chopped in halves or quarters and let it cook shortly just to enhance the flavours, then add the fillets of fish on the same pan and let it cook. Garnish with pesto and fresh basil on top for the visual presentation.
Basil not only is delicious but also very pretty to use in decorating your dishes. Its bright green colour stands out when put close to the red of tomatoes and the white of mozzarella, like in a delicious Caprese salad!
Oh wait… GREEN RED AND WHITE? But that’s also the Italian flag! ??
Other types of pesto
Everyone knows Italians are creative, especially in the kitchen! Over the centuries we have experimented with basil and other ingredients trying to come up with alternatives to the traditional pesto…and we did it!
Very good and easy to prepare varieties of pesto are Sicilian Pesto, a twist on tradition adding tomatoes and almonds; Rocket pesto, same procedure but with rocket instead of basil; Pistachios Pesto, a very elegant take on tradition, adding pistachios instead of pine nuts to basil and the usual ingredients. Very interesting flavour, believe us.
Did you know there’s also a basil flavoured ice cream?
We can’t argue with the fact that basil is indeed a very versatile herb, it can be used anywhere and everywhere …there’s no limit to culinary imagination!
And you, how do you use your basil??
Now, why not take a look at our full menus or BOOK A TABLE? 🙂