What is Basil?

What is basil? Let me first start by saying how much I love this herb. If you are not cooking with basil, you just do not know what you are missing. When I first started cooking I did not use much basil. I started with only buying a jar of dried basil. Occasionally I would add this to some recipes but more often I used dried oregano instead of basil.

What is Basil?What is Basil?

For some reason (I do not remember) I was given a fresh basil plant. The fragrance of this wonderful herb “won me over” even before eating it. This great basil is known as the king of herbs or royal herb and the names are justified. What is basil in cooking? It is one of the most popular herbs in the culinary world. There are many different varieties of basil. All these varieties add great tastes in recipes but some a little unique with hints like peppermint, cinnamon, lemon or anise.

What is basil in Italian cooking? Now, I do not know how I ever cooked any Italian recipes without fresh basil. Looking back, I often make things like spaghetti without any basil. That was before I knew any better! Today, I add this flavorful herb in so much of my cooking; all kinds of poultry, seafood, beef, pork, lamb, cheese and egg recipes.  I love sauces like pesto, pasta sauce and many cream sauces with lots of basil.

What is basil as a garnish? The deep green color of basil makes a great addition to the presentation when used as a garnish. Sometimes these pretty leaves are similar looking to peppermint leaves. Certain varieties have a little red or purple color running through the green leaves. All of these add special appeal to appetizers and entrée dishes.  

What is basil? For me it is one herb which I cannot be without. Not just dried basil but I try to always keep fresh basil at my fingertips. If not growing in a pot then I keep it fresh in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. I also keep it fresh frozen in my freezer. Many say they blanch it first before freezing but I simply place it in a freezer bag. Frozen like this gives me the same delicious taste as fresh basil. The only difference with frozen basil is the appearance when using as a garnish. I still keep plenty of dried basil on hand for a “back-up”. The newer addition of the basil family which I have added is basil oil. This is mostly for the health benefits.

What is basil oil? Basil oil can be applied without diluting externally for adults; the temples, tip of nose or on problem areas.  It can be diluted with pure oils like olive oil to take internally. A few drops on a daily regiment can solve a lot of problems. Be careful because it can be strong if you are not used to it. In historical times basil oil was used for respiratory problems, digestive and kidney problems, epilepsy, poisonous insect or snake bites, fevers and malaria. Because of the many health benefits of basil, I add some form of it to many of my recipes.


What is basil? Pest sauce just is not the same without basil.

  • 2/3 Cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 Cup pistachio nuts
  • 5 Large cloves garlic
  • 2 Cups firmly packed basil
  • 4 Ounces Parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 1 ½ Cups olive oil

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT oil in a food processor; process to a paste.

Slowly add oil in a thin stream; add enough oil until the consistency of mayonnaise.

Store in tightly covered jar in refrigerator.


This small recipe makes only 2/3 cup.

What is basil? In this recipe almonds replace my traditional pine nuts but it still has the wonderful taste of basil.

  • 3 Tablespoons natural almonds
  • 2 Cups packed basil leaves
  • 1 Small clove garlic
  • ½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/ pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Microwave almonds on high in a microwave safe bowl 1 ½ to 2 minutes until browned in center; cool slightly.

Combine in food processor the almonds, basil, garlic, Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

Process mixture until finely chopped; gradually pour in oil and water until blended.


Tomato Basil Drop BiscuitsTomato Basil Drop Biscuits
  • ½ cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ Cup chopped fresh tomato drained
  • ¼ Cup minced fresh basil
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup solid shortening
  • 2/3 Cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

Sauté onions in oil until tender in a small skillet; add tomato and cook 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in basil; cool slightly.

In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; cut in shortening until crumbly.

Stir in milk and tomato mixture just to combine; drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown; serve warm.

Makes about 18.

Tomato Basil Drop BiscuitsTomato Basil Drop Biscuits


Basil Grilled Chicken RecipeBasil Grilled Chicken Recipe
  • ½ Cup softened butter
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon pepper
  • ¾ Teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 Chicken breasts halves skinned
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh basil sprigs GARNISH

Combine FIRST 6 ingredients in food processor; process until smooth.

Place in a small serving bowl; cover and chill.

Press coarsely ground black pepper onto meaty sides of chicken breasts.

Combine 1/3 cup melted butter and 2 tablespoons chopped basil; brush on chicken breasts.

Cover and grill over medium hot coals (350 to 400F degrees) 15 minutes on each side or until done or place about 6 inches under a hot broiler.

Baste frequently with remaining melted butter mixture.

Serve chicken with chilled butter mixture; garnish and serve.

Chilled Basil Butter MixtureChilled Basil Butter Mixture


  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ Pound turkey cutlets
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Cloves minced garlic
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • ½ Cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Sliced lemon

Pound cutlets until flat and even.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow bowl; dredge cutlets in mixture and shake off excess.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Cook cutlets about 1 ½ minutes on each side until done; remove cutlets from skillet.

Add garlic and basil to the skillet; cook 45 seconds stirring to loosen particles from bottom.

Add wine, lemon juice and lemon slices; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Return cutlets to the skillet and cook only until thoroughly heated; serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.


  • 1 Pie crust dough
  • 1 ½ Cups shredded Mozzarella cheese (Divided)
  • 5 Roma tomatoes sliced
  • 1 Cup fresh chopped basil (Packed loosely)
  • 4 Cloves minced garlic
  • ½ Cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ Cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 Teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Roll pie crust dough and cut into small circles to fit muffin tins.

Fit dough into bottom and up sides muffin tins.

Pierce bottoms and sides of each shell before baking to prevent puffing.

Bake shells until golden brown; let cool. 

Cut tomatoes and place on paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle each crust with some of the Mozzarella cheese; layer tomatoes on top.

Combine basil and garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Combine remaining Mozzarella with mayonnaise, Parmesan and pepper; spoon over basil.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes; makes 10 to 12.


What is basil in this Italian mussels recipe? Try this delicious taste.

  • 3 ½ Pounds raw mussels in shells
  • ¾ Cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ Cup olive oil
  • 2 Cans (14.5 ounces each) Italian style diced tomatoes
  • ¼ Cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ Teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • ½ Cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • ¼ Cup chopped fresh basil
  • French bread

Scrub mussels with a brush removing beards; discard opened, cracked or heavy mussels.

NOTE: Heavy mussels are filled with sand.

Cook onion and garlic in olive oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat; stir constantly until tender.

Add tomatoes, vinegar, oregano, black pepper and red pepper; bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Add mussels, parsley and basil; cover and cook 4 minutes or until mussels open shaking pot several times.

Discard any unopened mussels; ladle mussels into soup bowls and serve with bread.


  • ½ Cup olive oil divided
  • ¼ Cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon plus ½ Cup grated Parmesan cheese divided
  • ½ Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Pound large uncooked shrimp (Peeled and deveined)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Lettuce leaves

To make dressing combine ¼ cup of oil, basil, vinegar, 1 tablespoon Parmesan and sugar in a saucepan over low heat

In another container combine shrimp and remaining Parmesan; set aside.

Heat butter and remaining oil in a large skillet; add shrimp mixture and sauté until they turn pink about 4 minutes.

Drain on paper towels; serve on lettuce leaves and drizzle with warm dressing.


What is basil? The flavor of basil makes this grilled chicken fit for any special occasion.

  • 4-5 Whole drumsticks (leg and thigh together)
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Package (8 ounces) American cheese cubed
  • 1 Cup milk
  • ½ Teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • ¼ Teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 Package (10 ounces) egg noodles cooked

Season chicken with salt and pepper; place on heated grill over low heat skin side down OR 4 to 6 inches from hot charcoals.

Cook 40 to 60 minutes turning occasionally until chicken is fork tender and juices run clear.

Combine cheese, milk, basil and mustard in a small saucepan.

Cook over medium heat until cheese is melted and mixture is hot stirring occasionally.

Place noodles on plates, top with chicken and sauce to serve; serves 5-6.