Basil and Beyond

11 I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I i i i I

I found out not too long ago that the word that sounds like "baz-neegol" is not exclusive to my family. It seems that a lot of Italian-Americans descended from southern Italy use that word for what we all know as the herb basil. Cousins who remained in Italy call it "basilicata," in their perfect Italian without a trace of dialect, thanks to the standardized language taught in Italian schools over the last few decades. Alas, its not Grandmothers Italian anymore. But its still Grandmothers basil.

'Sweet Genovese' is the pesto basil. Six plants of 'Sweet Genovese' (Ocimum basilicum Genovese Profumitissima) will yield enough leaves to make pesto all year without overdosing on it. And although your family and friends may balk at having green stuff on their macaroni (okay, okay, pasta), just tell them to close their eyes and try it. The mixture of basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil is a treat with a distinctive Italian flavor. Try making pesto bread instead of garlic bread, or use pesto as an imaginative sandwich spread.

2 cups basil leaves 2 cloves garlic

72 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. Romano cheese

74 cup pine nuts or walnuts dash of salt

72 cup olive oil water

Combine the basil, garlic, cheeses, nuts, and salt in a food processor or blender container. Add the olive oil gradually, processing constantly. Thin with a few drops of water until the mixture reaches the consistency of oatmeal (not too thick, but not runny). Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Toss with cooked pasta; gemelli and penne hold pesto nicely.

For a creamier taste and consistency, add 3 tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese. For a color and taste sensation, add 73 cup sun-dried tomatoes.

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