Basil Recipes for the Backyard Vegetable Gardener

Some of our favorite recipes use basil. Tomato and basil recipes are probably the most common. The flavor combination of fresh tomatoes and fresh, sweet basil is hard to beat. However, basil can be served raw in salads or garnishes or used to season just about every variety of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable. It is also the main ingredient in classic pesto recipes. Basil can also be used to add flavorings to butter, mayonnaise, dressings or tea. Today, some innovative chefs are even using basil to flavor ice cream.

Basil Plant

Before we share some of our favorite basil recipes, here is some nutrient information...

Two tablespoons of fresh basil contains:

  • 1 calorie
  • 1mg Vitamin C
  • 22mcg Vitamin K
  • 4mcg Folate
  • 9mg Calcium
  • 16mg Potassium
  • 3mg Magnesium

Here are some of our favorite basil recipes:

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Splendid Tomato and Basil Soup - this easy-to-make basil recipe makes a rich, creamy and delicious soup, can be a great appetizer or main course

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 cup half-n-half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and tomato juice to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes over medium heat. Add the tomato mixture, basil and oregano to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth and return the mixture to the pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the half-n-half, butter, salt and pepper. Continue stirring until the butter is melted. Serve immediately.

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Classic Pesto - this tasty basil recipe makes a traditional Italian pesto that can be served with pasta, poultry or fish

3 cups fresh sweet basil leaves, packed
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pine nuts and parsley into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour in lemon juice and olive oil and blend into a smooth paste.

For different flavor variations, use toasted walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. Alternate varieties of basil such as lemon or purple ruffle can also be used to change the flavor to suit your liking.

This basil recipe can easily be frozen for later use. Simply add pesto to freezer containers. Top with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent it from turning brown. Put the lid on the containers and store in freezer for up to 6 months

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Basil Butter - this basil recipe puts a twist on regular butter, great on toasted bread or when cooking vegetables, fish or poultry

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To a food processor, add basil leaves and chop them up. Add butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth. Keeps in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Use butter on toasted french bread or as a substitute for regular butter when cooking.

This basil butter is easy to freeze. Drop butter by tablespoons onto a baking sheet and freeze. Remove butter balls from baking sheet and store in air-tight freezer bags. Will keep in freezer for up to 4 months

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Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Mayonnaise - this basil recipe makes a great spread that will enhance just about any sandwich or wrap

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 oz sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a food processor, chop basil and sun-dried tomatoes. Add mayonnaise, red wine vinegar and olive oil and blend until smooth. Store in refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

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Basil Vinegrette - this basil recipe adds a tasty flare to any salad or can be used as a unique marinade

1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously for 1 minute until well combined. Use as a salad dressing or marinade for fish, poultry or vegetables. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Tomato and Basil Pizza - this basil recipe uses fresh ingredients to deliver a pizza bursting with flavor

1 teaspoon salt
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 (12 inch) pre-baked pizza crusts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the sliced tomatoes in a mesh strainer. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Much of the liquid will be released.

In a small bowl, combine the onion, basil, black pepper, olives and mushrooms. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to combine.

To a small bowl, add the tomato sauce, oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the two pizza crusts. Distribute the onion and mushroom mixture evenly over each pizza. Sprinkle each pizza with 4 oz mozzarella cheese. Layer the sliced tomatoes over the cheese on each pizza. Top the tomatoes with the remaining 8 oz of mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pizzas in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted completely. Serve immediately.

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Sweet Sausage and Basil Lasagna - this basil recipe makes a hearty lasagna, your dinner guests will be delighted and puzzled at the same time and beg you for the recipe

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
1 white onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) can tomato paste
16 oz tomato sauce, canned or homemade
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
24 lasagna noodles
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
20 leaves sweet basil
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Slice Italian sausages in half lengthwise. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Set aside.

In a large pot, cook the ground beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until the meat is well browned. Drain mixture and return to the pot. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. Add in sugar, fennel seeds, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Fill a large pot with hot tap water and place noodles into the water. Cover and let sit until ready to use.

In a small bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg and parsley until well combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To assemble the lasagna, spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place 6 lasagna noodles over the meat sauce. Spread with half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the meat mixture over the ricotta cheese. Top with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/4 of the mozzarella slices. Add another layer of lasagna noodles.

Cover the second layer of noodles with the sweet sausage slices, cut side up. Layer the basil leaves over the sweet sausage. Top the basil leaves with 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese slices.

Add another layer of lasagna noodles. Top with remaining ricotta cheese mixture. Add another layer of meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Layer on 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese slices. Top with remaining lasagna noodles. Layer remaining slices of mozzarella cheese on top of the noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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