Got fresh basil? Here are the best basil recipes for using that peppery herb, from pesto to drinks to pizza.
Fresh green leaves of peppery basil are one of the best things about summer! There’s nothing that more perfectly evokes the carefree days and warm evenings. Fresh basil brings an irresistibly herbaceous hint to any recipe, and it can be used in both traditional and unique ways. Try classic Margherita Pizza and Basil Pesto, or intriguing ideas like Peach Basil Crisp or Basil Strawberry Popsicles. Here are some of our very favorite basil recipes: and a little on how to grow this popular herb!
A favorite basil recipe to make this fresh herb into a meal: Tomato Basil Pasta! This easy dinner idea stars blistered tomatoes, a technique of cooking tomatoes in a hot pan until the skin blisters and blackens. Mix the tomatoes with tangy balsamic vinegar, then add al dente pasta and peppery fresh basil. These summer ingredients infuse massive flavor in just 20 minutes.
A list of basil recipes must have a pesto recipe, right? This is our best pesto, with a bright green color and irresistible flavor. You can use either cashews or walnuts as a sub for the traditional pine nuts, if you'd like. They’re a fraction of the price and give pesto a fantastic texture. Pesto is perfect for using a bushy basil plant. It also freezes well and you can have pesto all winter long!
Are you basil obsessed? There’s nothing better than the peppery fresh flavor of this bright green herb. So get ready to take everything that’s incredible about basil and eat it as a pizza topping. That means garlicky, thick homemade basil pesto slathered onto perfect pizza dough, topped with gooey mozzarella and a huge handful of fresh basil leaves. It’s the brightest green, tastiest basil pizza you’ll ever make.
What’s a more classic basil recipe than tomato basil soup? This one is oh so easy to make. Chop some veggies, simmer with basil, then blend. All hail the tomato basil soup! It couldn’t be cozier, and it’s perfect accompanied by crusty bread. This version is a gluten free, dairy free and vegan soup recipe, so it fits many diets. Also try: Tomato Basil Gnocchi Soup.
And to round out the must-have basil recipes: how about a caprese salad? This salad represents Italian cuisine at its finest: beautiful ingredients combined in a way that’s both elegant and simple. It's got beautifully ripe juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and peppery basil leaves, seasoned with salt and pepper. Like pizza margherita, each of the ingredients corresponds to the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green.
Need a great homemade tomato sauce for pasta? Try this Tomato Basil Sauce, a rustic sauce that’s bold on tomato flavor: in 20 minutes! Some tomato sauce recipes bubble for an hour or more, but this one’s quick to whip up. It works with 8 ounces pasta, so it’s great for a fast weeknight dinner with a few easy sides: or double for a crowd!
Bright green pesto goes hand in hand with tender baked fish to make a stunning dinner. Because really: what isn’t better with a little pesto on top? It’s mid-summer here and we’re making all the pesto with our overactive basil plant. The savory, garlicky sauce makes the flaky fish pop: you’ll already be taking your second bite before finishing the first. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve to guests.
Want a spin on pesto without pine nuts? Try Pistou! Pistou is the classic French cousin of pesto, and it’s even simpler: all you need are basil, garlic, and olive oil. Mash it into a paste and you’ve got a chunky sauce that’s great for dipping and drizzling. It’s like a nut free dairy free pesto that packs just as much flavor.
This pesto cavatappi recipe is a tasty way to enjoy them both that everyone around the table will love. You’ll make a quick and easy pesto cream sauce, then drench the curly noodles and add a few handfuls of shredded Parmesan cheese. It’s simple, but it’s got mighty big flavor!
Got lots of basil? You don’t have to get stuck in a pesto rut. Try this Basil Vinaigrette! It’s got loads of fresh, tangy flavor: it actually tastes like pesto in dressing form. It’s ideal on salads, especially a summer tomato salad. But the sky’s the limit: use it as a sauce for chicken or seafood, or even to drizzle on goat cheese crostini. The flavor is ultra tangy and it takes just 5 minutes to blend together.
Did you know one of the easiest ways to cook gnocchi is…baked on a sheet pan? Nope, no boiling a big pot of water involved! Throw them onto a sheet pan, top with pesto and add veggies, and throw them in the oven. They bake up to a deliciously crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside texture that’s ultra delicious and so so easy. Add pesto and fresh basil and it's a stunning side dish or vegetarian main.
Here’s a dip and spread you’ll want to use on just about everything: basil aioli! This rich, creamy spread is great for making when you have lots of summer basil: or anytime you’re craving fresh, beautiful flavor! This basil aioli is full of peppery, herby flavor: the perfect dip for french fries or spread for sandwiches. Aioli is so easy to make: you just need a handful of ingredients and 5 minutes.
The flavor in this spaghetti is out of this world! The fire roasted tomatoes and peppery fresh basil leaves make for a flavor-popping but quick-to-make sauce. The recipe you'll see is for the Instant Pot, and it cooks in 5 minutes! Don't have an Instant Pot? You can use the same ingredients but do it on the stovetop: simmer the sauce in a saucepan while you boil the pasta, then combine for a quick and tasty dinner!
Here’s a sauce you’ll want to put on just about everything…bright green basil sauce! It’s packed full of garlicky, herby flavor: essentially like a pesto without the nuts and cheese. It’s more intensely packed with flavor than pesto: like a garlic and basil oil. Use it on just about anything a punch of basil: pasta, seafood, juicy ripe tomatoes, Caprese salad…anything is better with basil sauce.
Got basil? Love gin? Here’s the ideal drink for you: the Gin Basil Smash! This modern spin on the Whiskey Smash is light and herbaceous, pairing peppery basil with botanical gin. If there’s summer in a cocktail glass, this is it!
This grilled cheese with tomatoes & basil isn’t just any old grilled cheese. Tomatoes are roasted just long enough until they’re starting to burst, then mashed to extract the juice. It’s mixed with a bit of mayo to become a sort of roasted tomato mayonnaise that totally makes the sandwich! Then of course, you’ll add to that the peppery bite of fresh basil: an essential component that takes it over the top. The combination of the savory tomatoes, silky mayonnaise and fresh basil on crunchy grilled bread is a little bit of heaven.
This tortellini soup with basil is savory and hearty, with a lightly sweet depth that makes you want the bowl to be never-ending. Sauteing the onion with tomato paste and paprika before adding the rest of the ingredients gives just the right complexity to the broth. And a bit of carrot and celery add texture and crunch. Basil leaves are added right after the tortellini cooks, which meld into the beautiful velvety broth. Add a bit of Parmesan cheese and it’s a little bit of heaven.
Here’s an idea that has easy weeknight meal written all over it: pesto shrimp! Turns out this bright green, garlicky sauce is the perfect pairing for this succulent shellfish. The two flavors go hand-in-hand, just like famous duos like tomatoes and basil.
And why not use basil...in a crisp recipe? This peach crisp so satisfying: the filling perfectly highlights ripe peaches, scented with a hint of peppery basil. And the topping is delightfully crunchy, featuring oats and almond flour. It's naturally gluten free and can also be easily made vegan using coconut oil instead of butter! We've made it both ways and it's excellent either way.
Here’s a deliciously bubbly drink that’s calling your name (and ours too): the Basil Collins! This basil cocktail is a summer spin on the Tom Collins, featuring cucumber and that peppery fresh herb you might be growing in a pot or your garden. It’s got a tangy sweet flavor, a cucumber basil essence and a load of bubbles packed in that glass.
Last up in our basil recipes: what about a fluorescent green basil oil? It’s simple to put together, easier and cheaper than pesto, and darn tasty. Blending blanched basil with olive oil yields a beautiful, verdant green sauce that tastes like summer. Use it on sliced tomatoes, as a dip for bread, on pasta, or crostini with goat cheese.
How to grow basil
A few tips on how to grow basil at home! Growing your own basil is much cheaper and easier than buying it from the store. Here are a few tips:
You can plant it in pots on a sunny ledge! You don’t even need a garden! Though it’s perfect for a raised bed garden.
Start from “starts”. We recommend buying a start plant at your local farmers market or garden store. Then plant it in a pot with plenty of drainage (or your garden).
Make sure to prune regularly. Regularly remove branches back to the first set of 2 leaves. Pruning the plant makes it grow large and bushy!
Here’s another tip on fresh basil: how to store it! Storing fresh cut basil inside can be difficult, because cut basil wilts within a few hours. Alex and I have a found a great way to store branches of cut basil.
Find a large ball jar and add a bit of water in the bottom: then place the basil stems in cut side down and cover with a lid.
Store in the refrigerator and it will last for 4 to 5 days, instead of just hours on the counter!
1 handful fresh small basil leaves, chopped if large
Make the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Before draining, reserve some pasta water with a liquid measuring cup (at least ¼ cup). Drain the pasta.
Blister the tomatoes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a very large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes, making sure there is space around each tomato (they are not touching) and the pan is not crowded. If you’re using a medium pan, cook the tomatoes in 2 batches.* Cook for 1 minute without touching the pan, then 2 to 3 more minutes until blistered, shaking the pan several times to rotate the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, gently shaking several times to coat. Add 2 pinches kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Remove the tomatoes from the pan to a bowl.
Finish the dish: Mince the garlic. Once the pasta is done, in the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup pasta water, scraping the pan with a spoon to release all of the flavor of the tomato juices. Turn off the heat.
Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat. Add the blistered tomatoes, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and basil. Season with 2 pinches of kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
*If the pan is too crowded, the tomatoes will steam instead of blistering. It all depends on the size of your pan: if you’re using a medium pan, you’ll have to cook 1 pint at a time.
Keywords: Basil Recipes
Looking for more basil recipes?
Looking for a few more ideas? Here are a few more basil recipes: