Uses for Basil

It's one of the most versatile herbs in a North American kitchen, and it can liven up the taste of nearly any cuisine in the world.  What is it?  Basil, of course!  For a frugal, healthy cook, basil is an indispensable ally that can save a doomed dish with just a pinch or two.  Although as with any herb, it's best to use high quality basil in the kitchen, you can still make amazing food with a $1 container from the dollar store.  Add basil to your foods in any of these delicious ways today!

Mixture of vegetables like basil for a salad.

Pesto is one of the primary uses for fresh basil, so if you've got some left over from making pizza margarita, throw it into a blender, along with some pine nuts and olive oil.  The resulting creamy green mixture is the perfect addition to pasta sauces, pizzas, sandwiches, and dips, along with anything else you'd like to add it to.  You can't use dried basil for pesto, but you can add dried basil to dishes that have pesto in them for extra zing.

Pasta sauces and other Italian fare (like pizza sauce) basically cry out for a healthy sprinkling of basil.  Use your nose to judge how much to add: stir the sauce slowly while preparing to sprinkle the basil, add less than you know you'll need, stir, and keep sniffing while you add some more.  You should be able to tell pretty quickly when there's too much!

You can make amazing dinner rolls just by tossing in a pinch or two of dried basil to the dough.  These rolls will go with just about any dish, although they are best served in lieu of breadsticks as an accompaniment to a salad course of an Italian meal (see a theme here?).  Mix the basil with other dried herbs for a smashing combination that will taste heavenly fresh out of the oven with some butter.

Chicken dishes go very nicely with basil.  Fresh or dried, this herb works its way into the mild chicken meat and makes it really pop.  Try basting the skin of some drumsticks and thighs with olive oil, then sprinkle on crushed garlic and dried basil.  Or wrap the chicken in fresh basil leaves.  For both dishes, bake to perfection!

Surprisingly, eggs are enhanced by the flavor of basil.  Baked egg dishes served at brunch are prime candidates, as basil is a little classy and complex to be served as a pure breakfast flavor.  Whip some eggs together with a smidge of basil and some salt and pepper (maybe a tablespoon of milk), pour it into a ramekin, sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, and bake.

And, of course, the ultimate in side dishes: mashed potatoes.  Use lots of butter, garlic, and basil for a mouthwatering dish that will turn into the main course if you're not careful.

Got some recipe suggestions for your fellow readers?  Shoot us an email at, and we'll publish some of the best in future articles.  Thanks for visiting!

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