Basil is not only one of the oldest herbs in the world but also one of the most romantic. In Italy, it is traditionally a sign of love: when a woman is ready to accept a suitor, she places a pot of basil on the balcony, signifying her intentions. In Thailand, many people believe that basil protects the body, rescuing it from harmful diseases. Americans have also added the herb to their palate―the Campbell’s tomato soup recipe was revised to include this flavorful ingredient. It is no wonder, then, that basil dishes from all around the globe inspire rich, exotic flavors for a perfectly romantic night in.

—Lexi Devenport


Pesto Pasta



3 medium cloves of garlic

1 large bunch of fresh basil

½ cup raw pine nuts

¾ cup Parmesan, loosely packed and freshly grated

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil

1 pound of pasta


1. Finely mince garlic and basil leaves.

2. Chop pine nuts and add to garlic and basil.

3. Add Parmesan cheese to mixture and continue to chop. Mixture should be very fine.

4. Transfer pesto mixture to a small bowl, pour in olive oil, and set aside.

5. Cook noodles according to package directions and drain well. Stir in pesto. Serve.


Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes


Spicy Basil Chicken and Tofu



10 ounces firm tofu

1 skinless chicken breast

½ teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

3–4 tablespoons peanut oil

4–6 cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2–3 jalapeños, chopped finely

2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped finely

1 cup basil, lightly packed

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cut tofu into cubes and sprinkle with salt. Let drain for 15 minutes.

2. Cut chicken into pieces and transfer to a bowl. Then coat chicken with cornstarch and 1 teaspoon soy sauce.

3. In bowl, stir the remaining teaspoon of soy sauce with sugar, water, and fish sauce. Set aside.

4. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Evenly coat with two tablespoons of peanut oil. Add tofu and fry for 4 minutes. Transfer to plate.

5. Reheat the pan with two tablespoons of oil. Add garlic, shallot, and chicken. Let chicken sear on both sides. When chicken is nearly cooked through, add tofu and cook for 1 minute.

6. Add jalapeños and lime leaf, then pour soy and fish sauce mixture over everything. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add basil. When leaves wilt, transfer to serving dish with rice.



Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour


Tomato Basil Soup

United States


3 cups onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

5 carrots, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 ½ cups chicken broth

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons fresh basil, plus extra to garnish

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil


1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in sauce pan on medium-high.

2. Sauté chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Add garlic and sauté for about one minute.

3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, cream, broth, salt, fresh basil, and sugar to the pan and stir. Let simmer for 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed.

4. After the vegetables are soft, ladle the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh basil.


Yield: 6 servings

Total time: 50 minutes





1 ½ cups warm water

1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon savory

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon sage

⅛ teaspoon fennel seed


1. Add yeast to water and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Stir 1 cup flour, all herbs, salt, and 3 tablespoons oil to yeast mixture.

3. Fold in rest of flour and knead for 10 minutes.

4. Place dough in bowl and cover with towel. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat oven to 450°F.

6. Place dough on floured surface. Divide in half. Shape halves into 11” x 8” oval-shaped loaves and place on baking sheet.

7. Brush each with 1 tablespoon oil.

8. Cut four 2-inch-long horizontal sections starting from top and moving to bottom. Cut sections evenly apart on each side of oval without removing dough.

9. Pull dough apart at cuts so there are gaps between each cut.

10. Cover with cloth and let rise ​
for 20 minutes.

11. Put dough in oven. Bake loaves until golden, 18 minutes.



Yield: 6 servings

Total time: 2 hours



Photo by Yamanaka Tamaki