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Love thy Opal Basil

Basil is often hailed as the “king of herbs” by many chefs and it is one of my favourite herbs in cooking.  The herb is an undeniable feature in Italian cuisine and other varieties is highlighted in Thailand and Vietnamese dishes.  Whenever I see a bouquet of fresh sweet basil, I am always hypnotized by the sweet fragrance.

I was lucky enough to meet the cousin of sweet basil, Opal basil – thanks to specialist produce company, Melissa’s. The opal basil has short crinkly and serrated purplish leaves with similar colored veins and stems. If you hold the leaf against a light, you can see the green highlights.  Unlike its cousin, the opal basil makes a rare appearance in Singapore supermarket shelves. When I saw them, I had to smell and try it. I love the strong that the opal basil has a clove like taste with a tinge of ginger.  It would be perfect as salad garnishing or decoration piece.

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Since the opal basil wasn’t used during the workshop, I happily volunteered to take them home. With an abundance of basil in hand, I couldn’t resist making pesto sauce and nothing beats home-made pesto sauce.  The traditional Italian pesto from Ligura, Genoa is made with green basil, good extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese.  Pesto is best served with ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle , fettuccine or linguini where sauce can cling onto the pasta or stirred with home-made gnocchi.

Pesto is versatile and it can have used in other serving suggestions.  Here are a few ideas:

  • a dollop of pesto on top of soups.
  • as a spread for bruschettas.
  • serve as a tapenade.
  • mixed with some mayonnaise to give your sandwiches that extra zing.
  • add to some sour cream or natural yogurt and serve as a dip.
  • mixed with some vinegar for a salad dressing

It is so easy to make and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Here is my version of the classical pesto sauce.

CY’s Pesto Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


6 cups of fresh basil

140 grams of roasted almonds (unsalted)*

1.25 cups of extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves of garlic

1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

* You can purchase raw almonds and toast in oven on a low heat.  For classic pesto use pine nuts or walnuts.


1. Rinse the basil leaves.  You may air dry or use a tea towel to gently wipe the leaves dry.

2. Place the leaves, almonds, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a food processor.

3. While the dry ingredients are being blended, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the processor to form a smooth sauce.  It should medium smooth texture and not a thick paste.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. It can be served immediately with your favourite pasta or stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator  for up to 1 week.

Opal Basil Pesto

Mangiar bene! ( that’s good eating in Italian)

One Comment Post a comment
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    December 13, 2012

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