Appears in
Soup: A Way of Life

By Barbara Kafka

Published 1998

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While there is much discussion in the culinary literature on pesto method, there is less on the kind of basil to use. Given that there are myriad varieties, each with its own flavor, this is a real question. There is a variety called Ocimum basilicum, or Genovese, that is a specially developed large leaf basil for pesto. Sweet basil is the best substitute. The dwarf or bush basils, Ocimum basilicum minimum, have small leaves, which are more pungent and tougher. They are better suited to adding whole to stews. Ocimum sanctum—biblical, holy, or sacred basil—is the variety of India, while Ocimum sp is the true Thai basil, a milder version of anise basil. If possible, it should be used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes.