It’s believed that the basil plant originated somewhere in the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, the sweet and pungent leaf has found its way into many South and Southeast Asian cuisines – particularly Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese. The country that really adopted it into its kitchens and made it into a key ingredient in many national recipes, however, is Italy! From pesto to pizza, fresh basil has a role like no other herb in Italian cuisine. Since this herb plays such a prominent role in an Italian summer, we’re giving out FREE* packets of sweet basil seeds to our Buca di Beppo guests starting June 8, 2015.
We’re also featuring these small-but-mighty leaves in some of our limited-time-only summer dishes!
Spicy Chitarra al Pomodoro
Our first summer specialty come pomodoro-style with arugula and fire-roasted red and gold grape tomatoes. The spaghetti used for this dish is an alla chitarra egg pasta imported from Italy, chosen specifically by our chefs due to its remarkable ability to take on the taste of a fresh tomato sauce.
Fresh Garden Pappardelle
This second pasta has even more flavor than the Chitarra! Basil cream sauce, zucchini, carrots and sautéed shrimp paired with pappardelle pasta make up this crave-able garden entrée.
Pancetta & Arugula Pizza
You’ll find our final summer-only creation on the Buca di Beppo pizza menu. This impressive white pizza comes with spicy sausage, pieces of pancetta, garlic and arugula on a base layer of mozzarella and provolone. The whole shebang comes lightly drizzled with a zingy balsamic glaze to make this otherwise sauce-less pizza anything but boring.
What to Do with Your FREE* Basil
Start seeds indoors or seed directly in the garden about 1/4 inch deep in warm soil. Outdoors, thinly spread seedlings will encourage low, bushy plants to develop. Give your basil 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Because the whole purpose of keeping a basil plant is to harvest it for lots of tender leaves, a little fertilizer might be needed. Basil is at its most pungent when fresh and the best time to harvest is just as the plant starts to bud, before any flowers appear. Snip leaves or branches and pinch off flower buds to keep the plant productive.
For an Italian family, nothing says summer like basil-topped dinners, salads and snacks. There’s a great number of uses for fresh basil in Italian summer fare, as demonstrated by our seasonal menu items! Construct a simple and stunning Insalata Caprese with thick slices of tomato, hunks of mozzarella, basil leaves and olive oil. Throw it onto a pizza or a light pasta dish to add extra flavor and brightness. Blend up your harvest with oil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic to make an impressive pesto for pastas, gnocchi or sandwiches.
*While supplies last.