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What to Do With a Lot of Basil

July 11, 2015


We have a pretty wonderful problem: what to do with the half row of basil I planted and is now producing prolifically.

I had never grown it from seeds before in the garden so like a dummy, I planted a whole pack of seeds thinking if four or five plants grew, it would be amazing.

But I think every seed grew! I replanted some to spread out the seedlings to give them room to develop and well, first thing I knew I had enough to maybe supply a restaurant!

Everything online said to pair it with tomatoes but ours are slow coming on so I decided to use up some of my canned tomatoes from last year and make up some all purpose tomato sauce for spaghetti or other uses. Does that make sense? We’ve also been blessed with plenty of fresh oregano and parsley in the garden.

And supply a restaurant? Not quite, but I know the folks at our local Patchwork Pantry Food ministry get plenty of cooks as clients who love basil and know how to use it, so I took a whole bag there this week. Any other locals in need of basil, shoot me an email or message me and I will be happy to share it. Freely ye have received, freely give.


Tomato Sauce (or loaded tomato soup)

3 quarts canned tomatoes
2 cups (stuffed down) basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
4-5 small red onions
4 medium mushrooms
1 Tablespoon salt
3-4 sprigs of parsley chopped
3-4 sprigs of oregano chopped
4 bay leaves

Sauté basil, onions, garlic, mushrooms in olive oil until tender. Add tomato sauce and salt, parsley, oregano and bay leaves. Simmer on low (or one notch up from low) for 3 hours. Serve with spaghetti or freeze for another day!

I took out a broth-y sample after about 1.5 hours and it made a delicious soup for myself on a chilly rainy day, topped with parsley and feta cheese. Yum. You could also blend the mixture before eating to make more of a bisque or use one of those nifty hand blenders right in the pot (which I don’t own, yet!).



What do you like to do with basil? Or lots of tomatoes?

We ate our first one from the garden last night!


Natalie Francisco shared a lovely recipe from a French restaurant for a Tomato Basil Soup in my Whatever Happened to Dinner cookbook, available here.

Whatever Happened to Dinner?


From → Food, Recipes

  1. I envy your prolific harvest. Basil seems to dislike our cool, rainy summer so mine is sulking.

  2. I wish I could send you some. I envy the people that are getting corn on the cob already here. We were late with some of our garden but must have hit the basil growing just right. I like your word, “sulking.”

  3. Elaine permalink

    In years past, have picked some stems and hung them upside-down to dry then crumbled the leaves to be used as a spice.

    • Elaine, I will try to do that soon! Someone also mentioned baking leaves with drizzled olive oil and then freezing them that way. Thanks for this reminder!

  4. Oh, Melodie, you will love having an immersion blender. Perfect way to make sauces and puréed soups out of any combo of veggies that are ready for harvest.

    That recipe looks great. Hats off to you for making and keeping up with a garden. I love margherita pizzas–another way to use basil.

    • It’s on my Christmas list (will my daughters find it here?!) I thought about just splurging. We’ll see! I do like margherita pizza as well. Thx for the reminder that when the garden overwhelms, we could cut back. But I’ve enjoyed sharing our surplus with folks at work and then when they’re overloaded, Patchwork Pantry always seems like a good place to share.

  5. Athanasia permalink

    I make pesto and freeze it. We use it on angel hair pasta and serve as a main dish. I freeze in 8oz canning jars, and I like to have at least 8 for the year, 12 is better. I don’t add cheese until I use it. I dry it too.

    I can tomatoes , whole in quarts and juice in quarts and pints. I aim for at least 30 of each..I also do two salsas from the Ball Blue Book, a spicy one and the cilantro one. 15 pints of each or more. I’ll freeze some in quart freezer containers when I don’t have enough to fill the canner load.

    We have plenty of green tomatoes, only cherry ones have gone red.

    • Thanks for your list of ideas! Yes, I know I could do pesto, but we’re not that big of fans (I know that’s almost a sacrilege in this day.) You definitely have me beat in the canning department–I stick to juice and whole tomatoes mostly. Not enough salsa eaters in this family, (my daughters and husbands) for some reason.

      Nice to get the early cherry tomatoes. They are always so tasty!

      • Athanasia permalink

        We don’t eat a lot of salsa either, I use it more as a cooking sauce to flavor rice and other dishes. The cilantro salsa I use as a base to make a vegetable curry. We like the pesto in the one dish…I see it being used everywhere now…pizza, sandwiches, dips. But we like it only on the pasta.

      • Athanasia permalink

        I’m finally doing less canning as 2 are married and have their own homes and do their own canning, to some degree. I don’t count them in the equation anymore. The 2 single ones that don’t live at home still get food from home. There are just 3 of us at home now, all year, plus my brother in law 3 months a year.

        Have you made that caprese salad with your fresh basil? I have had that, though I don’t really just like the big leaves of basil as is.

  6. Robert Martin permalink

    We’ve found a way to freeze herbs…. chop the herbs up, put two tablespoons of the herb in each “cup” of an ice cube tray. Add 2 tablespoons of water to each, making sure the herb is fully immersed… and freeze. It’s now in a perfect state to add to soups, salsas, sauces, etc. 🙂

  7. Do you feel like they are tastier that way than drying them? And nice to see your face again here!!

  8. My neighbor, who does a lot with herbs, packs fresh basil in olive oil and keeps it in her fridge for months. I’m assuming this retains its fresh quality but don’t know for sure.

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