Italian Word of the Day: Basilico (basil)

A plant whose sweet-smelling leaves are often used as a herb in Italian cooking is basilico (masculine, plural basilici), which is the word for basil. In the Tuscan dialect, it is pronounced with a double s (bassilico).

IPA: /baˈzi.li.ko/

It must not be confused with the similar sounding basilica, which is the name given to certain churches granted special privileges by the Pope.

basil on a plate
Basilico appena tagliatoFreshly cut basil

Non dimenticare di aggiungere nel sugo qualche foglia di basilico. Arrivano fresche fresche dall’orto della nonna.

Don’t forget to add a few basil leaves in the sauce. They come straight from grandma’s garden.


Basilico is a key ingredient in many staple Italian dishes and sauces including, most famously:

  • pesto = a green pasta sauce comprising a mix of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese
  • salsa di pomodoro e basilico = tomato and basil sauce for pasta
  • pizza margherita = traditionally consists of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
  • focaccia con burrata = focaccia covered with burrata cheese, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil
Pizza margherita – Margherita pizza

Often the leaves are added directly to a plain pasta dish or salad for additional flavour.

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