Whether you’re a beginner or experienced in the kitchen, if there is only one staple herb that you can choose, make sure that it’s basil.

We may barely notice it in our food, but basil is a super ingredient that adds extra taste and aroma to many dishes.

It is widely used in Italian and Southeast Asian cuisines, and its strong and often sweet smell makes it commonly used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Best of all, this herb, touted the “king of herbs”, contains plenty of health benefits besides being wonderfully versatile. Here are 10 ways to use basil to add some oomph into your dishes!

1. Pesto

Originated from Liguria, Italy, pesto traditionally consists of crushed garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Pesto also comes in different variations – depending on which region it comes from!

Pesto also goes amazingly well with many types of food: toss it with fresh pasta, use it as a dip for chips and other munchies, make it a sandwich spread or a soup – the options are endless! Check out 4 different kinds of pestos that you can make the next time you have a party.

2. Herbed Butter

Have you ever gone to a restaurant where steaks are served with beautiful herbed butters? Making them yourself is easier than you think! Combine soft butter with finely chopped basil, and whatever else that tickles your fancy, then transfer the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper. Tie up the ends, refrigerate till it sets, and voila! Herbed butters make luxurious accompaniments to meats, roasted vegetables, or taste simply delightful on warm, toasted bread.

3. Caprese Salad

A caprese salad is simple but absolutely refreshing and satisfying. It’s made up of tomatoes, basil leaves, Mozzarella cheese, and topped off with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Basil adds an enticing lift to the combination of fresh flavours in this salad, making this a great appetiser.

4. Basil Salad Dressing

Are you tired of your regular salad dressing? Switch things up a little by making a simple basil oil sauce to go with fresh greens. Combine olive oil, basil leaves and garlic that goes well with a caprese salad or even as a dip for breads.

5. Zesty Basil Sauce

Make a delicious tangy basil sauce that will go perfectly with grilled or pan-fried dishes. A refreshing concoction of freshly minced basil, olive oil, and some lemon juice works great on fish, seafood, and roasted poultry – and it takes just a few minutes to throw together!

6. Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Basil

A grilled cheese sandwich is one of the simplest forms of happiness. Make this happy food even tastier with this Fresh Tomato, Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe.

7. Pasta Sauces

No Italian dish is complete without this wonderful herb, so remember to toss in some freshly cut basil into your Aglio Olio, or add some into your tomato-based sauces. Basil and tomatoes complement each other excellently, so be sure to use some basil in tomato-based dishes!

If you’re craving for a delectable pasta dish that’s easy on the wallet, be sure to check out Pastamania’s Basil Chicken Aglio.

Pastamania is located at Northpoint City and Causeway Point.

8. Thai Basil Chicken

Thai dishes are well known for their zesty medleys of sweet, spicy, sour and salty flavours. Basil is often a key ingredient in Thai curries, soups and stir-fries as it balances out the contrasting flavours with its aromatic and soothing fragrance.

For a taste of yummy, basil-infused Thai delicacies, check out Bali Thai and ThaiExpress, or make your own Pad Krapow, a classic Thai dish that consists of a minced meat (usually beef, pork, or chicken) stir-fried with chillies, minced garlic, fish sauce, and – you know it, Thai basil.

Bali Thai is located at Causeway Point and Waterway Point; ThaiExpress is located at Northpoint City.

9. Desserts

The aromatic properties of basil can also be enjoyed in desserts! Just like the savoury options, there is a plethora of sweet options to explore. Include basil in your poaching liquid when poaching pears, or enjoy a dollop of cold, basil-infused cream with a slice of warm berry pie. The aromatic qualities of the basil complement lend a contrast to the tart sweetness the fruits.

10. Smoothies (yes, you can drink basil too!)

While mint may be the most common ingredient in drinks and desserts, basil is a great ingredient to include in a smoothie. If you need a quick boost, blitz up a smoothie and throw in a couple of basil leaves into the mix! With anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, the basil leaves will be a welcome addition to the deliciously nutritious drink.

So, go on and add this versatile herb into your meals! With its aromatic flavour that blends easily with many types of food (and even drinks), basil has truly lived up to its name – all hail the king of herbs!

Basil can be easily found at supermarkets such as Cold Storage, NTUC FairPrice and FairPrice Finest. For those with green thumbs, you can even grow it on your own! Basil loves our warm, tropical and humid climate, is fairly easy to maintain, and can be easily grown indoors. Get your basil starter kits from Times bookstore.