Yes, I keep dried herbs around, but nothing elevates your meals to those of a four-star restaurant more than using fresh herbs. I don’t discriminate when using fresh herbs; I love them all. If I had to pick a favorite I would say it is basil.
I grow basil every year with quite a bit of luck. I usually end up with a small shrub sized basil or two, which means for a while EVERYTHING has basil in it. Strawberries macerated in balsamic and basil, lemon basil granita, antipasti pasta salad with fresh basil, etc.
My Favorite Basil Recipe
My absolute favorite meal is capellini with fresh diced tomatoes and basil. It is so simple and both crops are at their peak at the same time. You can use Roma tomatoes or any good firm tomato, or halved cherry tomatoes but they must be fresh and not canned, or what’s the point?
Cook the capellini ahead of time in the morning, and then chill it. This is a summertime dish, after all, and it’s going to be hot! At dinner time fire up a sauté pan with olive oil, garlic (of course!), and lots of diced tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down, but not too much! Add the precooked capellini (or thin spaghetti) and toss to coat with the tomato mixture and heat the noodles.
Pull from heat and stir in a chiffonade of fresh basil. Top with finely grated asiago or pecorino romano and dig in. Oh, and don’t forget the crusty bread. In fact this sauce is delicious scooped atop a slice of good artisanal bread, topped with some cheese and popped under the broiler. Or just eaten as is.