I love adding fresh sweet basil to my Italian food but sadly, basil is one of the few herbs that doesn’t survive through the winter in our garden. It often drops enough seeds that it will come back in the spring. If not, we buy a plant and I can’t wait until it’s mature enough to pluck off some leaves to chop up and sprinkle on my pasta. Two years ago a fellow basil lover shared a little secret with me: basil can be frozen with extra virgin olive oil to make basil cubes! I’ve never tried drying basil, but freezing it is great way to preserve fresh basil and save it for cooking through the winter.
Before the first frost warning, I start by cutting back most of the basil plant. I left one branch with flowers and seeds on the plant.
Then I chop it up pretty fine. I used the food processor / blender for the second batch and it worked a lot better. If the leaf pieces are too big they wont stick together enough to freeze with the e.v.o.o.
Mix the chopped basil with extra virgin olive oil. (Again, chopped finer than this is better.)
Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray, packing it pretty tightly.
After the cubes are frozen—I waited until the next day—they’re ready to be popped out of the ice cube tray. I used a knife to loosen the edges of the basil cubes from the tray and flipped them on to a piece of wax paper. The olive oil melts pretty quickly so work fast.
I store my basil cubes in a couple of layers of zip lock bags and stick them back in the freezer.
To use the basil cubes, I toss them in with pasta sauce as it’s cooking or heating. It would probably work to put one in with hot, cooked pasta too. It doesn’t take much for the e.v.o.o. to melt. Not as good as freshly picked basil but it’ll get me through the winter!