The word basil means ‘king’ in the Greek language, and this seems to be a very apt name for the herb that is considered by many the focal point of the Italian cuisine. There are several basil types – sweet basil is used in the Italian kitchen, but Thai, lemon and holy basil are common in Asia. You might be surprised to find out that basil originated in India, and was brought to Italy via the spice route during ancient times. Once picked, basil doesn’t really store well, so it is best to buy just a small amount you will use within a day or two. Dried basil loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains, tastes more like hay. When cooking with basil, add it in during the last few minutes to keep its flavor. It can be chopped and sprinkled over baked dishes, but basil is at its best when it is used in dishes containing tomato.
2 tins (à 400 gr/14 oz) canned tomatoes
2-4 garlic cloves
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
2-4 dry chilis
2 packs of mozzarella
100 gr/3.5 oz parmigiano
fresh basil leaves
Put the tomatoes with their own juices into a pan together with garlic, sugar, salt and chili. Cook over a very low heat for about 30 minutes without stirring. With the help of a wooden spoon, mash the tomatoes and cook further for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool. Stir in the olive oil.
Prepare your own gnocchi, or boil readily made gnocchi in a pot filled with salted boiling water for about 3 minutes until the gnocchi come to the surface.
Mix the boiled gnocchi with half the tomato sauce and half the parmigiano. Put this mixture into a deep oven tray and add a layer of thinly sliced mozzarella on top. Add a layer of fresh basil leaves covering the mozzarella slices completely. Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce on the mixture making sure that the basil leaves are covered. Add the remainder of the parmigiano on top. Bake in the oven, preheated to 200C/390F, for about 10-20 minutes. Garnish each plate with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.