Saturday, April 4, 2009

Basil, Tomato and Pasta a la Pete!

The basil in my garden
This year I’ve had an abundance of basil in my garden. I’ve made quite a bit of pesto, which is a labour intensive procedure even with a food processor. I’ve used basil in every salad and sauce containing tomatoes and even in some without!

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a tender low-growing herb that is grown as a perrenial in warm, tropical climates. Basil is originally native to Iran, India and Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. There are many varieties of basil. That which is used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil. This is the variety I have in my garden at the moment. (Note: Because we experience frost, I'm only able to grow annual basil. I am busy propagating a slip, received from Pete, in a pot here in my office)
Recently we visited very dear friends of ours, Pete and Mart, who owned a guest house in the Southern Cape. Mart has been in the hospitality business for almost two decades. She and Pete bought and renovated this guest house in 2005, shortly after their marriage. Pete is very gregarious and loves entertaining so between them have made a great success of their venture.
Pete is also a gourmet cook, and while he only supplies breakfast to guests in their establishment, he loves to treat his private guests (such as we are!) to simple but tasty meals. Although his cooking repertoire is varied, Pete favors Italian cuisine. We’ve enjoyed many a delicious pasta or polenta dish while visiting. His methods are always simple so I often watch him, asking questions about seasoning and herbs, and can recreate his dishes with ease.

When the tomatoes take on a creamy texture, you can add the basil and olives

On this last visit we arrived to find a be-apronned Pete standing at the stove sautéing chopped garlic in a wok. In a saucepan alongside, he had a pot of spaghetti bubbling away. When we sat down to the meal, it was every bit as memorable as all his dishes are.

I’ve made this recipe several times when we’ve had the family for dinner. and it's always a hit.

Spaghetti with sautéed tomato and basil a la Pete
(Serves 6)
500g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 cups of basil leaves, washed
12 olives
62.5 ml olive oil
500g spaghetti

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a wok, add garlic and fry until brown.
Add tomatoes; stir gently until they become creamy
Season with salt and ground black pepper
Add basil leaves and olives and heat through
Pour boiling water over the spaghetti, drain and set out onto plates
Top with tomato bake and a sprinkling of Parmesan


  1. That looks absolutely delicious, Jo - & so easy to throw together, too. I have had much success here with growing the Margaret Roberts purple basil (bought in SA) in pots. But then we don't get frost here.

  2. Pete's recipe is one of my favorites! I got it from a Nigella Lawson show. The hardest part is getting good cherry tomatoes.
    I'm dying for fresh basil, can't wait!

  3. It is easy and absolutely delicious Lynda. I planted the purple basil and the sacred basil this summer along with sweet basil but only had success with the latter. You are blessed to live in a frost free region! Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs Jo

  4. Aha, Dedene, now I know where Pete got it from. He is an Nigella fan;) Yes, it is delicious. We get cherry tomatoes right through the year but they are VERY expensive. Trust you are having a wonderful weekend. Hugs Jo

  5. I adore basil - it's a favorite in my garden. Genovese is what I enjoy the most, but I grew some Greek basil a few years ago that was wonderful. I love to go sit in the garden and surround myself by it's intoxicating aroma.

  6. Yes, flmom, the aroma is just the best ever. I've never heard of Genovese. I'm growing a perennial plant (from a slip obtained from our friend, Pete) indoors. If I'm successful, I'll do a post on it! Thanks for popping in. Hugs Jo


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