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Napoletano basil has large, light green, ruffled leaves that grow in an alternating pattern along the stems. The leaves have a crinkled appearance and measure an average of 12 centimeters long and 7 centimeters across. The thick leaves are roughly spear-shaped and offer a strong, slightly sweet camphorous basil aroma. Napoletano basil offers a mild, yet slightly spicy, traditional anise flavor.
Napoletano basil is available year-round with a peak season in the late spring and summer months.
Napoletano basil is a variety of Ocimum basilicum, or sweet basil, that is prized for its strong, traditional basil flavor. The variety has the largest leaves of any basil type and is a preferred variety for making pesto. Napoletano is Italian for Neapolitan, which alludes to its Naples origin. It is often referred to simply as Italian Large Leaf basil, or Lettuce leaf basil for its size.
Napoletano basil is rich in vitamin K and offers high amounts of vitamins A and C. It is a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and folate. Basil provides antioxidant benefits in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, and contains the volatile oils linalool, eugenol, and methyl eugenol. Unique to this variety is the presence of estragole, which gives Napoletano basil its mild anise scent and flavor. It provides both antibiotic and antibacterial benefits. Basil has also been shown to have carminative properties, which can be helpful in relieving gas and bloating.
Napoletano basil can be used in both raw and cooked applications. Use freshly rinsed leaves as wraps for canapes or appetizers. Wrap fresh mozzarella and ripe tomatoes in the larger leaves or use them for wrapping poultry or fish. The large-leafed variety is highly recommended for use in pesto. Substitute Napoletano basil in recipes calling for other sweet basil types. Add fresh or dried leaves to soups, sauces, dressings, marinades or pasta dishes. To store Napoletano basil in the refrigerator, place cut stems in a glass of water and loosely cover with a bag. Dry leaves to preserve or place chopped basil in oil and refrigerate.
In Italy, Napoletano basil is referred to as ‘bolloso’, for the blistered appearance of its large leaves. Naples is in the Campania region, additionally well-known for its production of buffalo mozzarella, which is made from the milk of the water buffalo. The cheese, which earned a ‘protected designation of origin’ in 1981, is often served wrapped in the large, ruffled, Napoletano basil leaves.
Napoletano basil is an heirloom variety native to Naples, Italy. Napoletano basil was first offered by the Italian seed company, Franchi Sementi, and is more common in Europe. Napoletano basil is slow to bolt, meaning it has a longer harvesting season than other varieties. It can be spotted throughout Europe and may be found at farmer’s markets in temperate regions of the United States.