Category: Basil

Recipe: Fresh Mozzarella with Garlic, Tomato, Basil Sauce

Years ago, one of my favorite high school teachers, Mary Lagerwey, handed me the recipe below because she knew I liked (loved, really) basil.  


This recipe’s seen a lot of love.

I’ve made this recipe for the past 15 years since then, with a few changes.  After having children, I cut way back on the red pepper flakes, sometimes eliminating them altogether.  If I forgot to seed the parsley on time, we’d go without.   And in an unexpected (at least for me) turn of events, I became a garlic farmer, and this dish became flavorful in a way I never thought possible.  

Then, this year, I saw fresh mozzarella in the store and for some unknown reason I was brought back to my time with Dan in Italy eating fresh cheese and tomatoes and basil right off the street and I wanted that again.  Since a return trip to Italy isn’t in the budget (goodness, it was barely in the budget then–we were eating on the street!), I decided to use the tried and true tomato and fresh basil sauce from from Mrs. Lagerwey, bringing a little bit of Italy to our Indiana table.  And the dish turned out to be delizioso–perfetto–gustoso! (That’s all I’ve got.)

Start with your tomatoes.  I know the summer garden season is almost over, but you should still be able to nab a pound of ripe, juicy tomatoes from your garden or farmer’s market.  I like to use a variety of colors–red, yellow, Green Zebra green–for beauty and flavor.  Cut out the cores and seeds, toss them in the compost bucket, and chop the meat of the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces.  Set aside the chopped tomatoes in a bowl.

Next comes the garlic!  If you haven’t purchased any of our garlic yet, now’s the time to do so.  (Yes, that was a shameless plug. For real though, the fresher your ingredients, the better this dish will taste.) Mince 3-4 cloves of garlic, then toss it on top of the tomatoes.

Now for the herbs.  I used to be very particular about tearing my basil because long ago I read in one my herb books that cutting the leaves discolors them.  I used to follow such directions.  Three kids and vegetable farm later, I chop them quick as can be with my trusty chef’s knife.  So chop (or tear) one cup of loosely packed basil leaves and a half cup fresh parsley, then toss the chopped herbs onto the garlic and tomatoes.  

Add a half cup of olive oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes (or more, depending on your audience), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a decent amount of freshly ground pepper, and a half cup of freshly grated Parmesan to the tomato/garlic/herbs.  Toss this all together and let marinate for at least a half an hour, but preferably longer (if you can wait that long to eat this!).

When you’re ready to eat, slice a pound of fresh mozzarella, then lay the slices on a platter.  (I used to make my own mozzarella, but now–yes, three kids and a vegetable farm later–I buy it at Costco.)  Pour that lovely tomato-garlic-basil sauce over the tomatoes,  and sprinkle another quarter cup of freshly grated Parmesan over the top.  You can serve this with pasta, crackers or crusty bread, or we like to eat it as is.  Whatever you decide, enjoy!



Fresh Mozzarella with Garlic, Tomato, Basil Sauce
A delightful summer salad perfect for a quick dinner or party dish.
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  1. 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  2. 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  4. 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup olive oil
  6. 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  9. 3/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  10. 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  1. Remove cores and seeds from tomatoes. Chop the remaining tomato into 1-inch pieces. Set aside chopped tomatoes in a bowl.
  2. Add garlic, basil, and parsley to chopped tomatoes.
  3. Add red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup Parmesan to tomatoes. Toss ingredients together.
  4. Let marinate for a minimum of 1/2 hour, preferably 2 hours.
  5. Right before eating, slice 1 pound of fresh mozzarella. Arrange slices on platter.
  6. Pour garlic-tomato-basil sauce over mozzarella. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  7. Enjoy!
  1. Optional: Serve with pasta, crackers, or crusty bread.
Adapted from Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin
Adapted from Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin
Perkins' Good Earth Farm

Recipe: Poor Man’s Pesto

Sampler 1

In honor of this year’s garlic harvest (over 3,800 bulbs!), I’d like to share one of the Perkins’ household favorite garlic-infused recipes.  Pesto is one of our summertime last-minute go-to meals, a dish that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less, perfect for those days when we get so caught up working outside that we have neither the time nor the energy for much dinner prep.


I learned how to make pesto from Molly Katzen’s wonderful vegetarian Moosewood Cookbook Her recipe is simple, and I’ve since made it even simpler, perhaps to the dismay of any pesto aficionados out there.  In most cases, when someone refers to their pesto as belonging to the “poor man”, they replace expensive pine nuts with less expensive walnuts.  In this recipe, I get rid of the nuts altogether, combining the most simple of ingredients: basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and salt and pepper. 

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My children love this pesto tossed with pasta (and then doused with more parmesan), and Dan and I are so used to the pesto sans nuts by now that we don’t even notice their absence.  The best part: while you’re saving money making this recipe, you’re also creating a dish rich in the health benefits offered by the basil and garlic

Begin by boiling water for your pasta—spaghetti, linguine, rotini, whatever you have on hand.  (I used Aldi’s gluten-free fusilli.)

Place 3-4 cups of fresh basil leaves and 3-4 peeled Perkins’ Good Earth Farm garlic cloves in a food processor and run about 10 seconds.  Scrape the sides, then pulse until the basil and garlic are finely minced.

Next, while the food processor is running, drizzle in about 1/3 cup of olive oil until the ingredients are well-blended into a smooth paste.  Move the mixture into a bowl and add about 1/3 cup of grated or shredded parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste, toss with the hot pasta, and that’s it—you’re finished!


A note: Pesto is really easy to freeze and a delicious summer-reminiscent treat in the middle of winter.  I process only the basil and olive oil, then freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray for several hours before transferring the pesto cubes to a quart size freezer bag.  When I’m in the pesto mood come January, I thaw the cubes, then add the garlic, parmesan, and salt and pepper.

Photography and Food Styling:  Julie Oudman Perkins


Poor Man's Pesto
Serves 4
A simple pesto for a quick dinner.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 3-4 cups packed basil leaves
  2. 3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  3. 1/3 cup olive oil
  4. 1/3 cup parmesan, grated or shredded
  5. salt and pepper, to taste
  6. 12 oz pasta (spaghetti, linguine, rotini, etc.)
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Put basil and garlic in food processor. Run for about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and pulse until minced well.
  3. While the food processor is running, drizzle in olive oil until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Move the mixture to a bowl. Add parmesan, salt, and pepper.
  5. Toss the pesto with hot pasta and serve immediately.
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Perkins' Good Earth Farm
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