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I've made pizza from scratch (dough and sauce) a few times, turns out great. I want to try fresh basil on it. Current recipe: Oven, 425° F: blind bake crust 10 minutes, add tomato sauce & fresh mozzarella, cook another 10 minutes. When would be a good time to add fresh basil? With the cheese? 5 minutes later? After it is done?

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  • Basil is quite heat sensitive. Unlike e.g. thyme or rosemary.
    – Michael
    Sep 20 at 13:52
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    Since the same recipe will produce different responses almost from identical twins, why not try it for yourself and ask your companions to judge? Make several pizzas, with basil added at each stage… make one with extra basil added at every stage, why not? Sep 25 at 21:58
  • For those who mentioned that my temperature was too low, I just realized I put in the wrong temperature in my original post. I have updated it to the correct value. Sep 30 at 15:36
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I cast fresh basil leaves immediately after removing the pizza from the oven. I have found that cooking them with the pizza tends to reduce some (a lot) of the basil scent and flavour.

For dried basil, I can't say as I don't use it.

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  • 1
    I actually posted the question... when the pie was in the oven. I put some on 5 minutes before it was done, and some on fresh out of the oven. Definitely best after it is done; looks much better, and more flavor. Thanks! Sep 19 at 20:50
  • That's how good pizzerias do it as well. Out of oven, throw fresh basil on top, serve.
    – MaxD
    Sep 20 at 16:44
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    @MaxD Basil usually goes on before baking in the traditional Neapolitan style, so a "good" pizzeria would usually put it on before, but those ovens run at 400C+ and the pies only bake for about 90 seconds - a home oven can't reach that temperature so it's definitely an after in that case. Some pizzerias also add additional fresh basil after cooking, but there's usually some that goes on before as well.
    – J...
    Sep 20 at 18:05
  • Basil goes black and crisp very quickly when it's cooked, so it looks much more appealing if it goes on after cooking, as well as having more flavor. (If finely chopped and mixed with sauce, the aesthetics doesn't matter as much.)
    – Stuart F
    Sep 22 at 9:42
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I like to cut it with scissors and mix it into the sauce so that it gets cooked a bit. The heat releases the classic Italian flavours and aroma.

Also: it depends on the age of the plant, but mature basil has a stronger aroma and can have a bitter cinnamon-like flavour before it's cooked. I'm just guessing by the current time of year that your basil might have reached this phase.

If it has, I would definitely make sure that it's cooked with the sauce, either on the pizza itself during bake or before the sauce goes on.

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Fresh basil on a pizza absolutely can't go in the oven - at that point you have dried basil, which is of course still fine, but loses the point of using the fresh basil. As ChalkTalk mentions, if you have basil that is not really able to serve as "fresh basil" anymore, then that's fine, but I encourage you to use fresh, sweet basil if possible.

I use both dried and fresh in pizzas:

  • Dried basil in the sauce (added when cooking the sauce, or if using a prepared sauce from the store, added to it before applying to the pizza). Adding dried basil to store-bought sauces is often a good way to make them a bit better!
  • Fresh basil, cut in thin strips (roll the basil, then cut across the roll in the shorter dimension - this is called chiffonade), scattered on top of the pizza immediately before serving. This was the style of one of my favorite lunch places a decade or so ago, and I do it at home as a result. Adding it to the top just as you serve it means you get the aroma of the basil as you take your first bite!
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  • You can also use fresh in the sauce if you have it
    – Chris H
    Sep 20 at 15:51
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    You can, but I find dried (good quality dried!) is better in the sauce.
    – Joe M
    Sep 20 at 16:59
  • I put fresh and dried in the sauce, and then fresh on top. I've yet to eat anything that I felt had too much basil in it. Sep 22 at 2:58
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The answer is, it depends on the cooking method and the type of oven being used.

If you are using a woodfired oven at 400c + then you absolutely can put the basil on before it is cooked, the pizza will be in the oven for around 60-90 seconds and the basil can remain relatively fresh.

In a home oven at 200c (or thereabouts) where you are cooking the pizza for longer then you could add it at the same time as the cheese so its mainly covered up or close to the end of the cooking time to let some of the flavour infuse with the pizza toppings.

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10 minutes pre-bake plus 10 minutes afterwards seems like way too long for pizza. After ten minutes the cheese will be brown and cooked to a texture something like chewing gum.

The crust+sauce can cook together (on the top shelf) for ~3 min @ 280C (550F), which is as hot as a domestic oven usually gets. For good pizza you want the oven as hot as you can possibly make it. The cheese can then go on for another 2-3 minutes afterwards. For a home oven, add the basil at the end - the cooking time, even at 5-6 minutes, is too long for fresh basil to survive.

You can even shorten the cooking time somewhat (to ~4 minutes) and put the cheese on at the start - then finish the top with a blowtorch (and add basil afterwards). This is about as close to a real pizza-oven result as you can get with nothing but a regular domestic oven.

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  • Sorry, I didn't put the temperature in my original question; I've edited it to mention it bakes at 350° F. Good tips on timing and temperature. Sep 20 at 15:50
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    @MarkStewart Yeah, crank that temperature up. You're not reheating a frozen half-cooked pizza here - it needs to be hot and fast.
    – J...
    Sep 20 at 15:52
  • @j Well, the first several times I made it, I did 425° F. and the last time I accidently did 350° F. and wondered what was taking so long! It actually turned out pretty good regardless. I updated my question to be the correct temperature. Sep 30 at 15:40
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For a pizza neapoletana the official recipe of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) and the nearly identical EU traditional specialty registration leave no doubt that the basil needs to be placed on the pizza before baking. Stating: "The basil, garlic and the oregano will develop an intense aroma, and will appear brown, but not burned" after baking.

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  • Nice links! I'll try to ensure my next pizza is 35 cm in diameter... and the other requirements... I actually do use Tipo 00 flour, so I got one thing right. Sep 30 at 22:33
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fresh leaves should go definitely after bakingor they'd dry out. Another option can be to pre-cook your tomato sauce with your favorite flavors (the stems of the basil itself for example and/or garlic according to taste) that are eventually removed before topping your dough.

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