I'm making my own pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes but unfortunately Italian basil (ocimum basilicum pilosum) is not widely available in my country. Here are my options:

  • leave it out entirely (so the sauce will only contain garlic, onion, tomatoes, evoo and salt
  • replace with indian holy basil or tulsi (ocimum tenuiflorum) which is widely available - even have some in the garden
  • try to make up flavour with dried herbs (I only have oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme in my pantry) for this option can someone please recommended an appropriate flavour combination of these dried herbs for 2 pounds (1kg) of fresh tomatoes? E.g 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp sage, etc. I'm not familiar with their flavours and don't know how to combine them properly
  • also have chilli flakes so could try making an arrabiatta (sp?) style sauce - does this require basil?
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    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 8:33
  • 2
    Based on the responses below (one is mine), I am not sure that this question is appropriate for this forum. There is not one "authentic" pasta sauce. Pasta sauces in Italy are specific to the dish and to the region. The possible responses are too broad. Any variation of your suggestions above will make a perfectly adequate sauce for pasta. However, below, we have an admitted novice providing suggestions for an "authentic" sauce and a suggestion for a version of a Bolognese sounding sauce. Again, both probably delicious, but "authentic" is going to be hard to pin down in this case.
    – moscafj
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 2:59
  • 1
    I'm not familiar with 'holy basil', but many people in America use 'sweet basil' when making Italian food ... but 'sweet basil' is actually from India : healthresearchfunding.org/… . If the only difference is the peppery quality that the site mentions, I suspect it would be a fine substitution.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:49
  • I second Joe's suggestion to try Indian holy basil. It's a cultivar of sweet basil and should work just fine. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 21:30

4 Answers 4


Okay so let me first say I'm a novice with Italian food. However I have faced the exact same issue.

Follow these steps that I've created:

  1. Put a teaspoon of dried rosemary in a mug of water and microwave for two minutes. Pour the water into the sauce. Discard or re-dry the rosemary sticks.
  2. Put a tspn of dried oregano straight into the sauce.
  3. A pinch of sage OR thyme won't hurt but a tiny, tiny pinch.
  4. Add the Tulsi - one handful of the leaves or more - it will be fine, trust me. Just make sure there's nothing sweet in the sauce as it'll make it taste a tad Thai.

And yes - lots of garlic!! Always garlic


As passed down from my very Italian Godmother...

Start by browning a few pounds of pork shoulder or other pork as per personal preference.

A good half dozen cloves of garlic, smashed, no need to brown.

A big fist full of parsley. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned parsley. as far as basil or other herbs we never used anything but parsley.

Put everything in a large cook pot and add canned or fresh tomatoes, leave a few inches of space at the top.

Add one small can of tomato paste.

Simmer for at least a couple of hours or all afternoon. Add meatballs about an hour before you are ready to serve.

Endorsed by an ethnic Italian as being as good as his Grandma's.


If you are making your pasta sauce to use it immediately, I'm sorry, but there isn't a real replacement for basil. I have a basil plant in my garden but I use it only in right season when it grows. When is winter and the basil plant is died, I don't make a sauce that requires basil, I make another sauce.

Instaed if you are making jars of pasta sauce, you could simply fill the jar with sauce without basil, and later when you'll want to use it you can heat up the sauce adding some dryed basil.


A typical, basic Italian tomato sauce is made with canned (preferably San Marzano) tomatoes. It is simply made. Saute some onion, with some garlic (not a lot...one or two cloves, sliced, per 28oz can of tomatoes), half a grated carrot (to balance acidity of tomato), some herb (I prefer thyme, but oregano or marjoram are fine). Don't let the onion and garlic brown too much. A little on the edges is fine. Then add hand crushed tomato and cook for 20 - 30 minutes. This basic sauce then becomes the ingredient for a variety of Italian dishes. From there it really depends on what kind of pasta (or other) dish you want to make. Basil, you see, is not even necessary. Fresh tomatoes will work, but it will produce a slightly different tasting sauce, without the depth of tomato flavor and umami that you get from canned. When fresh tomatoes are in season, most authentic Italian recipes use them raw...or tossed into something hot.

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