You may find yourself looking for Italian basil in the grocery store after discovering a delicious sounding recipe that calls for it. However, you may have trouble finding it. Italian basil is not a real cultivar (by cultivar I mean “cultural variety”) of basil. “Italian basil” a general term for the types of basil that may be used in Italian cooking. The two types of basil cultivars that are used in Italian cooking include Sweet Basil, the most common cultivar, and Genovese Basil. Either one may be used for the preparation of pesto, a common food used in Italian cooking, although many people prefer the taste of Genovese basil for pesto. The flavor of Genovese Basil has been regarded as having hints of mint and clove, while being peppery and spicy.
Most grocery stores will carry fresh Sweet Basil only, so if you want that authentic Italian experience you may need to consider growing basil yourself in the garden. You can find Genovese Basil seeds online or at your local nursery. Most home and garden retailers will carry them.