Dana Slatkin

1-Minute Basil Pesto and Ricotta Cheese with Warm Ciabatta Bread

Basil Pesto with Ricotta Cheese and Ciabatta Bread

This week, my garden is a basil bonanza. The fragrant green and deep purple sprigs dot the sunny patch by my greenhouse, a French Impressionist’s fantasy. They’re pretty enough to adorn a table but, for the next few weeks, they are destined to go into this addictive pesto.

There are several types of edible basil — Sweet (the most common), Lemon, Cinnamon, Purple, and Thai. Keep a potted plant in a sunny corner of your kitchen for an instant flavor boost. You can even use it as an outdoor centerpiece to keep the yellow jackets away from your picnic. Mother Nature has programmed the plant to begin flowering once it has six pairs of leaves on a stalk, so pick the leaves well before, harvesting them every three weeks or so. Store them unwashed in a perforated plastic bag at room temperature (they will only last a few days if stored in the refrigerator).

In this recipe, the creamy ricotta cheese tempers the bite of the raw garlic, as would a mild goat cheese or plain yogurt. Experiment with different variations on the theme, substituting mint or spinach for part of the basil, and walnuts or pistachios for the pine nuts. This pesto is also delicious on raw or roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes, grilled fish, quinoa, and, of course, pasta.

Got more basil to spare? Try it in a delicious Spring Green Farro Risotto.

Still two weeks left to enter our our June cooking contest — send us your best outdoor grilling recipe to win a copy of my cookbook, and other cool prizes!

Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger

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