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Pesto's value immeasurable -- and it's easy to make
By Beverly Mills with Alicia Ross | Desperation Dinners

Pesto is a great way to make use of the season's freshest basil.


Courtesy of Alicia Ross

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Published: 7/21/2010 12:00 AM

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I call homemade pesto Green Gold. Just a dab can transform plain pasta, make for a perfect pizza, and crown a serving of soup.

This time of year, it's easy to find fat bunches of fresh basil in the produce section of large supermarkets or at farmers markets. Or perhaps the basil in your garden is ready for harvest!

Whipping together our 20-minute pesto is deceptively easy, and all the while, the amazing aroma of fresh basil will permeate your house and make you feel like a kitchen diva.

There's a trick to streamlining the pesto process. The only annoying part is cleaning the basil and stripping the leaves from the stalks. First, working in batches, stick the stems into a colander and spray with cool tap water. Shake off the excess water, and then quickly pluck off the leaves and throw them into a salad spinner. Spin until the leaves are quite dry, then add the leaves to the garlic in the processor bowl. Keep washing, plucking, and spinning until all of the basil is done. Using the spinner, this task will go quicker than you think. (For more on salad spinners, visit our website,

Homemade pesto is more intense and flavorful than prepared pesto from the supermarket and a bit thicker as well. It might seem as if the three-quarters of a cup yield isn't very much, but with this recipe, a little bit goes a long way. For most recipes, you'll want to stretch the pesto with a bit more olive oil. This can be done before or after the pesto is stored, but we prefer to do it afterward so the pesto can be tailored to suit a specific recipe.

And please stay tuned for next week's column, which will feature a pasta recipe using your very own Green Gold!

• Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of Desperation Dinners!" Write them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or More at the Desperation Dinners website,