54 Leaf Basil Pesto

Fresh Picked Basil

For the record, there are only 27 leaves of basil in the colander pictured to the left. I sent the girls out of the house to collect 25 leaves of basil. They brought back 27. I realized that 27 leaves would certainly not be enough to make even a small batch of pesto. So I sent them back out to pick 25 more leaves. They returned with 27. Being a teacher, I had to turn this cooking session into a little bit more of a math problem, of course, so I asked them how many total leaves of basil do we have now. In unison, they turned to their brother, and asked, “Quinn, how much is 27 plus 27?” Quinn, ever ready for a good math problem, promptly replied, “54!” And so we made 54 Leaf Basil Pesto.

54 Leaf Basil Pesto

54 leaves of basil will get you about 1/2 of a pint of pesto. Basil is pretty easy to grow just about anywhere. However, to be honest, this is the first season that I have successfully grown basil here in North Carolina and it grew up in a random spot in my garden most likely due to compost, not because I actually planted it there myself. So be it. My basil plant is absolutely huge. The bees love to visit it and I love to have the bees constantly visiting my garden. It’s a win-win. If you grow basil, try to keep pruning it back so that it doesn’t start to flower on top – I just break off the tops and toss them into the garden if things start looking out of control. Or, like today, make 54 leaf basil pesto.

Basil, walnuts, garlic, cheese … pulse

To make pesto, all you need is a food processor and your basic pesto ingredients: basil, garlic, some dry cheese (romano, parmesan, etc.), salt, a few nuts (optional – I used walnuts today), and olive oil.


Add 3 cloves of garlic, 54 leaves of basil, a handful of shaved cheese, and about 8 to 10 walnuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it a few times. Add some olive oil – probably a few tablespoons to start – about one or two pours. Pulse it some more.

Pesto is one of those things that you have to make without measurements. You need to look at it and ask yourself, does this look like chopped basil or does this look like pesto? If it still looks like chopped basil, pulse it some more and add more olive oil. You must taste it a few times to know how much salt to add. The genovese style of basil is probably the most common type of basil you will see around. If you let your basil get overgrown, your leaves might taste a little bit bitter and need a bit of extra salt to balance out the flavors. After you have added your first round of olive oil and tasted it once, add a little bit of salt. Decide if you need to add more olive oil. Pulse it some more. Add more salt if necessary.

Kitchen shears are a must-have for cutting up pizza!

We used part of our pesto on a delicious gluten-free pizza crust from Udi’s. Yum. And the rest I quickly put into a small container in the fridge so that I would stop eating it right out of food processor. Pesto is great on sandwiches, on pizza crust, served with crackers, as a dip for bread or veggies. Delicious! Enjoy.

Fun fact for the day Does it matter what type of salt you use? Yes, it does! I used fine sea salt to make this pesto. You never want to use coarse sea salt as an additive in something like pesto. Coarse sea salt is best used when you are going to season something and serve it right away. If you season something with coarse sea salt and then let it sit for a while, the coarse sea salt will dissolve over time and make your food saltier than you intended. (Just in case you ever find yourself on CHOPPED or The Next Food Network Star being interviewed by Alton Brown … now you know.)  

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Erin Brighton

I am a native New Englander now living in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoying summers in sea-breezy Scituate, Massachusetts with my five small kids and two large dogs. I love to cook easy, local, and gluten-free for friends and family.

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