For almost as long as the husband and I have been together, we’ve made pizza from scratch on the weekends. Our first pizza was made in my tiny post-college apartment and baked on a cheap aluminum pizza pan from Big Lots. He used a crust recipe he found online. We topped it with canned sauce, pre-shredded mozzarella cheese and cheap pepperoni, and thought it was awesome. It had a thinner crust and was much less greasy than pizza shop pizza. Also, there’s just something satisfying about eating a pizza that you have made yourself, from scratch.
Over time, we graduated to a pizza stone and fresher ingredients. The husband has perfected his crust recipe. Usually, I’m the baker. But he always makes the pizza crust because he does it so well. We’ve both started playing with pizza toppings. We’ve made macaroni & cheese pizza, chili dog pizza, taco pizza, buffalo chicken pizza and used any number of traditional toppings in various combinations.
Usually, though, he makes a standard pepperoni or Genoa salami and cheese pizza. My usual go-to pizza was loosely inspired by Greek salad (incidentally, it’s one of the pictures in the rotating header for this blog). I use olive oil and thinly-sliced tomatoes as a base. Then, I top it with mozzarella and feta, onion, kalamata olives, pepperocini and a light sprinkle of lemon-pepper. No red sauce and generally no meat.
You see, I’m not a huge fan of traditional red tomato sauces. I very rarely eat spaghetti with marinara or anything similar. When making pizza, I often completely skip the red sauce. My favorite substitute is pesto, which brings me to this pizza. It is a thin, slightly crispy crust topped with pesto, freshly-roasted red peppers, mozzarella and lots of vegetables. This pizza is perfect for a warm day when a traditional pizza can seem too heavy. I made it for dinner last night and am already looking forward to the next time we make pizza so I can repeat it.
A quick note before I get to the actual recipe and method. The crust recipe will make 2 thin 12″ crusts. You can use the second crust to make another pizza, or freeze it for another day. As I previously mentioned, we use a pizza stone. Since the stone has to be be heated up gradually, I just left it in the oven while I roasted the peppers. Also, I would recommend prepping the pizza toppings while waiting for the dough to rise. That will make the whole process more efficient.
Pesto Pizza with Fresh Vegetables
Makes 1, 12″ pizza
For the crust:
1 c. warm water
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. white sugar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
3 c. bread flour
1 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper
For the sauce:
1 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dry oregano
1/8 c. pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
For the toppings:
1 tomato, sliced very thin
1/2 white onion, sliced very thin
1/2 c. baby spinach, washed
6-8 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into thick slices
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Make the crust
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer affixed with a dough hook, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Add sugar, olive oil and salt and combine. Add seasonings. Finally, add flour a little at a time until dough is thick.
3. Divide dough into 2 balls, coat each lightly with flour and set aside. Allow dough to rise until it has doubled, about one hour.
While the dough is rising, prepare the pesto and toppings
1. Preheat the broiler on your oven. Wash and chop all vegetables. Shred Parmesan cheese.
2. Place sliced red peppers on an unlined baking sheet and broil for 4-5 minutes. Flip peppers over and broil an additional 4-5 minutes. Place peppers in a tightly-sealed bag to steam for 20 minutes. Set aside.
3. Toast the pine nuts by placing them in a dry pan over medium heat. Gently shake the pan over heat for about 30 seconds, until nuts are lightly browned.
4. Make the pesto sauce. In a small food processor, combine basil, oregano, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Process until pureed, then grated add Parmesan. Set aside.
5. Finally, remove the peppers from their bag, peel them and set them aside.
By this time, your crust should be ready to finish
4. Reduce oven temperature to 500°.
5. Turn dough out onto a pizza stone and roll it out to about 1/2″ thickness. Bake for 3-4 minutes.
6. Remove pizza from oven. Spread with pesto sauce, sprinkle with cheese and arrange vegetables. Bake for an additional 5-6 minutes. Enjoy!