This pesto pizza recipe was rustled up last weekend as September came to a close. Nudging into October with a chill in the air, the last remaining basil plant on my windowsill was beginning to look a little tired. It seemed like the time was right to strip it of its leaves and while pesto may seem like a somewhat unimaginative option, here's a little recipe that, if you try it, I'm convinced you won't find boring. It is based on a dish from this book by Jack Bishop, a book that's not at all new but which I seem to have come upon late I guess.
A simple but flavorsome homemade pesto is stirred into fresh ricotta to create a light and beautiful topping for a tomato-less pizza with a creamy pesto sauce. I would call it a white pizza but as you can see it's not exactly white. It is delicious though and certainly fabulous as an appetizer or with a salad as a main dish. Though simple, it tastes rather special and definitely good enough to make for friends for a casual dinner washed down with plenty of wine.
1 ball of pizza dough, enough for one 12 inch pizza. Use about half a quantity of this recipe
1 cup/30g of fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons of walnuts
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup/30g of grated parmesan or similar vegetarian cheese
½ cup/110g ricotta
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place your pizza stone in the oven and heat to its maximum temperature. For most domestic ovens, this is typically 500F or 250C. Make sure you heat the stone for a minimum of 30 minutes before you cook your pie.
While the oven is heating, place the basil, walnuts, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and grind until quite smooth. I have a long-serving work-horse of a food processor (this one, if you are interested). It has an almost impossibly strong motor which allows me to be very lazy with no pre-chopping or adding in stages but if your processor is not the strongest, you may need to process the basil, walnuts and garlic before adding the oil. You also may need to roughly chop the garlic first. Once the basil, walnuts, garlic and oil and well minced, scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the grated parmesan.
Finally add the ricotta and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stretch and shape the dough to a circle with a diameter of about 12 inches and place on a pizza peel which has been well dusted with cornmeal or flour. Prick the dough in several places with a fork. This is important because the crust will need to be baked on its own for a few minutes before adding the topping. Pricking it with a fork will prevent it from puffing up too much when baked. Slide the pizza base onto the heated pizza stone and bake until beginning to turn a light golden colour. This took about 5 minutes in my oven. Remove from the oven and spread the basil-ricotta mixture all over the crust, leaving a small border at the edge. Return to the oven and warm through for a minute or two before serving.
A pizza peel is essential if you are serious about good pizza. This article gives lots of helpful advice about using a pizza peel to make authentic pizza. There's also pointers on choosing the best pizza peel for a domestic kitchen and tips on using it.
Possibly my most revered piece of kitchen equipment. Here are some tips on choosing the best stone for your oven, how to use it and how to look after it so that it will give you years of service and years of perfect crusts.