One thing I knew I was going to miss for sure when I gave up dairy was pizza. I didn’t want to give up gooey melted cheese on pizza; I just couldn’t imagine a lifetime of cheese-less pizza.
In the years since I’ve been trying to eat a wholly plant-based diet, I’ve eaten a lot of cheese-less pizza; some were just meh but I’ve had exceptional pizza too. I’ve eaten pizza so wonderful I hardly thought of the cheese it didn’t have, or it could be that I’ve forgotten the taste of cheese on pizza. Still, there are many inspiring alternatives to the traditional flatbread.
One very delicious way I make pizza these days is use pesto as the base and pile on a ton of fresh tasty vegetables. The result is an incredibly wonderful savoury pie we can’t get enough of, even the pepperoni and cheese folk love it!
Our neighbourhood farmers’ market started up again for the season. Everything looks crisp and juicy and I suddenly feel inspired to cook more. I make pesto too, lots of pesto from leftover herbs of other recipes. I constantly have bits of parsley, cilantro, mint, etc. in the crisper, and because I hate wasting food, I make pesto.
I love having pesto around, it’s versatile and it makes me feel like perhaps I’ll never go hungry again as long as I have pesto.
We had crazy heavy rains a few weekends when some friends were visiting from out of town. Luckily, they were happy staying dry indoors, so we hung out for hours drinking cups of fragrant verbena and mint tea. For lunch, I got out some dough, stretched it out thin, slathered pesto on top, added some chopped veggies – and voila, we had lunch – herb pesto vegetable pizza! It’s light yet substantial enough for an afternoon meal.
I love this pizza for its unfussiness, there are so many ways you could go with it. It’s a breeze to put together if your dough is premade and your veggies are prepared in advance. Regard this recipe as a guide, and feel free to use whatever herbs you have or prefer. Same go for the nuts, walnuts work superbly too. Use store-bought dough or pesto even, and choose veggies you like. Several weeks back, we made a thin rustic pie with basil walnut pesto, artichokes, capers and sliced onions and peppers. We’ve also been known to mix pesto and a little bit of tomato sauce on our pizza!
PS: There are two recipes below.
- 1 cup toasted almonds
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 cups mix of fresh parsley and cilantro leaves (or basil, mint, chives, etc)
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin, optional
- Pinch of ginger, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 2/3 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover pesto for storing
- Combine almonds, garlic, parsley and cilantro mix, and rosemary in a food processor
- Add sun-dried tomatoes, cumin, ginger, pepper flakes and salt, process to mix and form a coarse paste
- While food processor is running, drizzle olive oil through feed tube
- Process well to combine – you can make the pesto as coarse or as smooth as you prefer
- Taste, check seasoning and adjust as desired
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees f.)
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (or “00” flour if you can find some)
- Herbed Pesto
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 cup sweet corn, optional
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt to taste
- In a large bowl, add water and sprinkle with yeast, let mixture sit and proof, until it dissolves and gets foamy, about 5 minutes
- Add oil and stir in sugar and salt
- Add flour and stir with a wooden spatula to form sticky dough
- Oil another large bowl lightly with olive oil and transfer dough to oiled bowl
- Cover bowl and let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour
- Turn dough on to a lightly floured work-surface and knead dough until it becomes smooth and elastic
- Divide dough into two equal pieces to make two pizzas
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil baking sheet lightly and sprinkle with a little flour and cornmeal (or use a baking stone if you have one)
- Stretch or flatten dough and roll (using a rolling pin) to about 12 inches round
- Brush with a little olive oil and spread 3 – 4 or more tablespoons pesto on dough surface
- Top with prepared vegetables, sprinkle with pepper flakes and or salt as desired
- Bake pizza for 15 – 20 minutes until crust is crisp and browned lightly
- Prep second dough while pizza is baking or freeze to use later
- Let pizza cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a board, cut into slices and serve