“And they say pesto, pesto, pesto” — adapted from Michael Buble’s “Cuando, Cuando, Cuando.”
In the spirit of this post from the lovely Ree Drummond (a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, whose show you should watch and blog you should read. ‘Nuff said), I’ve been on a basil and pesto kick lately. And how could I not be? My basil, shockingly for this whatever-the-opposite-of-a-green-thumb-is lady, is abundant and so, so fragrant. Mmmmm!
Pesto, for the non-Italians, actually comes from Northern Italy’s region of Liguria — specifically, the city of Genoa. Check out this sweet map. What up, MS Paint arrow:
Its combination of basil, parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil, and seasoning makes pesto an easy and deeee-LICIOUS sauce with Mediterranean flair and earthy flavor. Killer combination of tastes = one of my favorite toppers for pasta, pizza or, um, pretty much anything. Here are some easy-peasy pesto directions if you’re making it at home (note: this is enough for 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sauce:
- Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts (though I used walnuts recently, and they were molto bene), and some salt & pepper (to taste) to a food processor or blender. Process / Blend at full blast. (WOOOOO! Listen to the whirring noises!)
- Slowly add olive oil to the mixture as it blends, or add a splash or two of oil and pulse the sauce in your food processor until the pesto reaches a consistency that you like.
- Eat. Ideally in something else, but I won’t judge you if you eat it with a spoon. Not one bit. 🙂
So how can you use this nectar of the Roman (Er … Ligurian?) Gods? Here are a few ideas that I love:
- Mix your pesto with mayonnaise, then spread on a grilled cheese sandwich or panini.
- Dress a pasta salad of whole wheat penne, peas, grape tomatoes and parmesan with pesto. Mix thoroughly for super-tastiness.
- Stir a little pesto into your favorite tomato-based pasta sauces.
- Try mixing pesto into unconventional combinations, like with scrambled eggs or as a garnish / topping on a grilled steak.
- PIZZA! Pizza, pizza, pizza.
I love making pesto pizza — when I did a volunteer teaching program a few years ago, my housemates and I would often whip up this easy pesto pizza for Community dinner in 30 minutes flat. If you have homemade pesto or just bought a jar of the pre-made stuff (still delicious, by the way — no shame in a little convenience), here’s a vegetarian-friendly dinnertime treat for you.
“Community Living” Pesto Pizza — serves 4. Easily doubled or tripled!
- 1 batch pizza dough, or 1 store-bought pizza dough (wheat dough is especially good here)
- 1 jar pesto sauce, or 1 batch homemade pesto
- 1 small bag shredded mozzarella cheese, or 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
- 1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Basil and parmesan for garnishing
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If you like to use a pizza stone, allow the stone to heat in the oven as well.
- Roll out your dough to the desired size, and place on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel. (A cutting board works just as well!)
- Spread the dough with pesto sauce, in an amount that you prefer. Top with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, parmesan and torn basil leaves / up to 1 tsp dried basil.
- “Shimmy” the dough onto the stone by shaking it off of your peel / cutting board. Quickly close the oven and allow the pizza to bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has bubbled and browned to your liking.
- Eat. A lot. I also wouldn’t judge you if you ate the entire pizza yourself. Have I done that before? Um …. [she said, glancing awkwardly around the room.]
- Note: This pizza can easily be vegan with an alternative crust (cauliflower is popular right now), a cheese-free pesto (use a little Bragg’s nutritional yeast to add salt & flavor), and dairy-free cheese. To add a meat-lover’s twist, try adding grilled chicken or even sauteed shrimp to a smidgen of pesto sauce, then spread on TOP of the tomatoes before baking.
Are you guys and gals “pesto people?” How do you like to use pesto sauce? Do you make your own, or prefer jarred sauces? What else might you add to a pesto pizza?