Week 10: Zest

In bad times and in good, I’ve never lost my sense of zest for pizza.

~ Walt Disney (roughly transcribed)
zesty pizza with basil pesto, artichokes, Kalamata olives, mozzarella cheese, peppers, garlic, and onions

Hallelujah, Basil is in Season

We thought we would have to wait a few more weeks for basil to be in season. But we found a big container of fresh, emerald green basil nestled in a corner at Whole Foods, between bagged lettuce and boxed zucchini noodles. Hallelujah! We knew we had to scrap our earlier plan and make a pesto pizza.

Baking tray with two zesty pizzas primed for the oven
Two zesty pizzas primed for the oven

Zesty Pesto

One of the guidelines we set for ourselves in this year of making a pizza a week was not to make more than 2 pizzas from one source. This week we broke that rule because we were excited to try the zesty pesto recipe from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza book.

We’ve made several of her other pizzas and so far hers is the only book on vegan pizza that we’ve been able to find. If you know of any others, please let us know. We did add our own twist and toppings.

fresh basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor
Fresh basil and garlic


4 oz. fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry with a paper towel or spun in a salad spinner
1/3 cup raw walnuts (you can also use pine nuts, pecans, or mac nuts)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, nuts, garlic, nut yeast, and salt. Pulse to combine. Drizzle the oil in through the top of the food processor. Process until smooth.

You can make the pesto ahead and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. This recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. (We made 1 medium and 1 small pizza. I ate the rest of the pesto smeared on a toasted whole wheat tortilla for lunch the next day and it was delicious.)

Putting it All Together

This is a simple pizza to assemble. You can use any veggies you have on hand. We went for a Mediterranean taste with:

Kalamata olives, sliced in half. We found this to be the perfect bite size for these taste zingers.
Peppers, about 1/3 a large pepper, diced small
Artichoke hearts. We used some Spanish artichoke hearts that were stored in oil and herbs along with some quartered artichoke hearts from a can.
Onions, Garlic, Salt and Pepper In our opinion, these 4 ingredients belong on every pizza.

Unlike in previous weeks, we did not sauté the veggies before baking the pizzas. When we make this pizza again (and we are excited to do so because the pesto was so good), I would sauté the onion, garlic, salt and pepper in olive or avocado oil for about 5 minutes before baking. It’s not a necessity, most pizza places don’t cook their veggies before baking, but I think it brings out the flavor a bit more and it’s not a lot of extra effort.

To Cheese or Not to Cheese?

After years (a decade maybe?) of not eating cheese because there weren’t any decent vegan cheeses, I now love two brands of vegan cheese. Miyoko and Violife both make excellent mozzarella cheeses that melt well and still retain their taste and texture. I think adding a layer of mozzarella to this pizza gave it a creamy taste that balanced the sharpness of the artichokes and olives.

Pesto pizza on spelt dough with vegan mozzarella
Spelt crust pizza with basil pesto and vegan mozzarella

The Bake

Most home ovens in America have a max temperature of 500° F. It takes about 45 minutes to reach this hot of a temperature. That’s about how long it takes to make the pesto, chop the veggies, roll out the dough, and assemble the pizza- give or take 15 minutes. We aim for recipes that take around 30 minutes, including clean up.

We used a spelt crust for this pizza. Next time we’d use a white flour dough. By request, and you know who you are, we are experimenting with gluten-free crusts. Many have a long list of ingredients like xanthan gum and tapioca starch. We’ve never used these ingredients before so we want to get the recipe right before sharing it.

If you make this pizza, or some variation of pesto pizza, let us know.

Note: this pizza pairs especially well with King Rabbit Malbec, which was only $9 at Whole Foods. Bon appetit.

Published by 52veganpizzas

We're a couple living in the Bay Area who are committed to a pie a week in 2020. Join us!

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