Monday, September 20, 2010

Pesto Pizza

Tonight I made pesto pizza using the basil and poblanos from my roof deck garden. I decided to throw in the poblanos at the last minute because they were sitting on my counter, left over from a previous meal. The poor rejected poblanos ended up adding a bonus piquant flavor to a traditional basil pesto, which was delicious.

Making this pizza is a snap, but I wish I could say the same about blogging about my pizza technique (it's easier to do than to describe). First off, I admit it - I don't make my own pizza dough. I have tried numerous times but can never get the elasticity right. I really like the Trader Joe's pre-made refrigerated pizza doughs, and I usually hoard them in my freezer for pizza night.

Start by preheating an oven and pizza stone to 400 degrees. The pizza stone is one of my essential kitchen tools, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make pizza at home. My stone permanently resides on the bottom rack of the oven, which helps keep temperatures constant and encourages even cooking whenever I use the oven. Here are a couple tips so that you can get the most use out of the stone: Until the stone is well-seasoned - the surface coated with various baked-in oils - it will be necessary to use plenty of corn meal or flour when placing your pizzas on the stone, to prevent sticking. Also, to ensure proper seasoning never wash the stone - instead, just scrape off any accumulation with a metal spatula.

Basil and Poblano Pesto
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup poblano peppers
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
Place the above ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Challenge #1: How to form the pizza pie? I like my pizza dough very thin, pulled so that you can almost see through it. In the past I have had so many doughs rip and tear on me or just shrink right back into a ball like a runner band.

Here is my technique, which has really improved the quality of the cooked pizza. I realized that it is best to split the dough into two equal pieces, which makes the dough easy to handle and gives me a pizza that fits onto my pizza stone. I put 1/4 cup of flour on my counter, place both sides of the dough in the flour and pat lightly. Then I use my fingers and fists to gently and slowly pull the dough to my desired diameter. I have learned that the dough can be finicky - it will only work so much before tensing up. When your dough tenses up, put it down on the counter and leave it alone for 5-10 minutes. Once the dough has rested, try working it into a larger, thinner disk. The key word here is patience - be patient with the dough and you will be rewarded with a thin, bubbly, crisp crust.

Challenge # 2: How to transfer the dough to the stone? I have never been able to top my pizza then transfer it on a peel to the stone. My method is to fold the pizza dough into fours, then place it onto the HOT stone and unfold the dough until flat.
Then I start topping.
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup poblano and basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated finely
Put the pesto down, the mozzarella down, then sit down - for 10-12 minutes, while the pizza cooks.

I consider my pizza done when the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and just starting to brown. Take the pizza out of the oven using a peel or using a spatula to push it onto a wire rack. Let the pizza cool for 5-10 minutes so you don't burn your mouth with molten cheese (the waiting is easier said than done). Cut into slices, top with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and enjoy!


  1. Lisa,

    This looks like a great recipe! I would love to make it, but I my grocery store does not sell pizza dough. Also, I don't have a pizza stone. Any suggestions for how to make this without these components?

  2. It's hard to make pizza without dough :) You could make the dough yourself and I bet you would be good at it. Here is a Mario Batali recipe
    As for not having a pizza stone, if you absolutely don't want to buy one then use a very heavy baking sheet that has been pre-heated. Give it a try and freeze the extra dough for later use.