Homemade Pesto Pizza

When J and I got married, I learned two things very quickly. 1) A spouse's birthday is a big deal and it is NOT funny to pretend you have forgotten about it. 2) Fridays are pizza night. 

One rule was much easier to keep than the other, {due to money problems, my family regularly rearranged, postponed, or just plain ignored birthdays and holidays} so I began my quest to find the perfect homemade pizza recipe.

While in Italy, we lived off of gelato and these lovely, thin crusted pizza served on waxed brown paper. They were covered in pesto, thick slices of tomato, fresh basil leaves, cuts of barely-melted mozzarella cheese, and they were divinity itself. We filled our backpacks with jars of the locally-made pesto and brought them home as delicious souvenirs.

Alas, all of our efforts to recreate the pizzas at home were miserable failures. The crust was tasteless; the cheese dry.

Nine years later, while eating a fabulous slice of pizza beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, it occurred to me that the cheese was... different. Softer. More elastic. Yes, my friends, it took me that long to discover mozzarella fresh!

Finally, a few weeks ago, I tried Jamie Oliver's recipe for pizza dough, and the heavens opened, angels burst into song and the perfect pizza was made. 

Jamie Oliver's Pizza Dough:

  • 7 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo "00" flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo "00" flour, plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour 
  • 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil {I use roasted garlic olive oil from the Olive Mill}
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Sift the flours and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands - this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas - this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. {I've found it makes about four large pizzas. I bake two and freeze the other two for use the following week}
Next up? Homemade pesto! I like this visual recipe via Black Eiffel:


Kristina said...

Pizza 'neath the Brookyln Bridge? Were you at Grimaldi's, by any chance? Oh man, I could totally go for a slice right now.
Speaking of, they were forced to close that location. Back-taxes or something like that. They have one in Manhattan somewhere. I'm sure the pizza is the same, but the ambience is not!
I need to try this pizza dough recipe though. Always on a search for a good one. Thanks!

Karen Frazier said...

Looks heavenly! Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie said...

Just yesterday I was at the market looking for an acceptable pesto to use for a pesto enchiladas recipe and I was quite unsuccessful.

This looks amazing and I'm definitely going to give it a try! Thanks so much.

MelancholySmile said...

Yes, it was Grimaldi's! They closed it? That's just tragedy! Apparently, they have a location out here in AZ {weird, right?} but I have yet to try it.

Mrs. Buck said...

Oh yum, this looks so good! My pizza cravings have just reached a whole new level!

Apis Melliflora said...

Never tried a Jamie Oliver recipe I didn't love. Thanks for the pizza dough tip.

Did your kids eat it?

The Queen Vee said...

I would eat this in a nano second, my hubby wouldn't. May have to invite my kiddos over and whip up some dough.

The Dragonfly said...

That looks so yummy. I am now craving it at 10:10 pm. But I think that makes it like 7:10 your time, so I should have some, don't you think? :)

ps. love the new look of the blog

Stephanie said...

YUM! There is a Grimaldi's at San Tan mall. And we LOVE pesto pizza. Have you ever tried grilling the dough? Grill one side, flip it, and then brush with olive oil. Put your pesto, tomato and mozzerella on, close the grill and let it all melt. Heavenly. I'll have to try your dough recipe. Thanks!

Rachael said...

A little bit of self-promotion, but I love making pesto, pizza, and mozzarella--which is way easier than it sounds. Try this one for mozzarella in 30 minutes (seriously--great homeschooling project!) http://icooktorelax.blogspot.com/2010/09/homemade-mozzarella.html

The most important thing is just to make sure you don't get ultra-pasteurized milk.

MelancholySmile said...

Stephanie- I'll have to try grilling it! That sounds AMAZING.

Rachael- Oh my goodness, I'm off to buy ingredients right this moment. Making your own mozzarella? Fabulous! And you're right, it'd make a terrific homeschooling project

MelancholySmile said...

Oh, and Apis-- no, the kids didn't eat it. We always have to make one pizza with red sauce and mozzarella for them, and then the second pizza can be experimental. {or, as I call it, GOURMET!}

hukolb said...

Thanks for the great recipe! Can you use regular flour or does that make all the difference as I haven't really looked at flour types before (don't have storage or a mill yet either:). Fresh mozzarella? Yum!

MelancholySmile said...


When using regular flour, I add a few Tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten. It makes it a 'stronger' flour- higher in protein and more elastic. Good luck!

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