It’s pretty common to order a Margharita pizza and get basil leaves on it. I dislike eating basil leaves on my pizza, and prefer to make a basil pesto instead – I really like the nutty flavor of the pine nuts combined with the basil leaves and parmesan. In addition, the parmesan makes the pesto quite creamy making it contrast well with the baked pizza dough.
1 lb. of white dough from whole foods
San Marzano Pizza Sauce/Tomato Sauce
Pepper and extra virgin olive oil (for the crust)
~2 oz. of Pune Nuts
4 oz. package of basil leaves
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
2 small cloves of garlic or one large clove.
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
salt to taste
Before you start, it should be noted that a pizza stone and a pizza peel are essential tools for making pizza at home. When you get pizza at a restaurant, their ovens can cook pizza anywhere from 600-1000 degrees fahrenheit. The pizza stone is the only way you’ll be able to get your pizza crust nice and stiff at home. The pizza peel will help you get your pizza onto the pizza stone.
Another note: Make sure your dough is risen. If you have frozen dough, it will need around 12 hours for it to rise at room temperature. If you went to whole foods and purchased their refrigerated dough, it should only take around 5-6 hours. When you rise dough, put a little bit of olive oil in a bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Too little water, and your dough will start to become “crusty” on top. Too much water, and your dough will absorb some of the moisture and not rise as high as it should. If your dough isn’t quite ready and you are starving, you can heat your oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit, then turn it off, and put your bowl in there (still covered). The residual heat will help your dough rise faster.
First, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees fahrenheit. You should put your pizza stone in the oven while your oven preheats to help it heat the stone evenly. Once your oven reaches 500, put a timer on for 60 minutes.
While the oven is pre-heating, let’s make the pesto. Peel the garlic and put them in the food processor – have the food processor do the mincing for you. Then, remove the basil leaves from their stem and add them to the food processor with the parmesan cheese and black pepper. The parmesan is a salty cheese so you may find you don’t need to add any salt at all. I like my pesto a little peppery, so you may want to also add the black pepper to taste. The basil leaves are quite a “peppery” leaf. Add olive oil slowly through the top of your food processor while you pulse the ingredients together. Initially, my pulses are usually about 4-5 seconds long and decline as the ingredients combine. Once you are about 3/4 of the way combined, add the pine nuts. Don’t toast them! Many pesto recipes tell you to toast your pine nuts but I think this is a mistake, it just ends up making your pesto dark and substitutes the natural flavor of the pine nut for smokiness, which is unnecessary because the basil leaves are already peppery and therefore “smoky”. I add the pine nuts toward the end because I like to try and preserve as much as the whole nuts as possible when pulsing my food processor. When your pesto is done, put it in a container and add a little bit of olive oil on top of the pesto. This will help preserve it’s color. Put it in the refrigerator.
When your timer says you’ve got about 10 minutes left, dust the pizza peel liberally with the flour and put the dough on top. Spread it around with your hands to make a circular shape. When the timer beeps, take the pizza stone out of the oven and slide the dough onto it. I always put on the mozzerella first, with a spoonful of sauce on top of each slice of mozzerella cheese. This ratio is important because if you go to liberal with the pizza sauce your pizza will come out real bad. When you’ve got the cheese and sauce on the dough, put the stone back in the oven for 10 minutes. When you take it out, brush the crust with olive oil, add pepper, and add spoonfuls of that pesto you made. Wait five minutes, then, dig in!