I’m not sure if there’s an acceptable number of times to make pesto per week, but if there is, I have definitely exceeded it. My basic, favourite basil pesto is one of those things that is so ridiculously easy to make, you’d never expect it to be as ridiculously delicious as it is.
Normally, we have it tossed with pasta, and maybe some sautéed mushrooms and it is literally one of our most favourite dinners at home. Also great with toasted bread, sliced tomatoes and melty mozzarella. Just saying.
This time around, I turned it into a pizza topping with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, feta and smoked mozzarella. Let’s just say, there’s no looking back.
Before I delve right into the pesto, two things. One, the crust is partially wholewheat, homemade and absolutely fabulous. It is chewy, and stretchy and filled with flavour by itself. But, I’m not going to fill this post with only crust talk, because it requires some rambling and there’s a separate post just for that. Not everyone’s experiences with making dough are the same, and I’ve included some pointers that I hope will help if you run into trouble.
Two, I’m so so so excited to be working with Chumbak on this post! Chumbak has been one of my favourite brands since my college years, when they first made funky keychains and magnets and now they’ve exploded into this amazing, colourful, super fun Indian brand that is basically responsible for decorating at least half my home. They’re on a mission to celebrate food and I can’t think of a funner mission to support 🙂 Check out more on Food by Chumbak!
And nowwwww pesto! Pesto can be made with pretty much any green leafy veggie you can get your hands on. But basil is sort of a classic and bonus, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in India. Toss in garlic, salt, pepper and a ton of olive oil, whiz it all together, squirt a little lemon and you’re done. The olive oil in the pesto will inevitable seep into the crust. It only adds to the flavour but if you’d like to keep the crust a bit ‘crusty’, you could reduce the oil just a bit. If I add it to pasta, I usually include toasted pine nuts or walnuts for some crunch.
It is fresh, light, so, so flavourful and when topped with some basic raw veggies that cook down to roasted perfection in the oven and sprinkled liberally with cheese, you have one great pizza on hand. I used Kodai feta and smoked mozzarella, both of which are affordable, delicious and are available on Big Basket if you’re interested. Any crumbly or stretchy cheese will do just fine, there are no rules here. Pizza shouldn’t be strict.
I also made a super quick basic tomato sauce only because I had three thin-crust 8″ pizzas and wanted to do something different with the third, although the pesto was more than enough for all of them. This improvised tomato sauce just needs two deseeded tomatoes blended with a couple of garlic cloves, spread over the base, topped with plenty of salt and pepper and then finished with sliced, fresh buffalo mozzarella which doesn’t melt the way a more processed version does, but is irresistible. This was a spur of the moment thing but it was a fabulous addition and it blew my mind that all a pizza sauce really needed was TWO ingredients. Though, this basil-infused one cannot be underestimated.
Once your dough is ready, putting this pizza together takes hardly any time. Make the pesto, slice up your favourite pizza toppings, bake and you’re done. Try not to weigh your pizza down with toppings though, preferably not more than two. Sliced mushrooms would be great if zucchini isn’t your thing 🙂
At the end of the day, you will be eating healthy, absolutely from-scratch pizzas bursting with so much flavour from veggies, cheese and that crust that can actually be eaten on its own, that you’ll wonder why you ever did it any other way.
I hope you guys love this! Let’s make pizza 🙂
- For the pizza crust
- 1 and ½ cups regular/all-purpose flour
- 1 and ½ cups wholewheat flour
- ⅛ tsp yeast, slightly heaped (just shy of the ¼ tsp measure)
- 1 and ½ tsps salt
- 1 and ¼ cups room temp water, plus more if needed
- For the pizza topping
- About 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (from 100 gms basil, stems removed)
- ½ cup olive oil (you could reduce this to ⅓ cup if you'd like your crust to absorb less oil)
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Lemon juice, to taste
- 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- Feta and mozzarella cheese, as needed
- This pizza dough will need a 22 to 24 hour rise, so plan accordingly. To make it, simply mix all the crust ingredients in a large bowl, till you have a wet, shaggy dough. Keep in mind that wholewheat flour absorbs water faster than regular flour, so add up to 3 teaspoons more water if needed. You do not need to form a ball of dough, or bother with making it smooth. Simply mix it up, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise at room temperature.
- After 22 to 24 hours, the dough should have doubled. If it hasn't exactly doubled, but looks wetter, bigger and has the 'holes' that a fermented dough gets, plus a slightly sour smell, do not leave it to rise any longer. If it has a stretchy, elastic, sticky feel, you're good to go. Sometimes the weather or the yeast itself can act up but it doesn't mean the dough won't bake well.
- About half an hour before you begin forming the dough into pizzas, preheat the oven to 250 C (usually its highest temp, as the oven needs to be hot hot hot) and lightly spray your baking pans with oil, then sprinkle with flour and set aside.
- Make the pesto by blending the basil, oil and garlic until almost smooth and paste-like. Add the salt, pepper and lime juce. Mix well and store in the fridge till ready to use.
- Turn the ready dough out on to a very well-floured counter. It will be sticky and will require floured fingertips to be prised out of the bowl, don't worry. Once you've got it out, sprinkle the top with a bit more flour and form it into a ball. Cut it into three equal pieces for 8" pieces or half for two roughly 10" pizzas. If your dough had risen a lot, you might even have enough for two 12" pizzas.
- Transfer each portion of the dough to the baking tray and with floured fingertips, pull and stretch it into a round shape. The more you stretch it, the thinner the crust naturally, so make sure it doesn't become too thin or the sauce might ooze out. Make sure to patch up any torn bits.
- Spread two to three tablespoons of the pesto on to each pizza, top with a few slices of zucchini and pieces of cherry tomatoes, then finish with the cheese. Make sure you don't load the pizzas down.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, till the crust has turned golden-brown, the cheese has melted and/or browned a bit. If the browning happens to quick, reduce the temp to 220 C. Slice and serve immediately!
*Cook-time is estimated per pizza
*You could also use only all-purpose flour instead of a mix