Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pesto swirl pizza

Is there anything more summery then the smell of fresh basil? We have a huge plant growing in our yard, and often I will grab a leaf when walking into the house, just to revive myself a little after a long day.

But if you really want to enjoy a shot of basil, nothing beats pesto. My problem with pesto is that I find it a little too overpowering by itself. Its so flavorful- heady, salty, grainy, garlicky- but when you add this to something a little sweet, like say, tomatoes, then you've got a winner. Thats the idea behind this pizza, which combines pesto and plain tomato sauce in the same pizza, to delicious effect. If you are in a hurry, sub any or all of these recipes for store-bought versions. It will (probably) be just as good. But your kitchen won't smell like fresh basil for days...

Makes two big round pizzas

For the crust:
Mix 1 packet of yeast with 1 1/2 c. warm water in your food processor or a mixing bowl. Allow to sit for several minutes until the yeast dissolves. Next, add 3 1/2 c. flour, 1 1/2 tbs. salt and 1 tbs. honey. Mix with your hands or dough blade until smooth and elastic. Put dough in a bowl coated with olive oil, flip over once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Set it outside or anywhere warm, and work on the rest of your pizza while you wait for it to double.

For the Pesto:
You should probably have a food processor for this one, but people have been known to use a mortar and pestle. Combine the following in your crusher of choice:
2 c. loosely packed basil
2 peeled cloves garlic
1/3 c. pine nuts (you could also use pecans)
2/3 c. parmesan cheese
1/3 c. olive oil

This is your base. From here, its all about testing and experimenting. Too dry? More oil. Too garlicky? More basil. Too wet? More pine nuts. You get the picture. Now, what you must do is scrape every delicious bite out of your processor, put it in a bowl with a thin coating of olive oil, and let it chill in the fridge. DO NOT, under any circumstances, try it on a cracker, or be prepared to make another batch.

For the tomato sauce:
1 can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
3 tbs. tomato paste
1/4 c. water
2 tbs. brown sugar
salt, pepper, oregano to taste.
(Heat it up, test it out, set it aside. Or, just use storebought sauce or your secret family recipe.)

Ok, time to put it all together! Heat your oven to 475 degrees. Punch a whole in that dough and divide it in two parts. For each pizza, roll out the dough to fit on a greased cookie sheet or pizza pan, and use your fingers to stretch it out and push down bubbles. Hint: use flour on your hands and rolling pin for rolling, use water for stretching and pushing. When you are satisfied, lightly coat the crust with olive oil.

Next, grab your two sauces. Starting in the center, swirl a thin layer of tomato sauce in a spiral. Working in the area not covered by tomato sauce, spread the pesto sauce in a spiral. This is going to look very Christmassy, but fear not, its delish.

When you are happy with the level of sauciness, cover your creation with mozzarella cheese, roma tomatoes, and anything else you feel like. Pop it in the oven and watch it like a hawk- this baby shouldn't take more then 15 minutes to cook. Toss a little spinach salad, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.

*If this is too much pizza for your household, you can save or freeze half the dough, and its not like the pesto is going to last you very long...