Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pesto Pizza

When it comes to cooking dinner, I don’t really do recipes. Blame it on my mother. Several times I’ve asked her for her recipe for whatever yummy dish she cooked up, and she would respond with, “Oh, a little of this, a little of that.” Thanks, mom. Real helpful.

But actually, that laid-back, cook-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach was helpful. It came in handy quite a few times post-college graduation when I would open my fridge only to be faced with a hodge-podge collection of bread, condiments, and leftovers. In fact, some of my best dinners have been the result of whatever I have available (stay tuned for those “recipes”).

So here’s the latest adventure in cooking with my mother. Something I’m going to call “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pesto Pizza.”

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Pinch of flour
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 lb pizza dough (my mom and I like whole wheat dough)
  • 7 oz jar of Trader Joe’s Pesto de Genovese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Any toppings you might want (see below for suggestions)
  • Rolling pin
  • Pizza stone (or baking sheet)
  • Knife

Time and Servings

  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8-10 minutes
  • Total Time: about an hour
  • Servings: 8-12 slices

Instructions

  1. Lightly flour a large flat surface. This can be your kitchen counter, cutting board, or second pizza stone. Set the dough on the stone and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  2. When you’re ready to start making your pizza, preheat your oven to 450° F, lightly grease your pizza stone, and let the stone heat up in the oven.
  3. Stretch or roll out the dough until it’s about 12 inches in diameter. Take the stone from the oven and transfer the dough to the hot stone (watch your fingers, though!).
  4. Spoon some of the pesto onto the dough—I usually use about a half a jar (3.5 ounces)—and spread it out evenly across the surface.
  5. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and any other toppings you might want (see below for suggestions). I’ve done a mushroom pesto pizza and a sun-dried tomato and olive pesto pizza, and both were delicious.
  6. Put the pizza in the oven and bake it for 8-10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
  7. Take the pizza out and let it cool for 5 minutes before cutting it into slices.
  8. Enjoy!

Hints and Tips

  • For softer dough, don’t grease or preheat your stone. Simply roll out the dough and prepare your pizza on a room-temperature stone.
  • If you want thicker crust, don’t roll the dough out as much and leave extra space between your toppings and the edge of the pizza.
  • I always like sprinkling a little extra cheese on top of the toppings so that they stick better to the pizza.
  • For some toppings, you’ll want to cook the pizza for half the recommended time before putting them on then cooking for the rest of the time to make sure they don’t burn. I found this out the hard way with some sun-dried tomatoes.

Ideas for Toppings: sauteed mushrooms, sliced olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, bell peppers

Really, though, the options are limitless when it comes to toppings. If you find any others that work well, let me know!

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