I make homemade pizza for my family every Friday night. Wait – it’s not hard! If you do the prep work ahead of time, dinner comes together very quickly. It has become an unbreakable tradition, every time Friday rolls around on the calendar my kids announce at breakfast that “it’s Pizza Friday!”. Both my kids love to help chop the veggies for toppings and sprinkle (i.e. throw haphazardly) them over their own personal pizzas. I love that for one night every week, I know exactly what is for dinner and have the recipes for both the crust and the sauce memorized. My husband just loves pizza.
When I first met my husband, he was living directly behind a Little Caesars take-out pizza joint. Every Friday night after work, he would walk around the corner and into the Little Caesars and order an entire $5 Hot-N-Ready to eat for dinner. I knew that if we were in it for the long haul, I was going to have to come up with a better solution to his weekly pizza fix. They aren’t called “Hot-N-Sleazy’s” by college kids everywhere for no reason. Every so often, I will make pizza with traditional red tomato sauce, but my whole family really prefers this pesto. It compliments the vegetable toppings so well, and I love that one of my kids favorite foods is completely packed with spinach. Poor pizza gets such a bad rap for being an unhealthy junk food, but really, made this way, its a great option for dinner. I mix up the veggie toppings week by week, but almost always have sliced zucchini and mushrooms. Other great options are roasted broccoli, roasted sweet potato cubes, or black olives. You can add some cheese or completely leave it off, as I usually do, and it’s delicious either way.
Pesto is confusing to me, as it is notoriously delicious but ultimately could use a boost in the nutrition department. Olive oil and cheese with a few sprigs of basil isn’t doing anyone any favors. My version is veggie-packed, light on the oil, and my kids scrape up every last bite. I make it weekly and never even measure the ingredients anymore. Any leftover sauce is delicious on the side for dipping your pizza crust into or saved to put inside a grilled panini or wrap later in the week!
- 1 large bunch fresh basil leaves
- 1 6 oz bag baby spinach
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Juice of ½ a large lemon
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- Water if needed
- In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until mostly smooth. You still want to be able to see the small flecks of leaves, but you don't want any large chunks. You will need to adjust garlic, salt, and lemon juice to taste, I usually get out a few carrot sticks to dip when I am making this and taste it along the way.
- If you think the pesto is too thick, add a small amount of water. This pesto should be thicker than your average oil based pesto, however, and I really like it that way because it doesn't soak into the pizza dough.
A note on homemade pizza crust:
I have tried dozens of different pizza crusts over the years, and I have recently settled on a favorite. It comes from Peter Reinhart (author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and many other baking books), and it is the perfect balance of crispy, chewy, pizza crust goodness. The best part about the crust is there no kneading of the dough! If your house is anything like mine, you will be smack in the middle of your 15 minutes of required kneading time when all hell breaks loose upstairs in the playroom. You make this dough on Thursday, refrigerate it overnight, and it is ready to go for Friday night. Or, if you forget, it is just as good made the day you will eat it. Also, Peter has a free class about his pizza skills on Craftsy.com, just search for “perfect pizza”. I highly recommend the class, it completely upped my pizza game (the crust recipe is included with the class materials). I follow his recipe but usually use 1/2 unbleached all-purpose bread flour and 1/2 white whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour he calls for. However, if you have a tried-and-true pizza crust recipe already in your vault, stick with it!
P.S. Peter Reinhart’s pizza dough seems like a high yield but don’t cut the recipe in half – instead check back soon for my favorite Saturday morning breakfast rolls using your leftover pizza dough!