Honest to goodness, this is my last pesto-related post for a while. What inspired this kick? Welp, it was in fact this pizza.
To start the week off on a high-spirited note, David and I decided to venture out of San Francisco for a quick visit to a few spots in Marin and Sonoma. Of course this meant stopping at Russian River to refill someone’s growler — and pick one up for a neighbor who was beyond helpful with last week’s nonsense — before heading home.
Who did we happen to run into there? My parents! They were on their way home a day early from their vacation several hours north, and decided to stop at the brewery for lunch. What are the odds? David and I had just eaten, but we joined them to catch up and hear all the details from their trip. The pesto-sauced pizza they ordered — the Nu Deal — smelled so, so good, triggering my latent pesto cravings.
The combination of onions, mushrooms, spinach, pesto and mozzarella isn’t one I would have thought of on my own; it’s pretty different, but works. Eating the pizza last night, I kept thinking it was reminiscent of something else I’d had, but I just couldn’t place it. (Prepare yourself for a kinda wacky-sounding observation.) It was really bothering me until I figured it out — escargot! Between the warm, oily herb mixture and sautéed crimini mushrooms — along with the bread element — they share a very similar flavor and texture profile and appearance.
Now that I’ve gone on and on about pesto for three days, I’m turning things over to you — what’s your favorite way to use the sauce?
Pesto Pizza with Spinach, Mushrooms, Onions and Mozzarella
Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours, mostly inactive
Baking Time: 7 – 8 minutes each
Makes: 4 personal-size pizzas (count on 1 – 2 per person)
- 1/2 recipe gluten-free pizza dough (click here for the recipe)
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces (from about 1 medium) very thinly sliced (1/16″) yellow onion
- 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, trim stems and cut into 4 – 6 wedges
- 1 recipe homemade pesto (or about 1/2 cup jarred, drain excess layer of oil from top)
- 2 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh spinach
- 8 – 12 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella¹
- Chiffonade of fresh basil
- Red pepper flakes
Prepare dough according to directions.
DO AHEAD: Dough may be made and fully risen a day or two ahead of time. Once risen, transfer to fridge. Bring to room temperature before using.
Assemble and Bake Pizzas:
About 15 minutes before the dough is ready, remove all but one rack from the oven. Place remaining rack on the lowest level, set a large, rimmed baking sheet upside down on top of it, and preheat to 475°F – 500°F.
While oven heats, set a large skillet over medium heat and warm 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned in spots — 5 – 10 minutes. Remove onions to a heatproof plate; set aside. Add remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Once shimmering, add the mushrooms, tossing quickly to coat with oil. Cook, stirring only once or twice, until deep golden brown — about 2 minutes total. Transfer to heatproof plate; set aside (drain any accumulated juices before using).
Punch down dough and divide into 4 pieces (about 3.5 ounces each); cover with a barely damp cloth to keep moist. Roll one ball of dough out on a clean, millet flour coated surface into a very thin, about 1/8″ thick, circle. To form crust, fold the outside edges (about 3/4″) in, press to seal and roll again until it’s just about flat (see photos below).
Transfer dough to a sheet of aluminum foil (crimp the edges of the foil, if desired). Spread with 1/4 of the pesto, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges (I used a small offset spatula — the sauce is thick, but will cover the surface evenly). Arrange 1/4 of the spinach leaves over the pesto, overlapping them as needed and gently pressing to adhere. Top with 1/4 of both the drained, sautéed mushrooms and onions. Finish with 2 – 3 ounces of sliced mozzarella (I used 2 ounces for the photo above). Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.
Place pizza(s)², aluminum foil and all, onto the hot baking sheet. Bake for about 7 – 8 minutes or until crust is browned and the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately, garnishing with basil and red pepper flakes if desired.
¹ I typically prefer using Ciliegini (cherry tomato size fresh mozzarella) because all of the pieces are the same size, resulting in more even cheese distribution. Plus, it is much easier to cut them in half (using a knife or kitchen shears) than it is to slice the balls. However, it — along with all of the other fresh, liquid-packed, non-marinated mozzarella — was out of stock at Trader Joe’s when I went shopping, so I picked up the next freshest type available — a 16 ounce unsliced log. It also comes in an 8 ounce ball, and pre-sliced version that is packaged very similarly — I just like it cut a bit thinner for more even melting.