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Pizza with Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes & Mozzarella

5 stars based on 19 votes

I’ve been testing pizza recipes for the cookbook and the blog this week, which has put my low carb diet in serious jeopardy. Suffice it to say, carbs beget carbs (beget more carbs) and craving pizza for breakfast is never a good sign! At any rate, for this particular pizza, I wanted bold pesto flavor. I didn’t want it to taste just faintly of basil, garlic, Parmesan and olive oil—I wanted those flavors to bowl me over. The key was to spread a generous layer of pesto over the pizzas before baking, and then top them with more pesto and fresh basil when they came out of the oven. Not only do they taste very “pesto-y,” they also look gorgeous and feel a little more virtuous than your typical pizza pie (although definitely not so virtuous with your morning coffee 😉).

ingredients

Begin by making the dough. In a mixer fitted with the dough hook (or a large bowl if you’d like to make it by hand), combine the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water.

pizza-dough-1

Mix until the dough comes together.

pizza-dough-2

Increase the speed and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

pizza-dough-3

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl.

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Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

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When the dough has risen, punch it down and place it on a lightly floured surface.

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Cut it in half and roll each part into a ball.

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Cover the dough balls with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes — the dough will rise a bit.

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Meanwhile, set an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 500°F. Sprinkle the cornmeal on a standard 18×13-inch baking sheet, and set aside. Then, cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the juices.

tomatoes

Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and then pat and stretch the rested dough into two 12×8-inch rectangles. If the dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour.

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Place the two pizza doughs side-by-side on the prepared baking sheet. Then press the dough out again so that it almost touches the edges of the pan.

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Spread 1/3 cup of the pesto evenly over the pizzas, leaving a 1-inch border. You can make your own or use a good quality store-bought pesto (I like Mama’s Pesto from Whole Foods).

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Bake the pizzas on the bottom rack for 4 minutes. (I do this so the crust has time to crisp up; if you add the cheese from the get-go, it gets too brown.)

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Remove the pan from the oven; and then top the pizzas with the mozzarella cheese, followed by the tomato slices, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper.

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Place the pizzas back in the oven and bake until the crust is crisp and golden, 6 to 8 minutes more. Top with fresh torn basil and drizzle with remaining pesto.

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Transfer the pizzas to a cutting board, then cut into slices and serve immediately. Enjoy!

cut-pizza

Pizza with Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes & Mozzarella

Servings: 4 (Makes two 12x8-inch pizzas)

Ingredients

For the Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant or quick-rising yeast
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal, for dusting the pan

For the Topping

  • 1/2 cup good quality store-bought or homemade pesto, divided
  • 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese (not Buffalo mozzarella), thinly sliced or grated
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup gently packed fresh basil leaves, torn

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, olive oil, yeast, salt and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. When the dough has risen, punch it down and place it on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and roll each part into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes (the dough will rise a bit).
  4. Meanwhile, set an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 500°F. Sprinkle the cornmeal on an 18x13-inch baking sheet; set aside. Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the juices.
  5. Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and then press and stretch the rested dough into two 12x8-inch rectangles. If the dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour. Place the two pizza doughs side-by-side on the cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Press the dough out again so that it almost touches the edges of the pan.
  6. Spread 1/3 cup of the pesto evenly over the pizzas (2-1/2 tablespoons each), leaving a 1-inch border. Bake on the bottom rack for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; and then top the pizzas with the mozzarella cheese, followed by the tomato slices and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season each pizza with an 1/8-teaspoon salt and a few grinds fresh black pepper. Place the pizzas back in the oven and bake until the crust is crisp and golden, 6 to 8 minutes more. Transfer the pizzas to a cutting board. Drizzle the remaining pesto over the pizzas and sprinkle with the fresh basil. Cut into slices and serve immediately.
  7. To make the pizza dough ahead: Once the dough has completed it's initial rise, and you've cut it in half to form two balls, lightly coat each dough ball with olive oil. Place the dough ball(s) into a freezer bag and seal shut, squeezing out all the air. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. When ready to use, let the dough sit out on the countertop for 30 minutes to warm up before stretching. You may also the freeze the dough for up to 3 months. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 12 hours), and then let it warm up on the countertop for about 30 minutes before stretching.

Nutrition Information

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  • Calories: 950
  • Fat: 57g
  • Saturated fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 80g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Protein: 32g
  • Sodium: 1663mg
  • Cholesterol: 60mg

Reviews & Comments

  • Hi Jenn, When you state knead the dough, is this done by the stand mixer or by hand? Thanks Al

    - Al on April 15, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Al, I use a mixer, but you can do it by hand as well.

      - Jenn on April 15, 2017 Reply
  • Do you think I could use the topping in naan bread instead of the dough in the recipe?

    - Rebecca on March 30, 2017 Reply
    • If I’m understanding your question, you just want to putting the topping on naan, correct? If so, yes, I think that should work!

      - Jenn on March 31, 2017 Reply
  • Made this the other night. Delicious toppings. I traded in 1/4 C cornmeal and reduced the flour by the same. To me this seems more like a pizza dough. I also grilled it rather than doing it in the oven. I like to grill both sides: brush one side with olive oil and then lay oil-side down on the grill for about 1 minute. Flip at first sign of browning and turndown heat, add toppings and wait till bottom is well browned and toppings are cooked.

    - Bryan on March 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn, this pizza was a hit at home! It smelled and tasted so good! I just had a quick question, is pizza dough tougher than bread dough? I was surprised to find it tougher when I was working on it.

    - Serena on February 28, 2017 Reply
    • Glad everyone liked the pizza! Yes, the pizza dough is definitely a bit tougher and more elastic than regular bread dough.

      - Jenn on February 28, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This pizza dough is amazing! Be sure to leave time for it to “rise” and “rest”…. Well worth the wait. I will never need another dough recipe. I make this almost every week;-)

    - Bernadette on February 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My first time making pizza, and it was a success thanks to your recipe ! Thank you!

    - Gita on January 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I have made this a few times now, each time is great. Sifting the flour first made it even better!

    - Nicole D on January 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is by far the best pizza that I ever made! Thank you!

    - Donna Lochhead on January 12, 2017 Reply
  • Is the nutritional info per 1 (of the 2) pizzas? Thank you

    - Paige on January 6, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Paige, the recipe makes a total of 4 servings, so the nutritional info is for half of a pizza. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 6, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Love this!! I made the dough in my breadmaker and it worked out great! I baked it on a pre-heated pizza stone on the lowest rack level ( great tip on oven placement! ). Also tried the mozzarella you used, and it really turned out perfect!
    As always, a big hit Jenn!

    - Jules on December 18, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is such a wonderful pizza to make with all of that extra basil in the garden. The pizza is not heavy at all, very light and refreshing. Such a great change of pace from the typical pepperoni and cheese

    - Angela on December 2, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    TO DIE FOR!!!! This was delicious….easy….beautiful. I especially loved the pesto, and the great tip regarding placing the tomatoes onto paper towels….this recipe was very flavorful and will be my goto pizza recipe…..I would not and did not change a thing about the recipe.

    - Pam Inglesby on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    It’s so nice to have a pizza night go-to like this one. This combines all of my favorite things on a pizza. And I love any excuse to make fresh pesto. We add chicken to ours but it’s fantastic the way it is, too. We love it!

    - Adam B. on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Loved this. Only thing I did different: I grilled them on my charcoal grill. First side oiled and placed on grill. Flipped, oiled and proceeded with the pesto and toppings. Shut the lid and let it cook. Turned out great. I topped each pizza with homemade Caesar salad. Lovely.

    - Marsha on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • Can you recommend a side or salad to make with this pesto pizza?

    - Bethany on August 31, 2016 Reply
  • Hi: Do you think the dough could be made in a bread machine with good results?

    - Val on August 26, 2016 Reply
    • Sure, Val — that should work.

      - Jenn on August 26, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    No doubt this recipe is good on pasta, a dough crust isn’t too different so I’m sure it’s delicious!

    Speaking of low carb, I wonder how this would taste using an all egg crust… or all egg-white crust. Spread the pesto to the edge to mask any unwanted egg flavor, add the rest of the ingredients per recipe. If you can get fresh home grown tomatoes… the flavor will be even deeper, fuller. Hmmm…..

    - Frank on August 19, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love all your recipes. Keep up the good work.

    - Bernadette Heimann on July 8, 2016 Reply
    • Thank you, Bernadette!

      - Jenn on July 8, 2016 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Great recipe. Turned out good. One suggestion is to make some toasted flour to use on the bottom of the dough as you flatten it. Home ovens don’t get hot enough to toast the flour, and you can be left with a bit of a raw flour taste on the bottom. Putting a small layer of flour on a pan, roasting for 15 min @ 400°F (or until slightly golden) and using this toasted flour on the bottom of the crust as you flatten it on the counter brings the dough taste to another level.

    - Greg on July 7, 2016 Reply
    • (oh and that means not using corn meal, which I personally detest on pizza crust, but that’s just me)

      - Greg on July 7, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The flavor combo was exquisite! Crust was a little heavy. Will tweak it. Might have not mixed it enough. Just delicious! My teen ate half!

    - Irene on June 26, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I tried your recipe tonight.. To be honest I was a little afraid of making the fresh dough but it turned out amazing. I made this for my whole family to open our fast with. I was scared that it may not taste so good, but everyone praised it. Many thanks :)

    - Sonz on June 26, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This pizza was out of this world! I don’t have a mixer, so I cheated and used pizza dough from Trader Joes. Flavors were amazing and I’ll definitely be making this again. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

    - Kelly S on May 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. Any suggestions for a red sauce pizza? Would you put the sauce on before cooking like with the pesto? Thank you!!

    - Sam lueken on May 27, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sam, so glad you enjoyed it! I have a recipe for a tomato sauce that would work well on the pizza. And yes, I would cook it the same way — add the sauce and cook for a few minutes, then add the cheese and toppings and continue cooking. I’d love to hear how it turns out with the red sauce!

      - Jenn on May 30, 2016 Reply
  • Made this last night and it was terrific. I did use bread flour and it resulted in a nice chewy crust. I also used your method to make a pepperoni pizza with tomato sauce. Worked out great. Thanks.

    - Terry Brittian on May 26, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this tonight and we loved it. I can’t speak for the dough recipe because I used one I already had on hand but the toppings were delicious and the cook time was perfect. I love that you place the tomatoes on the paper towels first. I would never have thought to do that and it did make a big difference.

    - Holly on May 24, 2016 Reply
  • Hi!, If i substitute the APF for whole wheat flour, would it vary in any measurement or procedure? Thanks a lot.

    - Cesia on May 24, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Cesia, I don’t think you’d need to make any adjustments, but if you do plan to use all whole wheat flour, I think you’d get the best results with a white whole wheat like this one.

      - Jenn on May 25, 2016 Reply
  • If I cook this on a pizza stone is there anything I would need to adjust?

    Cannot wait, seriously.

    Sara

    - Sara MacMillan on May 20, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sara, I’d cook it the same way with a pizza stone, although you’ll probably need to preheat the oven a little longer to get the stone hot. Hope you enjoy and please let me know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on May 20, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi, May I know if I can substitute the all purpose flour for bread flour? I have discovered that each time I make using APF it’s kinda hard. If I can substitute what’s the ratio like? 1:1? Many thanks in advance.

    - Melodi on May 19, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Melodi, while you can use bread flour here, it won’t make the crust more tender; instead the crust will be chewier. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it that way!

      - Jenn on May 20, 2016 Reply
  • I am not a big fan of pesto, is there a substitute? Love love love your dishes!

    Thanks
    Tamara

    - Tamara on May 19, 2016 Reply
  • Sounds like a virtuous breakfast to me: better than a sugar laden-void of nutrition- boxed candy. ooops. cereal. After all, you’re getting veg and cheese in the mix. If I really want to justify having this yummy pizza for breakfast all I have to do is think of all the people in the world that have rice for breakfast! Works for me! I know enough about your recipes to know that this will certainly be a 5 star winner.

    - Adrienne on May 19, 2016 Reply

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