Arugula-Almond Pesto Pizza

Homemade arugula-almond pesto pizza with a simple whole wheat crust -

Pizza is a highly personal affair, isn’t it? Seems like everyone has strong opinions about the subject. New York style vs. Chicago, veggies vs. meat, thick vs. thin crust, classic mozzarella vs. the fancier stuff… We could debate over pizza all night, especially if there’s an ample supply of wine to fuel the discussion.

Most pizza is pretty good, if you ask me. While my friend from New York vehemently argues that New York-style pizza is tops, I have a more ambiguous, middle-of-the-country view of pizza. My favorite is a tie between brick oven and well done, classic American pizza. The only kind that I vehemently dislike is St. Louis’ mushy Provel cheese pizzas. Real cheese or bust!

pesto recipe

I haven’t quite perfected my at-home pizza technique, but I’m getting there. I enjoy my super simple 100% whole wheat pizza dough, but it’s still not the same as those brick oven-baked, stretchy sourdough crusts. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to manage sourdough starters… then again, there’s always take-out.

pesto and yeast

Since I have my simple dough down, deciding how to top the pizza is the most difficult part. I love the veggie pizza at Kansas City’s Minsky’s Pizza—it’s a pretty classic veggie pizza topped with a sprinkle of sliced almonds, which are nice and toasty by the time the pizza comes out of the oven. It adds a lovely savory note to the pizza and a light crunch.

Knowing that I wanted to make a pizza with almonds on top, I cracked open my well-worn copy of The Flavor Bible to see what goes well with almonds. The book listed arugula, but not basil, so I went with arugula. Arugula’s flavor is pretty bold and spicy, so if you’re in the mood for a more traditional pesto, feel free to go with basil. (I made a basil-almond pesto to compare and it was delicious as well. I can’t decide which one I prefer.)

whole wheat pizza dough

I tried to keep this recipe as simple as possible, but toasting the almonds really enhances their flavor and helps them stand up to the greens. Both the dough and the pesto recipes are made for a food processor, so I hope you have one!

One more thing—I couldn’t resist the cuteness factor of mini mozzarella balls when I was at the store, but in hindsight, I wished I’d picked regular, shredded, low-moisture mozzarella. Bubbly, golden shredded mozzarella cheese has more flavor than fresh. Since pizza (and pesto) preferences are so personal, feel free to play with the flavors to make this pizza your own!

how to make whole wheat pizza doughpesto pizzaArugula pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella - cookieandkate.comSummertime arugula-almond pesto pizza with a simple whole wheat crust -

Arugula-Almond Pesto Pizza
5.0 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Arugula (or basil) and almond pesto on a simple whole wheat pizza crust, topped with fresh summer tomatoes and squash. Recipe below yields two 12-inch pizzas.
  • 3 cups of packed fresh arugula and/or basil, tough stems removed
  • ¾ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ to ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Everything else
  • 1 batch easy whole wheat pizza dough
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn, or part-skim mozzarella, shredded, or ¼-inch slices of goat cheese
  • 1 small tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 small yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and sliced into little triangle shapes
  • Sprinkle of sliced almonds
  • Sprinkle of fresh arugula or chopped basil
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Or, if you're using a pizza stone, make sure it's in the oven on the appropriate rack (consult manufacturer's directions).
  2. Toast the almonds: In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds, while stirring frequently, until the almonds are fragrant and turning lightly golden at the edges. Transfer the almonds to a bowl to cool.
  3. To make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the arugula/basil, cooled almonds, Parmesan, garlic and salt. Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Prepare the pizza dough as directed. For best results, roll the dough out as thin as reasonably possible while maintaining an even surface level. Transfer each pizza crust onto individual pieces of parchment paper.
  5. Lightly oil the outer edge of the pizza with olive oil. Spread each pizza with ½ of the pesto. Top each pizza with cheese, sliced tomatoes, squash pieces and, finally, a sprinkle of sliced almonds.
  6. Transfer one pizza to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese on top is bubbly (about 10 to 12 minutes on a baking sheet, or as few as 5 minutes on a baking stone). Repeat with remaining pizza. Top each pizza with a light sprinkle of fresh arugula or basil and, if desired, a dash of red pepper flakes. Slice and serve.
Recipe adapted from my arugula walnut pesto and whole wheat pizza dough.
Preparation tips: This recipe is designed for immediate consumption! The dough is best baked immediately after making, and the pesto will oxidize over time.
Change it up: Feel free to trade other greens (like kale) for the arugula/basil or other toasted nuts for the almonds. Top the pizza with whatever's in season!
Make it quick: You can certainly buy pre-made pizza dough or pre-cooked flatbread instead of making your own dough. Just adjust toppings and baking time as necessary.
Recommended equipment: This 7-cup Cuisinart food processor. My pizza dough got extra crisp and bubbly since I baked it on my oft-forgotten baking steel (c/o Sur la Table).
If you love this recipe: You'll also love my socca pizza with summer squash and feta.



  1. says

    Wow, I can’t even imagine what an arugula pesto tastes like! It must be delicious. As far as the pizza goes, I used to feel that the more was on it, the better. But I’ve recently learned to really love pizzas with just a couple toppings, like this one. Thanks!

    • says

      It’s so hard to pick a pizza theme and stick with it! I always want to pile all of the toppings on it. Same goes for frozen yogurt. :)

  2. says

    Wow this looks so good and has all my favorite things! Can’t wait to try this. I love basil and have never tried arugula for pesto. I have also not perfected “at home” pizza. My crust always seems to come out soggy. Any tips? What am I doing wrong?

  3. says

    I get great crust by pre cooking it on my grill (just a couple of minutes per side), then add the toppings in the oven as you would otherwise. You can cook up a bunch of pizza crusts this way and then finish them as you need them. Really great flavor.

    If you do light toppings, the grill rocks all alone. Cook one side, take off grill, flip, lightly olive oil, top, then back on the grill for 2 or 3 minutes.

  4. says

    Mmm this sounds delicious! Homemade pizza is far superior to any other kind if you ask me, and I love your topping selection here! I’ve heard several bloggers rave about the Flavour Bible and need to order a copy. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. says

    I definitely support the arugula pesto. I’ve been making it for quite some time, but I’d never thought to use almonds! Pizza is a very touchy subject in this household. I’ve accepted that I can get a good wood oven pizza in Boston, but a slice… a NY slice… I’ve never been satisfied by anything I’ve tried here.

  6. says

    This looks awesome! Have never heard of nuts in a pizza but they would be lovely. Now I keep thinking maybe walnuts would be good with fig and ricotta or maybe pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes with mozzarella? Eek.

    Also I just got a Baking Steel for my birthday so I am slowly perfecting my pizza game. Now all I need is a real pizza peel so I don’t have any more more horrible pizza disfiguring accidents.

    • says

      Oh boy, all of those nutty pizza ideas sound amazing! And yikes, be careful around that crazy hot baking steel. I’ve read that baking the pizza on a layer of parchment paper hardly effects the crust at all. I just scoot a rimless baking sheet under the parchment and then use the sheet as a pizza peel. It’s worked great so far!

      • says

        The parchment paper idea is great! You have simultaneously made my life easier and more difficult because I was looking for a reason to buy a walnut pizza peel. I figured back drop for pictures wasn’t enough so I needed to actually utilize the pizza peeling function, haha.

  7. says

    oh, i totally agree, pizza is super subjective! for me, pizza, in any form, is very welcome including yours right here! loving the arugula/almond combo – totally perfect! hope you’re having an awesome summer, kate!

  8. says

    Generally I have seen that people prepare pizza with dedication but they don’t pay much heed to the dough (they prefer purchasing pizza base). A recipe that ignores homemade dough is incomplete. Pizza’s are lovable and they are extremely healthy when prepared at home with such grace. Thanks for sharing a complete recipe, this is what people want :)

  9. says

    There you go, making want to lick my screen again. Pinning this for a weekend treat, looks FAB, and I love the twist on the pesto.

  10. says

    I haven’t quite perfect my pizza recipe yet either, but my Dad still raves about the ones I make him when I visit home :)
    I still need to find a GF recipe that I’m crazy about too, but for now I would love to top a bought GF base with this delicious combination of pesto, squash and tomatoes. Also, I think I would just end up eating the pesto off a spoon!

  11. says

    oooh i love the bright colors happening here. i just made pesto for the first time in a lonnnng time and thought, dannng this needs to happen more. i think next pizza night absolutely needs some of this almond pesto action!

  12. says

    I do kind of love how the mozzarella balls melt down into those cheesy bubbles. Trade-off for flavor, I guess? :P

    What a gorgeous pizza! I love the sound of arugula pesto…all the more because it can be made year-round!

  13. says

    Oh. my. gosh. Either I am seriously craving pizza, or this looks and sounds as good as I think it does…. Wow, looks so fresh too! I personally do love the mozzarella balls with a home-made pizza, especially a grilled one!
    I might have to try this one… YUM!

  14. Lila says

    Being that I am one of your NYC friends who shamelessly proclaims her love for NYC pizza, I consider myself to be an EOPE (equal opportunity pizza eater). Definitely looking forward to trying this one!

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