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!
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.
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.)
I tried to keep this pesto pizza 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.