Recipes / Veganism

Meat-Free Monday Recipe: Vegan Basil Pesto Pizza

Happy Meat-Free Monday!  Ahh…Labor Day weekend…marking the end of summer.  It’s a weekend of cookouts and BBQs or going to the beach.  I spent yesterday at the Cape…thanks Hurricane Earl for the crazy winds and waves so no lounging on the beach reading for me!  No worries though, it gave me the chance to browse bookshops and boutiques.

Whatever your plans, you should celebrate with some delish food.  Pizza reminds me of lazy summer days and nights, which brings out the kid in me.  So as an homage to the end of summer, I bring you my first foray into making pizza from scratch.  But to make the classic a little more bougie, I baked this Basil Pesto Pizza from my fave cookbook, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau‘s The Vegan Table.

Don’t be scared of making pizza dough from scratch!  It isn’t incredibly laborious, just make sure you have bubbles on the top of your water/yeast mixture before you mix it with the flour and don’t over-knead the dough.  Be prepared to wait about 2 hours for it to rise; so prepare it well before you’re ravaged.  You can also freeze leftover dough.  It’s well worth it as there’s nothing like the taste of fresh bread, pie crust or crispy pizza crust made by hand.

For the non-dairy cheese, I ONLY recommend Daiya brand cheese.  If you’re skeptical of vegan cheese, I can’t say I blame you; most of it sucks.  But Daiya is oh so different.  Made from tapioca rather than soy, it stretches and melts and tastes just like cheese.  It’s the same cheese that the rocking vegan pizza shop Peace o’ Pie in Allston, MA uses.  You can purchase Daiya at Whole Foods.  If you prefer, you can certainly substitute dairy cheese or omit the cheese altogether; it will still be fab.  The basil pesto is so fragrant, fresh and pungent.  Feel free to put on your fave pizza veggies too.

Hope you all had a wonderful summer…now here’s to a fab fall!

Vegan Basil Pesto Pizza

Cornmeal or flour, for dusting pizza stone
Pizza dough (see below for recipe)
Basil pesto (see below for recipe)
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup baby bella mushrooms, chopped
Non-dairy mozzarella cheese (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing crust and drizzling on pizza
Salt, to taste


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Dust pizza pan with cornmeal, set aside.

On a cornmeal-floured surface, roll out pizza dough and shape it.  Fold dough over once or twice, place on cornmeal-dusted pizza pan and unfold.  Jerk peel once or twice to make sure dough will slide easily off.  If it sticks, lift dough, sprinkle more cornmeal underneath and replace dough.

Spread pesto on dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border for the crust.  Distribute tomatoes, mushrooms and vegan mozzarella over the pesto.  Drizzle evenly with olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt.  Brush pesto-free crust with olive oil.

Bake pizza for 7 to 10 minutes, or until dough is crisp and golden brown.  Cut pizza into wedges and serve immediately.

Yields 8 slices

Basil Pesto

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt


Place pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and blend until it has a consistency of breadcrumbs.  Add basil and blend.  Drizzle in two tablespoons of oil, along with the salt, and process until smooth and creamy, adding additional oil, if needed.  Add more salt to taste, if needed.

Yields 1/2 cup or 4 servings

Pizza Dough

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (approx. 2 envelope packets)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for oiling bowl
1 teaspoon salt


In a measuring cup, pour warm water.  The water should be warm to the touch but not too hot, the temperature of a comfortable bath.  Water that’s too hot will kill the yeast; water that’s too cold won’t activate it.

Sprinkle yeast into water, add sugar and stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes until both ingredients dissolve.  When yeast is mixed with water at the proper temperature, it looks like a smooth, beige mixture.

Let stand for 5 minutes, until a layer of creamy foam covers surface, indicating that the yeast is effective.  If bubbles haven’t formed in 5 minutes, discard mixture and start over with 2 fresh packages of yeast.

Combine 3 cups of flour with salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture and oil.  Using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir flour into well, beginning in center and working toward sides of bowl, until flour is incorporated and soft dough just begins to hold together.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Dust your hands with flour too.  Knead gently, pressing down on dough with the heels of your hands, pushing it away from you, then partially fold it back over itself.  Shift a quarter turn and repeat.

While kneading, gradually add just enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour until dough is no longer sticky or tacky; this should take about 5 minutes.  As you work, use a metal spatula to pry up bits of dough that stick to your work surface.  Continue kneading until dough is smooth, elastic and shiny, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Knead dough until it’s smooth and springy.  Be sure NOT to over-knead though otherwise the crust will be too tough when you bake.

Shape into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat completely on all sides.  This will prevent a hard surface from forming on dough that inhibits rising.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and drape a dish towel over top.  Use two if bowl is big to keep bowl dark.

Set aside to rise in a draft-free, warm place until dough doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes for quick-rising flour or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for regular flour (mine took 2 hours).

Once dough has doubled, use your fist to punch it down, to prevent over-rising.  Squeeze dough into a ball, pressing out air bubbles.  You can refrigerate leftover dough in plastic wrap for up to 36 hours.  Just let it warm to room temperature before using.  You can also freeze dough in an airtight container for up to 4 months.  Thaw before using.

Yields dough for two 13- to 15-inch pizzas.

3 thoughts on “Meat-Free Monday Recipe: Vegan Basil Pesto Pizza

  1. Pingback: The Perfect Pizza Press » Blog Archive » Saturday Garbage Plate: Inaugural ed.!

  2. Pingback: When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie: Happy Vegan Pizza Day! « The Opinioness of the World

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