Spring Pesto Pizza
When I started working on my book, Occasionally Eggs: Simple Vegetarian Recipes for Every Season, the idea wasn’t to make it a seasonal recipe collection. Though using these types of ingredients has always been an important part of my cooking style, it seemed too inaccessible and out of touch, even a few years ago. But things have evolved, and with our changing climate, it is more important than ever to eat seasonally. It’s also easier on your wallet.
Of course, geographic location plays a large role when discussing seasonality, so I write recipes with my garden in mind. Most of the fruits and vegetables used are those I grow or buy at local markets, and ones that inspire me throughout the year. However, simplicity in cooking is key, and all my ingredients can be found at a regular supermarket and be substituted.
Spring signals the true beginning of the year in the form of new life in the garden and on our plates. The first fresh ingredients to arrive after the hungry gap of late winter are wild garlic and nettle to forage, followed by early crops in the garden.
With lengthening days and more sunlight, spring is special. More time outdoors lifts the spirits. Fresh greens bring colour to a drab, end-of-season palette. Berries arrive, along with radishes, asparagus and new potatoes. During this time of year, adding asparagus and any other available greens to pizza is my favourite way to eat them.
Spring Pesto Pizza
Serves four|30 minutes prep time|25 minutes cooking time| 1 hour rising time
I made this recipe over a dozen times while working on my book because I hated every photo. It was well worth it, let me tell you, because I still got to eat the pizza every time! I guarantee that it’ll knock your socks off. Spinach is called for twice in this recipe, in both the pesto and the toppings. Any hardy green, like chard, arugula, or kale, can be used in its place — whatever you have on hand.
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (½ cube fresh)
- cup water, room temperature
- tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating the bowl
2 teaspoons salt
2½ to 3 cups spelt flour, divided
2 cups basil
1 cup) packed spinach
- garlic clove
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- tablespoons olive oil
4 cups spinach
14 ounces asparagus, halved lengthwise, woody ends removed
1 medium leek, cut into ½-inch rounds, dark greens discarded
- medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch rounds
- cups button mushrooms, cut into ½-inch slices
Olive oil, to drizzle
Pinch of salt
To make the dough, whisk together the warm water, honey, and yeast in a large bowl. Let this mixture rest for 15 minutes. The yeast should bloom and look like foam. If nothing seems to be happening, your yeast is likely dead, either from being too old or because the water you used was too hot.
Stir in the room-temperature water, oil, salt, and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining flour about ½ cup at a time, stirring between each addition, until it becomes too difficult to mix.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, sprinkling additional flour as needed, until a soft, smooth dough forms. If you have a stand mixer, skip hand kneading and use the dough hook in your mixer instead.
Clean your bowl, then add a drizzle of olive oil to it. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with a plate or tea towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot. Let the dough rise for 50 or 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make the pesto. Add the basil, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a small food processor, or use an immersion blender and blend well. Add the olive oil in a slow stream while blending, until fully incorporated and very smooth.
Preheat the oven to 400 F
Divide the dough into two equal pieces, roll out into rough circles around 1 inch thick, and place on parchment paper.
To make the pizzas, top each round with equal amounts of the pesto. Reserve a couple of tablespoons for serving. Divide the toppings among the two rounds of dough, starting with the spinach at the base, followed by the asparagus, leeks, zucchini, and mushrooms. Top each pizza with a drizzle of oil and sprinkle of salt.
Bake each pizza for 25 minutes, baking both at the same time if your oven has a convection setting. The vegetables should be tender and the crust golden. Top each pizza with a drizzle of pesto and serve hot. This taste best fresh but keeps well at room temperature for a day…and is pretty good cold, too!
Alexandra Daum is a Toronto-born, Manitoba-raised food writer and photographer currently living in the far northeastern corner of the Netherlands. She’s the creator of Occasionally Eggs, a seasonal vegetarian recipe website focusing on healthy(ish) recipes. An avid gardener and gatherer, her recipes are inspired by the local produce wherever she’s living at the time.
Excerpted from Occasionally Eggs: Simple Vegetarian Recipes for Every Season by Alexandra Daum. Copyright © 2021, Alexandra Daum. Photography by Alexandra Daum. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.