Pesto Pizza

Pesto is a unique, singular sauce. Anywhere but Italy, this thick concoction would more likely be called a spread or chutney, but in Italy it most commonly graces gnocchi and ridged penne pasta.

Basil, nuts, and cheese strike me as natural pizza toppings, so I love to use pre-made pesto to put together an incredibly quick and easy pizza. When it takes more time to actually heat up the over than to put together your dinner, there is no reason to be making store-bought frozen pizzas when you could be making your own from scratch.

Though the choice of pesto is extremely important, as it is the base of the pizza both in taste and construction, one is increasingly able to find decent pesto in American supermarkets. Generally, you want to make sure the pesto is labeled “Genovese” or “Ligurian.” The Trader Joe’s brand is certainly passable, though a bit too cheesy. If you local grocer carries Barilla, that would be my first choice, and if you have an Italian market in the vicinity, I would certainly suggest hitting it up – but go for the jars imported from Italy over the house made variety; it doesn’t keep as long and can really vary in taste from batch to batch.

Prep-time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 3-4


  • pre-made pizza dough (you can find this in the bakery section of most major supermarkets, but make sure to get dough, not the Boboli-style pre-cooked crust)
  • pesto sauce
  • two vine-ripened tomatoes
  • a piece of Parmesan cheese
  • dried basil or Italian seasoning


  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Shape the pizza dough by holding it in your hands by the top and let gravity pull out the bottom edge a bit. Keep turning the pizza a few inches until you have made it all the way around twice.
  3. Lay the dough on your pan and push out the edges to achieve a more or less flat surface. If you are not using a non-stick baking sheet or pizza stone, make sure you spray with Pam or other cooking oil before putting the pizza down.
  4. Spoon out three or four spoonfuls of pesto onto the pizza with a small spoon, and use the back of a second spoon to spread the pesto evenly on the dough all the way to the edges. Add more pesto from the jar if you don’t have enough to coat the pesto.
  5. Using a microplane or other very fine grater, make a thin layer of cheese over the pesto. For Italian style pizza, a *thin* layer is key. Do not use big pieces of cheese like the pre-grated bags you find at the supermarket. Parmesan isn’t meant to grate that way, and your pizza will end up too greasy with the cheese overwhelming the pesto. Just trust me on this one.
  6. Slice the tomato into quarter inch thick rounds and arrange the rounds in one layer over the cheese.
  7. Lightly dust the whole pizza with basil or italian seasoning and pop it in the oven.
  8. Check on the pizza after ten minutes. The crust should be lightly golden in some spots. Don’t wait till it is golden all over, or the crust will get too hard and tough to bite into.
  9. Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before slicing.