[Recipe 2] TWO DIFFERENT PESTO PIZZAS
The school holidays have come to an end. Sidney, my scrumptious 5-year old, starts school for the first time tomorrow – his little uniform is sitting on the couch and it makes me well up just looking at it. I’m back at work tomorrow too, so cooking for me at the moment is all about stocking the freezer with easy bits and pieces for quick dinners.
I know there are probably one billion pesto recipes floating around in cyberspace, but mine is pretty ace, even if I do say so myself. The walnuts and roasted garlic make it extra tasty, and it’s full of vitamins as there is a load of spinach mooshed up in it too. Pesto freezes really well, and also keeps excellently in the fridge for up to 1 week. There is no need to add a layer of oil as some recommend. This pesto retains its vibrant green colour due to the splash of lemon juice. I prefer to add the parmesan to the pasta later as pesto keeps better without it.
My boys absolutely love pesto pasta, and it’s easy to add a few vegies to the pasta cooking water, such as peas; or even tiny broccoli florets.
This recipe makes 3 generous serves of pesto, so you can set some aside for two different pesto pizzas later in the week; one for mature tastebuds with roasted cauliflower and chilli; and a kid-friendly version with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes, which we like to call ‘the fancy margherita’. My wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough recipe is here. I make this dough often, and the pizza bases freeze well (see tips in the recipe).
PS. Do you like my ‘tablecloth’? It’s actually wallpaper. I’m extremely excited as I found a huge book of vintage wallpaper swatches in my local oppie last week. Be prepared for some kooky table covers in the coming weeks!
Pesto ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
1 cup (100g) walnuts, chopped
3 tightly-packed cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 tightly-packed cups (3 large bunches) basil leaves
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ingredients for tonight’s pasta:
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
1 cup frozen baby peas (or fresh peas)
50g (1¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra (shaved) to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF). Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in foil and roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Whizz the walnuts with a stick blender (in batches) or food processor until finely chopped – take care not to blend them for too long or you’ll end up with a paste. They should retain some texture. Set aside.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add to the remaining pesto ingredients. Blend in batches, with a couple of tablespoons oil added each time. Place into a large bowl as you go. Add the crushed walnuts and mix thoroughly.
♦ Divide pesto into 3 portions of approximately 150g (5 oz); or 2 portions of 150g (5 oz) and 2 half portions of 75g (2½ oz). You’ll need 1 full portion of pesto for tonight’s spaghetti. The rest can be frozen – see tips below recipe.
Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Add peas to the same pot for the last 2 minutes cooking time (if using fresh peas, add to the pot for the last 4 minutes). Drain spaghetti and peas, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water, and place into a large bowl.
♦ Add 1 full portion of spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto, parmesan and reserved cooking water; and toss together. Season to taste. Serve immediately, scattered with extra shaved parmesan.
- Pesto can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When using pesto with pasta, add parmesan just before serving. Pesto keeps better without the parmesan added.
- Smaller pesto portions (for sandwiches, salad dressings and scrambled eggs) can be frozen in ice cube trays. Transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic container, and pop back in the freezer.
- Both the garlic cloves for the pesto and the cauliflower for the pizza can be roasted up to 2 days in advance. They can be baked alongside other vegetables and stored in a container in the fridge until required.
- The basil and spinach leaves should be very well dried after washing so your pesto isn’t too watery. You can use a salad spinner, or pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Don’t worry about bruising the leaves – you’ll be pulverising them anyway!
- This recipe can be varied by replacing the walnuts with cashews, pine nuts or pistachio nuts.
- Baby tip: You can make pesto for older babies at the same time, by blending a handful of spinach leaves (about 60g/2 oz), 1 large basil leaf and a small undrained 95g (3 oz) can of low-salt tuna in springwater (or a small cooked fish fillet and a splash of water). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost as needed. Serve with couscous (blended if required).
[Recipe 2] Two different pesto pizzas
Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases
250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)
♦ Half portion (75g/2½ oz) reserved spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto
Pizza 1: Bocconcini, pesto and cherry tomato (‘fancy margherita’).
6 cherry bocconcini*, halved
8–10 cherry tomatoes (or mini Roma tomatoes), halved
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, for scattering
Pizza 2: Roast cauliflower, pesto and chilli
¼ cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 cup florets)
½ tablespoon olive oil, for roasting the cauliflower
6 cherry bocconcini, halved
½–1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (to taste)
Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out and press each dough ball into a rectangle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
♦ Drizzle each with spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto.
For pizza 1: Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes.
For pizza 2: Blanch the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated. Arrange the florets on a baking tray lined with baking paper (you can use one of the pizza trays). Sprinkle with salt. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini halves, followed by roast cauliflower, and chilli flakes.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizza 1 with fresh basil. Serve pizzas immediately.
- Bocconcini are small, white mozzarella cheese balls, packaged in water. Cherry bocconcini are very small, the size of a cherry strangely enough! They’re available at most large supermarkets and delicatessens. Replace with sliced mozzarella if unavailable.
- Leftover pizza is of course excellent for lunch the next day!