This is homemade pesto pizza, the unassuming and very green, nutty, garlicky version of tomato sauce-topped pizza. Use fresh homemade pesto and top with mozzarella cheese and any other pizza toppings you enjoy. I like to finish it off with fresh basil, plus a sprinkle of red pepper flakes right before serving.
Both recipes are repeated favorites and I want to show you how I bring them together to make an epic pesto pizza that delivery boxes would probably fight over!!
Tell Me About This Pesto Pizza
- Texture: Most of the texture comes from the dough you use, and if you decide to try my homemade dough, the pizza is altogether chewy, soft, and crisp right out of the oven. And the cornmeal-dusted pan provides an added crunch!
- Flavor: Cheesy, garlicky, herby, salty, and a little spicy if you add some red pepper flakes. What else could you crave on pizza night? If the answer is ice cream and chocolate, make an ice cream cake for dessert. 😉
- Ease: The hardest part would be making the pizza dough, but you can absolutely use frozen store-bought dough instead. Homemade pesto is a cinch and I encourage to you try it. You need a food processor, less than 10 minutes, and a handful of easy ingredients.
Try This Homemade Pizza Dough
Listen, if you’re nervous to make pizza dough from scratch, I get it. Working with yeast can be intimidating and time-consuming. But this pizza dough requires just 6 ingredients (two of them are water and salt… so easy) and most of the 2 hours required is completely hands-off as the dough rises. You can even prepare the dough earlier in the day, the night before, or freeze it in advance. I also have an equally simple whole wheat pizza dough recipe that bakes up surprisingly soft. (I love the heartier, wholesome flavor of that one.)
The dough yields about 2 lbs., which is enough for 2 pizzas. You need 1/2 of the dough recipe for 1 pesto pizza or you can double the topping & pesto ingredients to make 2 pizzas. (If you’re only making 1 pizza, make a batch of cheesy breadsticks on the side or freeze the 2nd half of dough. Because you WILL want to make pesto pizza again!!)
The recipe below includes a small batch homemade pesto recipe that yields about 1/2 cup, which is just enough for 1 pizza. You need a food processor or blender to make it. If you love pesto and want extras, make a double batch, which is basically the recipe on my homemade pesto page. You can, of course, use your own favorite recipe for pesto or a jar of quality store-bought pesto.
Ingredients You Need & Optional Additions
- Fresh Basil: This is the base of your pesto and we’ll use more to garnish the hot pizza.
- Pine Nuts: Pine nuts can be pricey and sometimes difficult to find, so if you’re having trouble picking up a bag, use walnuts, almonds, or pistachios instead. For a nut-free version, readers have tried sunflower seeds, pepitas, and cooked/cooled edamame.
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a little saltiness and helps the pesto stick together. You can also sprinkle a little on the hot pizza before serving.
- Garlic: Garlic adds incredible flavor to homemade pesto. I urge you to try using roasted garlic because the flavor isn’t as harsh as raw garlic. (Here’s how to roast garlic.)
- Lemon Juice: This isn’t a super common ingredient in pesto, but I love adding it for a little freshness.
- Pizza Dough: You need 1 lb. homemade or store-bought.
- Olive Oil: Drizzle a little olive oil on your pizza pan and use olive oil again to brush all over the dough before adding your toppings. Why? It helps prevent the crust from tasting soggy. You need olive oil for the homemade pesto, too.
- Cornmeal: A sprinkle of cornmeal gives the pizza crust a little extra flavor and crisp; add it to the oiled pizza pan. If needed, you can skip it.
- Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella is the prime pizza cheese and tastes unbelievable with the garlicky pesto. I don’t always use fresh mozzarella; pictured here is just pre-shredded because it was the easiest. (If making homemade dough AND pesto, it’s ok to take a shortcut here!)
- Salt & Pepper: Use some for the pesto and give the pizza a light sprinkle of each before baking.
- Other Optional Toppings: You can add more toppings to the pizza before baking, like sliced tomatoes (I usually use halved cherry tomatoes, and you can see that in a couple of the photos). Or try sliced bell peppers or mushrooms, cooked shredded chicken, fresh spinach or kale, or pepperoni slices. And you can sprinkle the finished pizza with red pepper flakes if desired, too.
You’ll find a lot of these same ingredients/flavors in this creamy pesto shrimp recipe.
Do I Have to Make This Pesto Pizza Round?
Absolutely not. If you don’t have a pizza pan, use a regular sheet pan. Grease it with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal, and then press the dough into whatever shape that will fit. Make sure the dough is about 1/2-inch thick. For a thinner pizza, stretch the dough out more.
It’s really that easy.
Success Tip: If your pizza dough keeps shrinking as you try to stretch it, stop what you’re doing, cover it lightly with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rest for 5–10 minutes. This time allows the gluten to settle and relax. When you return to it, the dough will hold shape much better.
This is a simple recipe for pesto pizza on top of homemade pizza dough. Feel free to use store-bought dough if needed. Yields one 12-inch pizza or you can make two pizzas from the whole dough recipe. If doing so, double the pesto and other topping ingredients.
- Pesto: Pulse the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Scrape down the sides and then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Add a drizzle more olive oil to thin out, if desired. Taste and add pepper (and/or more salt or lemon juice) if desired. I always add a pinch of pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Yields just over 1/2 cup.
- Dough: Prepare pizza dough through step 3. If using store-bought frozen pizza dough, make sure it’s thawed.
- Preheat oven to 475°F (246°C). Allow it to heat for at least 15–20 minutes as you shape the pizza in the next step. If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat as well. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or pizza pan with 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, which gives the crust extra crunch and flavor.
- Shape the dough: When the homemade dough is ready, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough in half and freeze half the dough for another time—see freezing instructions in the pizza dough recipe. On a lightly floured work surface using lightly floured hands or rolling pin, gently flatten the dough into a disc. Place on prepared pan and, using lightly floured hands, stretch and flatten the disc into a 12-inch circle, about 1/2-inch thick. If the dough keeps shrinking back as you try to stretch it, stop what you’re doing, cover it lightly and let it rest for 5–10 minutes, then try again. Once shaped into a 12-inch circle, lift the edge of the dough up to create a lip around the edges. I simply pinch the edges up to create the rim. If using a pizza stone, place the dough directly on a baker’s peel dusted with cornmeal. Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for a few minutes as you gather the pizza toppings.
- Top & bake the pizza: Using your fingers, push dents into the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Brush remaining olive oil all over the dough. Spread 1/2 cup pesto on the dough and top evenly with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper on top.
- Bake for 14–15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chopped fresh basil all over the top of the hot pizza. If desired, add a drizzle of pesto (if you have any left) and/or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.
- Slice hot pizza and serve immediately. Cover leftover pizza tightly and store in the refrigerator. Reheat as you prefer.
- Freezing Instructions: See homemade pizza dough recipe for how to freeze the pizza dough. You can freeze the baked and cooled pizza or pizza slices. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place wrapped slices in a freezer container or bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, and then reheat in the microwave or cover with aluminum foil and bake on a lined baking sheet/pizza pan in a 350°F (204°C) oven until warmed. (About 10 minutes for slices, 15–20 minutes for whole pizza.)
- Pesto: I recommend using homemade pesto on this pizza and I include the recipe here. It’s basically my homemade pesto recipe, only halved. You can use your own pesto recipe or store-bought quality pesto if desired. If you don’t have pine nuts, you can use walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.
- Garlic: If you don’t have fresh garlic cloves, use 2 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar.
- Cheese: Feel free to use your favorite shredded cheese instead of/in addition to mozzarella. You can also use 1/4-inch-thick slices of fresh mozzarella instead of shredded.
- Other Toppings: Instead of/in addition to the tomatoes, you can top the pizza with sliced sweet peppers, mushrooms, fresh spinach or kale, pepperoni slices, and/or 1 cup cooked shredded chicken before baking.
Baking Made Easy
Are you new to this website? This email series is a great place to start. I’ll walk you through a few of my most popular recipes and show you exactly why they work.