Saturday, June 5, 2021

Veggie Pesto Pizza

Veggie Pesto Pizza is all homemade and vegan, from the Sweet Potato Pizza Crust to the spinach and lentil pesto and mozzarella cheese. Leftovers (if any!) Freeze well and are perfect for snacks, lunches or next-day dinners.
Pizza and I used to be best friends when I was growing up. There was a small pizza place around the corner from my house growing up, and the owner Kerry was always there with a smile, asking us kids about our weekends and occasionally throwing us a double slice for the price of a single. School pizza days were okay, but the mass produced stuff couldn't hold a candle to Kerry's hand tossed crust and generous toppings.

As I got older and developed my host of dietary issues, pizza generally fell off the menu for me. I loved making it - I just couldn't eat it! When N (who also eschews pizza due to his sensitivity to tomatoes) was musing about missing his pizza, the two of us put our heads together and came up with an alternative that was healthy, tomato free and still delicious! A quick shop later and we had all the fixings for a new, vegan but equally delicious pizza on hand, using one of his favourite veggies - sweet potato!

I added the sweet potato to the crust in lieu of some of the water and oil traditionally present. I added a decent portion of whole wheat flour to the mix for flavour and nutrition, keeping enough all purpose to keep the dough smooth and elastic. Instead of tomato sauce, I whipped up a spinach and lentil pesto with lots of garlic and (vegan) Parmesan which added a great bright flavour that accented the sweetness of both the crust and the onion / pepper topping. A quick blast in the oven on my pizza stone later and we had two pies ready to go - one disappeared between dinner and breakfast (cold pizza is amazing, am I right?) and the other was packed for his work meals the next day. 
Veggie Pesto Pizza
Makes 2 medium pizzas 
Sweet Potato Pizza Crust
2¼ tsp instant yeast
1½ cups flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt  
2 tbsp brown sugar 
1¼ cup warm water 
1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed 
2 tbsp olive oil
Spinach-Lentil Pesto 
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup cooked lentils (I used brown)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
5-6 tbsp olive oil, to create a paste

1 (227g) package shredded vegan Mozzarella (I used VioLife)
1 red pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced

Sweet Potato Pizza Crust
  1. In a stand mixer with the dough hook, combine the yeast, flours, and salt. 
  2. Add the brown sugar, water and sweet potato puree and mix about 2 minutes to combine. 
  3. Let stand 10 minutes.
  4. Add the olive oil and knead on low speed for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. 
  5. Cover and let rise 1 hour, until doubled.
 Spinach-Lentil Pesto 
  1. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Set aside.
Topping / Baking
  1. Heat a pizza stone (if you have one) in your oven to 475F. 
  2. Knock back dough and divide in half.
  3. Roll out one half of the dough on a piece of parchment paper as thin as possible (1 went with a 1/4"-1/2" thickness).
  4. Spread pesto in an even layer, keeping a border on all the edges.
  5. Top with the Mozzarella, pepper and onion (or whatever veggies / toppings you like). Repeat with remaining ingredients (you may have leftover pesto).
  6. Transfer one pizza to the oven, either on a baking sheet or onto your pizza stone. 
  7. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese on top is bubbly (about 10 to 12 minutes, up to 15 on a baking sheet). 
  8. Repeat with remaining pizza.

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