If you read all the way to the end, you will see suggestions for making the same pizza with ready-made ingredients from the grocery store.
Basil-Red Pepper Pesto
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 roasted, peeled, and seeded red bell peppers (I used prepared peppers in a jar)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste (I did not add extra salt because of the salty Parmesan)
Optional: 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts ( I decided against using nuts)
- I blanched the basil leaves for 10 seconds in boiling water and then plunged them in ice water and dried them on paper towels. The blanching helps maintain a bright green color; however, they look a little wilted, and I didn’t get a good photo of them when they were still leafy.
- Add basil, peppers, garlic, and seasonings to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped and blended. Add olive oil in a steady stream as the mixture continues to process until you have a fine consistency. Don’t over-process. This is less oil than in most pesto recipes, but you don’t want to have too much oil on the pizza. There will be fat from the bacon and cheese.
- Add the grated cheese and pulse to blend.
- The pesto can be made ahead.
1 12 oz. package of thick-sliced bacon
I cooked the bacon in the microwave between four paper towels, in order to minimize the fat that would be added to the pizza. Place four slices at a time between four paper towels (two on the top, two on the bottom). Microwave for 2-3 minutes until light brown. The method cooks pretty evenly and the paper absorbs most of the fat. When cool, chop in half-inch pieces. This can be done ahead.
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour
- Dissolve yeast in warm water for about 10-30 minutes or until foamy. You can add the sugar and salt to this mixture at the same time—I did.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast mixture, olive oil, and flour.
- With the dough hook, combine on low. When all the flour is combined, turn to medium and knead for at least ten minutes. The resulting dough will have a nice elasticity that is hard to achieve by hand, but you can certainly make this or any dough by hand.
- Round the dough up into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, in a warm place, covered with a pastry cloth or towel. I set mine on the top of the stove and turned the oven on to 200° because my oven vents onto the stove top, keeping the bowl (and the rest of the house) warm.
- I let the dough rise to double, twice. The first rise takes longer than the second one, maybe 45 minutes to an hour. The second rise takes only about a half hour.
- Some people only let pizza dough rise once; some people don’t let it rise at all.
- Some people let the dough ferment overnight or longer in the refrigerator, first.
Preparing the Pizza
Preheat oven to 450°
These instructions assume you are using a peel and baking stone.
Pizza dough (above)
1 cup prepared pesto (above)
6-8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8 oz fresh mozzarella
2-3 sliced tomatoes, seeded
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Have your baking stone on the lowest oven rack before preheating the oven.
- Cover the peel with a 50/50 combination of flour and cornmeal.
- On a damp counter or rolling mat, roll the dough into a circle, then pick it up and stretch as needed. If you are using a peel, you have to have the dough pretty much ready to top when you put it on the peel, because if you try to handle it too much there, it will stick and not want to slide onto your baking stone. If you are using a pizza pan, you can push the dough up to the edges in the pan.
- Place the stretched pizza dough on the peel and form edges without pressing the dough into the board. You can test that the dough will slide by shaking the peel a little. Once the pizza is put together, it must be able to slide off easily. You can do some slight stretching of the dough on the peel if you don’t press it into the board. If you have edges that are sticking, carefully lift them without disturbing the toppings and put a little flour underneath.
- Spread the pesto on the dough up to the edges.
- Add the chopped bacon next.
- Fresh mozzarella works best if small pieces are pinched off, because it is very soft and moist. If using regular low-moisture mozzarella, you can slice or grate it. Sprinkle mozzarella pieces over the pizza.
- Cover the top with sliced tomatoes. I seeded the whole tomatoes as much as possible before slicing to avoid a watery pizza.
- Sprinkle the top with Parmesan to taste.
- Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.
- Slide pizza from peel to hot stone in oven. Aim well, because you won’t be able to move it after it hits the stone. Even if you are using a pizza pan, you can still bake it on the stone.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.
All this said, you can make this pizza using ready-made ingredients: You can buy pizza dough in most grocery stores, now. You can get good pesto in a jar, as well as the red peppers I used. You can even get pre-cooked bacon and cheese that is already grated, so don’t run away thinking this is too much work. It is too much work and you can do it more easily and get the same flavors from ready-made ingredients.
Did it go over well? Yep.