Pesto Three Cheese Pizza


The basil in the garden is still flourishing, happy as can be, even though it is now pretty much smothered by the out-of-control tomato vines. It is a little bit of a treasure hunt to harvest, but one that I am willing to undertake. The basil bounty leads to pesto, of course. I made a batch last week and used it to make a different twist on pizza.

Even if you have never made your own pizza dough, you should try it. It is so much better than any pizza crust you can buy, and it isn’t hard. I came up with a no-knead pizza dough recipe over a year ago. If you have a big bowl and a wooden spoon, you can make it. One trip the store will get you any ingredients you need. The recipe looks long – but I tried to include lots of directions for first-timers.

Pesto, olive oil, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese come together in a pizza that celebrates basil and cheese. Feel free to add chopped, cooked chicken, a few thin slices of fresh tomato or whatever else you think goes with the green herbiness of the basil.

Pesto Three Cheese Pizza
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 2 14-inch round pizzas

The dough recipe makes enough pizza for two pizzas. If you would rather not make two pesto pizzas, use only half of the topping ingredients for your pizza and use the other half of the dough to make another kind of pizza. Or store the other half of the dough in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week and make pizza another night.

3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred)
1 package yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 ½ cups water, approximately

Put all ingredients except water in your largest bowl. Add 1 cup water and stir to combine.


If there is still dry flour, add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until a very wet dough forms. You aren’t looking for batter here, but a dough. It will be too soft to knead and look quite wet.

Once everything is well combined, beat and mix the dough with your spoon or spatula for a minute or so. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2-24 hours. If you are making the dough much more than 4 hours in advance, store it in the fridge while it rises. If it is rising on the counter, you might need to stir the dough down every couple of hours if it is filling the bowl. Stir it a few times and re-cover. If it is in the fridge, just leave it to do its thing.

If your dough is in the refrigerator, remove it from the fridge and let it sit on the counter 30-60 minutes before you want to use it to make it easier to handle.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pesto, homemade or purchased (more or less, to taste)
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ pound part skim mozzarella, grated
½ cup Parmesan cheese, approximately

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease pizza pans. Sprinkle the surface of your dough heavily with flour, work a rubber spatula around the edges of the dough and try to work some flour down the sides of the bowl.

Divide the dough in half with a spatula and scrape half on to each pan. Sprinkle each dough portion with flour and begin to press it out with your fingertips to cover the pan. Add more flour if it sticks to your hands. If one piece bounces back, move to the other pan and come back the first after the dough has a minute to relax. Try to get the dough to the outside edges of the pan, but you don’t have to be perfect.

Drizzle each pizza with a little olive oil and spread to cover the dough.

Add small dollops of pesto to each crust, spreading them out slightly with the back of a spoon. Don’t try to cover the entire crust with pesto, unless you really like basil. You might not use all the pesto.

Dollop ricotta cheese between the spots of pesto. Use the back of a spoon to spread the ricotta cheese out a bit. Again, you aren’t trying to cover the entire surface with ricotta, but just spread it a little thinner so you don’t have huge globs of cheese on the dough.

Sprinkle each pizza with mozzarella cheese, then Parmesan cheese.

Bake pizzas for 12-15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the cheese is golden brown and the bottom crust is lightly browned. Cut each pizza into slices and serve immediately. Pizza reheats well, either in microwave or in a skillet on low heat.

Download the recipe here.

4 thoughts on “Pesto Three Cheese Pizza

  1. Sarah,
    The pizza looks amazing. I agree that home made crust is the way to go. My three favorite pizzas to make in the summer are tomato, feta and basil pizza; spinach, pine nut, and goat cheese pizza; and caramelized onion and blue cheese pizza. For the tomato, feta, and basil pizza, I make home made pesto sauce and spread that on the dough instead of tomato sauce. All three are big hits among family and friends.

  2. Sarah
    Last week my niece moved into our house. She will be here a year while she is going to school. Rachel, like her mom, has health issues that require a gluten free diet. Coming from a household that is use to yanking out the flour and dusting down the counter tops, I felt incredibly intimidated. The first week, we played it safe and cooked meals that only involved meat, vegetables, fruit, potato, and rice. I avoided everything that required substitutions.

    Today, I made the leap! With a bunch of peaches needing to be used, I dove into the world of Gluten free baking. I found several recipes for gluten free cobbler on line and made a shopping list. With my niece in toe, I headed to the Dierburgs by our house. I was surprised to find that that store had an entire isle of GF items. I found what I needed, things I didn’t need but got anyway, and I made a mental list of all kinds of things I want to try out in the future (such as the Coconut flour). About an hour and a half later, an hour of which was the cooking time, I gave birth to my very first gluten free peach cobbler. It tasted amazing! I am no longer afraid. Tonight I baked gluten free corn bread that I will use tomorrow to make GF corn bread stuffing. I am hoping by the time Thanksgiving gets here, I will be able to offer GF alternatives for our GF guests. If you have any recipe ideas that want to share, let me know! I will keep you posted!

    I did take a picture of both the cobbler and the cornbread but I couldn’t figure how to post them to this blog.

    • Your gluten free adventures sound like they are going well. I don’t have much experience with gluten free baking. I have made flourless chocolate cake and puddings, which are gluten free to begin with. Not sure if that counts, but I was serving them to people with gluten issues. 🙂

      Not sure you can post pictures directly in the comments. Can you post a link to one of the photo sharing sites?

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