I always grow too much basil. I usually start my own seeds, but occasionally I will buy plants, especially if the basil is a unique variety. I’ve grown Greek basil, Genovese basil, Thai basil, lemon and lime basil, Holy basil, cinnamon basil, purple basil and spicy globe basil. Sometimes I get volunteer plants from the previous year to add to the collection.
Unfortunately, I have learned that basil does not sell well at farmers’ markets, so I have used it as filler plants in my herb and flower gardens. It has a lovely fragrance and looks pretty. At the end of the season, I am left with an abundance of basil.
I dry basil for use during the winter and I usually make a batch or two of pesto to store in the freezer.
Pesto is an Italian sauce traditionally made with garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil and Parmesan cheese blended with a high-quality olive oil. Pesto’s origin can be traced to ancient Romans who made a similar herbal paste.
Pine nuts (also called piñon or pignoli) are the edible seeds of 20 different species of pines. They can be quite expensive. I have tried substituting other types of nuts in pesto recipes, but still favor pine nuts for their texture and taste.
Depending on the species, pine nuts can contain up to 34% protein. Once shelled, pine nuts will deteriorate rapidly. I always store mine in the freezer to preserve flavor and avoid having them turn rancid.
Pesto has a strong pronounced flavor and is used sparingly in recipes. I have been trying new and creative ways to use all of the pesto I preserved.
Recently, I made a Pesto Pizza with fresh slices of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. My husband and I concluded it was the best use of pesto, because the flavor was not overpowering.
I started with a frozen pizza dough found at my local Piggly-Wiggly. When strapped for time, the dough is the closest I’ve found to homemade. The edges turn golden when baked and the crust is slightly chewy. The recipe calls for three tablespoons of pesto, although I used at least four generous tablespoons trying to make a dent in my frozen stash.
I know I will be making this often while I have fresh garden tomatoes. This winter, when I want to be reminded of the hot days of summer, I may have to buy tomatoes, thaw some pesto, and heat the oven to make this delicious pizza full of seasonal flavors.
Pesto Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes
• 1 recipe pizza dough (fresh or frozen)
• 3 to 4 tablespoons basil pesto
• 2 to 3 tomatoes, sliced
• Salt and pepper
• 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
• Flour for dusting
• Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
• Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan. With floured hands, pat out or stretch pizza dough into a 12-inch round.
• Spread pesto over dough leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Top with mozzarella.
• Bake pizza until dough is crisp and brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
Slice and serve immediately.