Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Throughout college it seemed every event boasted free pizza, and by the time I graduated I was approximately 110% over it. To this day, I have pizza through work often enough that I rarely crave it on my own and when I do, I want it to be very non-traditional. We are fortunate enough to have a number of excellent pizza places offering some truly different varieties, and luckily one of those is a place that can seat 16 people for lunch with almost no notice.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

My favorite pizza there, to date, is a lamb sausage and fig concoction that does my favorite sweet and savory situation without being overwhelming on either one. I’ve yet to recreate this largely because I want it to remain special enough to order out, and also because fig jam is not high on my list of things to try. Last summer they suddenly switched their menu, removing my go-to and forcing me into trying something new. (I know, woe is me.) Fortunately, however, one of their summer options inspired a new favorite combo.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

Beet and walnut pesto lends a lovely color and a unique flavor in lieu of a traditional red sauce, and truly brings it up to the next level. I topped mine with additional beets (because why not), thinly sliced sausage, and toasted walnuts. Goat cheese and spinach make a perfect garnish to round out the flavors and add a pop of color to the finished meal.

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

Homemade pesto is shockingly easy and now that I have my own food processor (thanks, parents!) I will surely be making more of it this summer. This particular recipe is a wonderful fall or winter version, and a perfect accompaniment to unique sandwiches, quesadillas, and of course, pizzas. The beet flavor is not overly strong, with may appeal better to the more skeptical folks in the audience, but for the beet loves it means you get to top it with even more beets. Win-win for everyone.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a blood orange olive oil from Olivelle for my pesto, but you can substitute a standard one if needed. Considering adding just a smidge of extra lemon juice or orange extract to pump up the citrus level a little bit, but it’ll still be delicious (and pretty!)

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

I enjoyed the savory aspect of the sausage added here, but for a vegetarian option you could use salted nuts instead. Goat cheese adds a nice tang while the mozzarella offers the gooey cheesy experience we all know and love. Altogether, it’s a sweet and savory combination that is truly different than your average pizza.

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Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Adapted from Honest Cooking
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

beet walnut pesto
1 rounded cup cooked beets1
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 – 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 oz Blood Orange Olive Oil (or regular)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp whole dried rosemary
1/4 tsp Vanilla Bean Sea Salt (or regular)

for the pizzas
4 personal-sized pizza crusts (or one regular)
1/2 cup beet walnut pesto
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
1 medium beet, roasted and diced1
1-2 sausages, cooked and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese
fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 450 degrees (or as directed for your dough.)
  2. Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until all ingredients are combined. Adjust consistency with additional oil if desired.
  3. For the pizzas, spread crust evenly with pesto and top with half the mozzarella.
  4. Arrange beets, sausage, and toasted walnuts on the pizza, then top with remaining mozzarella.
  5. Bake as directed, minus about five minutes, or until crust is beginning to crisp and the mozzarella is melty.
  6. Sprinkle pizzas with goat cheese and rosemary, and arrange a few leaves of spinach across the top.
  7. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until goat cheese is warmed through and spinach is lightly wilted.
  8. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper and a glass of wine.

Notes

If you’re short on time or hate dyeing everything pink, there is no shame in using the pre-cooked variety! Our Costco carries them in packages of ~5 which is just perfect for a batch of pesto and a couple of pizzas.

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Pesto Chicken Grilled Cheese

Omnivores can cheer, this sandwich contains meat! Mildly inspired by my favorite panini at a local Italian restaurant, this recipe is hearty and filling but still a more exciting profile than your traditional cheddar.

I feel like most places with a “gourmet” grilled cheese option just shove about eleven pounds of cheese on there, with maybe the option of bacon and tomato. Although there’s nothing wrong with this method and it can be quite delicious (other than ruining a perfectly good sandwich with mostly raw tomato), I don’t find it particularly new and interesting anymore.

However, pesto and chicken are a match made in heaven and adding cheese to the concoction can only improve it. I chose Gruyère, mainly because I love Gruyere, but any sort of cheddar or pepper jack or whatever have you around would be equally delightful. A smidge of goat cheese adds a wonderful creaminess and a slight tang, but is totally optional if it’s not your thing. For an extra veggie boost I added a layer of fresh baby spinach which complemented everything nicely.

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken (which is what I did) but is definitely worth it to make specifically as well. I picked a striped rye bread I had around which was excellent, but almost anything would be awesome.

Also, tangy cheese and herby pesto are a fantastic combination in themselves, so for a vegetarian option just leave out the chicken (or replace it with roasted bell peppers). I promise it’s excellent both ways.

Pesto Chicken Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

1 Tbsp pesto
1 Tbsp goat cheese (optional)
2 oz Gruyère, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cooked chicken, shredded or in thin slices
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach (optional)

2 slices bread
butter or oil

Directions

  1. In a medium pan (big enough to fit both slices side by side) heat a little butter or oil over medium-low.
  2. Spread pesto on one slice of bread. Dollop with goat cheese (if using) and top evenly with chicken. Optionally, add a layer of fresh spinach atop the chicken.
  3. Arrange Gruyère on the other slice and transfer both to the pan.
  4. Place a lid (or a plate, or whatever you have around) over the pan and continue to cook low and slow until the cheeses are melty and warmed through. 
  5. Gently move the Gruyère slice on top of the other and cook an additional 30-60 seconds so the flavors meld.
  6. Remove from pan, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.

Notes

I like this method of grilled cheese preparation because it doesn’t require flipping the whole sandwich, and I think the cheese melts faster, but feel free to use your own preferred method!