A springy beet pesto pizza to power you through the grayest of days. (Pro tip: you'll want to use this pesto sauce on all the things!)
It’s easy to complain about rainy weather, but this is part of the reason I like spring. Dreary, rainy days that smell like earth—when green looks greener and earthworms materialize out of nowhere on the sidewalk. We’ve been hit with a mix of extreme good and bad this week. Jack is being weaned off a few of his meds and making major strides in the eating department, there’s a new baby on the block, and a dear friend is nearing her due date. On the other hand, our thoughts have been with a distant relative, whose baby daughter is waiting to have heart surgery, and with John’s aunt, who just found out she is facing yet another battle with cancer. I didn’t think I needed this lesson in the abrupt and haphazardly timed ups and downs of life, but here it is, nevertheless.
I stared out the kitchen window sometime yesterday afternoon and watched the rain pool up on our newly reseeded patch of lawn, threatening to drown the wispy grass shoots that have finally begun to wiggle their way up through the dirt. This morning, I woke to find two NEW patches of grass emerging from the mud. Take that, rain!
When it came to this week’s pizza inspiration, I’m not surprised that I kept coming back to beets. It’s a form of eating my feelings, I suppose. Not only are beets a root vegetable (deep roots to nurture deep thoughts), but they also contain lots of nutrients that can fortify the body and mind. Studies have shown that beets may help boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, increase stamina, battle inflammation, aid in detoxification, and help optimize brain function.
This is the pizza equivalent of a rain-drenched spring week. It’s heady with mineral aromas, slathered with a fuchsia beet pesto sauce, topped with goat cheese clouds, and finished with a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs—a reminder of the new growth that fights it way up, no matter how drenching the storm.
Beet Pesto Pizza with Goat Cheese and Fresh Herbs
For the Beet Pesto
- 1 large red beet (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for roasting the beets
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove quartered
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- ½ cup pine nuts or walnut pieces toasted
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Pizza
- 1 (14 to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese (chevre) crumbled (1 cup)
- 1-½ teaspoons finely chopped chives
- 1-½ teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
- 1-½ teaspoons finely chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
To make the pesto
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with one rack in the top third and the other (with a pizza stone/steel, if using) in the bottom third position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Put the chopped beet on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle liberally with olive oil (1 or 2 tablespoons) and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss well and roast on the top rack for 40 minutes or until the biggest pieces are easily pierced with a fork. Remove the beets from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will allow, if using a pizza stone/steel).
- In a food processor, combine the roasted beets, garlic, chives, nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. Pulse a few times until everything is finely chopped, then turn on the motor and stream in the ¼ cup olive oil. Process until smooth and uniform in color, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and season with salt. This recipe makes about 1.5 cups of pesto; put aside ¾ to 1 cup for the pizza, and refrigerate the rest in an airtight container to slather on toast or stir into pasta.
To stretch or roll out the dough
- Place the dough on a clean work surface and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a 12-inch circle or square, making sure that it retains an even thickness throughout. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle or square.
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
- If you’re using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray or rub it with some olive oil. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza
- Spread ¾ to 1 cup of the pesto evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
- In a small bowl, combine the chopped chives, tarragon, dill, and lemon zest. (This will be added after baking.)
To bake the pizza
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, 10 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone or steel using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone or steel to reheat under the broiler for 10 minutes before you cook the next one.
- If you’re using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Immediately after you take the pizza out of the oven, top with the herb-zest mixture, drizzle with some olive oil, and season with a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Slice and serve.