This carrot pizza uses the whole bunch, with a base of creamy carrot top pesto and long slices of carrots on top that roast to tender perfection in the oven.
I'll admit that carrot pizza was never very high on my list of recipes to create. But then, when a bag of loose orange heirlooms and two bunches of Black Nebula carrots, complete with tumbling manes of feathery, bright-green tops, arrived in my weekly delivery of local veggies, I knew they deserved more than the usual sheet pan roast. You've heard of nose-to-tail meat preparations, right? Well, allow me to introduce a root-to-top carrot preparation that properly celebrates this stunningly delicious, yet often overlooked vegetable.
Carrot tops taste like a mix of parsley and fennel fronds—grassy with a tinge of bitterness. And just like other fluffy green herbs, they're great for pesto. To make this über carrot pizza, I played with Elise Bauer's recipe and buzzed up the tops with spinach, mint, pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice, then mixed the pesto with half a container of cream cheese I discovered in the fridge. I then spread the creamy, herbaceous concoction onto my dough, topped it with long, thin carrot slices, and baked the pizza until the carrots were fork tender. When the pizza came out of the oven, I sprinkled on some chopped fresh carrot tops and lemon zest, which brought just the right amount of brightness and texture.
Root to Top Carrot Pizza
- Small skillet
- Food processor
- Large rimmed baking sheet or baking stone/steel
- Pizza peel (optional)
- pastry brush
For the pesto
- ½ cup pine nuts, slivered almonds, or chopped walnuts
- 1 cup roughly chopped carrot tops tightly packed
- ¾ cup baby spinach tightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves tightly packed
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the pizza
- 1 to 1½ pounds multicolored heirloom carrots scrubbed and cut into long, thin strips (⅛ to ¼ inch thick)
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped carrot tops
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (if using a baking sheet) or as high as it will go (if using a baking stone/steel; place the stone/steel in the oven before you start preheating).
To make the pesto:
- In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the nuts until they are fragrant and just starting to brown in parts, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Combine the toasted nuts, carrot tops, spinach, mint, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped, then turn the processor to low or medium speed. With the processor running, gradually stream the oil through the feed tube and continue processing until the mixture looks smooth and creamy. Set the pesto aside (you will have about 1¼ cups).
To make the pizza:
- In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese and a scant ½ cup of the carrot top pesto.
- Stretch or roll out your dough to a 12- to 14-inch circle or whatever shape you like (I stretched mine into a long oval shape), then transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet or a lightly floured pizza peel (if using a baking stone/steel).
- Spread the cream cheese–pesto mixture on the dough, leaving a ½-inch border of dough all around. Depending on the size of your stretched/rolled-out dough, you might not need all of the pesto mixture. (Pro tip: It is delicious as a dip for raw veggies.) Lay the long carrot slices on top of the pesto mixture in a single layer. Brush the tops of the carrot slices with olive oil, then sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper.
- Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the carrots are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife—18 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. In a small bowl, toss together the lemon zest and chopped carrot tops. Sprinkle this mixture over the pizza, give it a light drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper if desired. Slice and serve.
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