I promised to share more recipes using pesto after my Pesto-Ricotta Tofu Omelettes post so here I am with another. Hopefully by now you’ve got a nice batch of pesto in the fridge, but if not, or (heaven forbid!) you’re not a fan of the green stuff, I’ve also got a delicious alternative for you today.
Cheese-less pizza to the uninitiated might sound boring, but it leaves room for so much more creativity, since you haven’t got all that cheese smothering any other flavours you add. And after all, the original Italian pizza “pizza marinara”, is cheese-less- just a good thin crust topped with a rich tomato sauce, spiked with garlic and oregano (Fun fact: the name “marinara” doesn’t, as one might think, refer to fish or seafood, but “marinai” or sailors for whom it was first baked in the C18).
Here I’m mixing up cultures a little as Romesco is Spanish not Italian. I first came across it with the delicious “Chickpea Romesco” from Veganomicon: A tasty bean dish in a tangy roasted red pepper, tomato and paprika sauce thickened with ground almonds.
Then, when living in Barcelona I encountered this tasty sauce again. Every year when the calçots, a vegetable similar in taste and appearance to green onions or leeks, are in season, the Catalans hold the Calçotada. This festival which celebrates the harvest of the vegetable with a feast of char-grilled calçots which are then dipped in Romesco sauce before eating.
I haven’t yet tried to recreate a Calçotada back in England (!) but I wanted to enjoy that delicious sauce again in a different way. It made a great topping for pizza, rich and flavourful, especially with some grilled vegetables on top, as the slightly smoky flavour reminded me of those blackened calçots in Spain.
It’s not difficult to make, but the flavour is so complex it tastes like you must have put in a lot more effort than is actually needed.
Spanish Romesco Sauce:
1 Medium red pepper (Or use the equivalent amount from a jar of roasted red peppers)
1 Large clove garlic, chopped
2/3 C Slivered almonds
2 Tbp Red wine vinegar/Sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp Sweet paprika
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and place the red pepper on a baking sheet. Cook the red pepper for 25-30 minutes until skin is blackened and blistered and the pepper has collapsed. Remove from the oven and immediately place in a heat-proof bowl and cover with a plate or cling film. Leave to sit for 10 minutes. The steam helps you remove the skin.
Spread out the almonds on the same baking sheet and toast for a few minutes in the oven until golden. Be careful as they burn easily.
When the pepper is cool enough to handle, rub of skin with your fingers, deseed and dice into 1” pieces.
In a food processor or high-power blender combine the chopped red pepper, toasted almonds, garlic, vinegar, oil, paprika and seasoning. Process to a thick, smooth consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender jug a few times to get everything incorporated. Taste for seasoning and pulse in the parsley.
You won’t need all this for the pizza so why not try the leftovers with some grilled vegetables, Calçotada-style! It’s also yummy as a dip for carrot sticks or spread onto wholewheat pitta for a quickie lunch.
For the pizzas:
1 Ball wholegrain pizza dough (I use the pizza dough recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, available online here, using half wholegrain flour. To make 2 small pizzas, as pictured, I halved the recipe. )
1/4C Romesco Sauce (See above)
Grilled/Fresh Vegetables ( I grillled some courgettes, roasted a second pepper, and added some slices of fresh tomato)
Preheat oven to 250C/500F (preheat your pizza stone if you’re lucky enough to have one). Divide dough into two and roll out thin to two round (ish!) pizza bases. Spread each with the pesto and romesco sauce respectively, scatter on vegetables of choice. Slide onto a baking tray and cook for approx 10 minutes or until the crust is brown and crispy.
Serve hot, alongside a big green salad.
What are your favourite pizza toppings?