I'm not having a lot of luck growing fresh basil this summer. I haven't found a spot in my garden where the little divas will perform. Truth is, I really haven't been able to produce a decent crop of basil since I moved out of my old flat with the rooftop deck. That deck had its own little micro-climate, the basil loved it up there, tiny transplants grew quickly into little bushes, and I had a steady supply of fresh basil all summer long. This year I tried growing my basil plants in flower pots, I kept moving them around to the sunniest spots, talking to them, feeding them. Even after all that, I only managed to produce enough for a meager little harvest.
Looks like I'll have to rely on the farmers market for fresh basil if I want to make a couple of batches of Traditional Ligurian Pesto.
I did manage to grow enough of this flavourful herb to make a couple pizzas though. I have a fresh batch of homemade mozzarella on hand, so I'll keep it simple and go with the classic Margherita. A quick crust, a simple tomato sauce, some fresh mozzarella cheese, and a scattering of basil leaves is all you need to make these amazing gourmet pizzas. Fresh mozzarella is sold in most grocery stores these days, so it shouldn't be too hard to find, if you don't want to make your own.
This recipe makes four small oblong pizzas, about 3x 10 inches-
Basic Tomato Sauce:
- 1 500 gram can of plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- one clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- pinch of salt
To make the sauce, purée a can of plum tomatoes (500 grams) in your blender with pinch of salt. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add one small clove of finely chopped garlic and sautee briefly, just until fragrant. Don't let the garlic brown at all. Add the tomatoes to the pot and increase the heat to medium-high and let cook for 15-20 minutes, until reduced to about 3/4 of a cup. remove from heat and stir in about 10 large chopped basil leaves (about 1/4 cup). Let the sauce cool to room temperature.
For a quick crust, I use Pizza Crust Yeast and this simple recipe-
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package Pizza Crust Yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2/3 cup warm water
Combine 1 cup all purpose flour with 1 teaspoon salt and one package Pizza Crust Yeast. Stir one tablespoon honey into 2/3 cup of very warm water and add to the flour mixture. Stir until the mixture forms a soft ball, then add another 1/2 cup of flour and combine. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth, about 5 minutes. Divide into quarters, and flatten into oblong shapes. You can use your palms to form the dough or roll it out with a wine bottle, either approach will work. Let dough rest for about 15-20 min under a tea towel.
- 300 grams fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 425F, prepare a large cookie sheet by sprinkling with coarse corn meal. To assemble your pizzas, use a spatula to transfer the pizza dough to the cookie sheet. Spread about 1/4 of the sauce over each crust, cut mozzarella into slices and distribute the cheese evenly among the four crusts. Bake at 425F for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese has melted. Just before serving, scatter about 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves over the the pizzas. Enjoy!