Pizza ortolana con pesto

Pizza ortolana – which in Italian means “from the vegetable garden”

When my children were young I used to make pizza almost every week. We lived in the Welsh hills and there wasn’t a pizzeria for miles. My son Dylan would take the orders, scribbling down the selected toppings of household members, whilst I kneaded the dough. It became something of a weekly family ritual.

Since moving to Italy nearly four years ago there has been no need to make my own pizza… why bother when, for just a few euro, you can eat the best pizza anywhere in the world, hot from the oven, smothered in oozing mozzarella with a crisp delicious base? But two months into the Italian lockdown the need for pizza has taken over so its back to making my own. This is my take on the ortolana, which in Italian means “from the vegetable patch”. I added pesto to the tomato sauce base and also dolloped some on top for extra flavour and also added some Gorgonzola for additional cheesiness. You can leave one or both of these ingredients out if you prefer a simpler version of the Italian classic.

Ingredients

For the dough

300g strong white flour 
1 tbsp easy yeast
Olive oil
Salt

For the sauce

A jar of tomato passata
A tube of tomato puree
1/2 a jar of pesto
Salt and pepper 

For the topping

A ball of mozzarella 
A chunk of Gorgonzola 
1/2 jar pesto
Half an aubergine
A courgette
A red onion
A handful of mushrooms 

Method

Start by making the pizza dough. Mix the flour with the yeast adding salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Add sufficient warm water to turn into a paste, then turn out on to a floured board and knead well until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough back in the bowl with a small amount of oil to prevent it sticking, and leave it on the side to rise for 30 minutes.

Next, slice your vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and roast in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Make the sauce by mixing together the passata, tomato purée and half a jar of green pesto.

Once the dough has risen to twice it’s original size take it out of the bowl and place it back on a floured board. Knead for five minutes and then roll out to the required size and shape and place on a metal tray or pizza tin. This is enough for two large pizzas or 4-5 smaller ones if you are feeding a family who all want something different on top! Cover the pizza base with the sauce then layer on the vegetables, dot with lumps of cheese and dollops of green pesto.

And that’s it! Place the pizza in a hot oven for around 10 minutes. The exact length of time will depend on the thickness of your base, the quantity of tomato sauce and how you like your pizza – so keep an eye on it and use your judgement. Best served with wine and sunshine! Buon appetito!

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