Portobello Pesto Pizza

One of my favorite things about playing around in the kitchen is trying to recreate favorite meals or desserts that I’ve had at a restaurant. It’s great to enjoy food out, sure, but it’s even better when you can duplicate it (or maybe even improve on it) from the comfort of home. This pizza is one of my latest projects in recreation. (You might remember previous projects: Fig and Almond Cheesecake, Cosi Signature Salad, and White Sicilian Pizza.) Here in Pittsburgh there is an establishment called Church Brew Works. In the Lawrenceville neighborhood of the city, St. John the Baptist Church was built in 1902 and thrived until a diocesan reorganization closed the parish for good in the early 1990’s. The building sat dormant until it was renovated and converted into a brewery and restaurant, which is a very popular destination in the city. I’ve eaten there twice in the last few months and both times ordered their portobello pesto pizza, which I totally fell in love with at first bite. I knew immediately I wanted to make a version at home, and dare I say, I think mine might take the cake!

Their pizza is a basic crust, topped with pesto, portobello mushrooms, red onion, kalamata olives, and provolone and Parmesan cheeses. I absolutely despise olives, so you know I was leaving those off of my pizza. Other than that I kept the rest of the ingredients the same, but I at least doubled the amount of mushrooms and onions, and upped the cheese factor as well. More toppings and more cheese are always good things in my book! Below is a little step-by-step on assembling the pizza…

First, shape your pizza dough and put it on your pizza peel (or whatever pan you will be baking it on):

Next, spread your pesto over the dough:

Then, pile on the mushrooms and onions:

Finally, top it off with loads of provolone and Parmesan cheese:

And in less than 15 minutes you will have a gorgeous, cheesy, bubbling pizza:

I love that I was able to make fresh pesto using basil from my flourishing basil plant out on the deck. Truly adds so much joy to food when you go out and harvest what you’ve grown; I’m loving it. And I’m loving this pizza. I already want to make it again!

P.S. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area during September/October, you must head to Church Brew Works and enjoy their Oktoberfest menu. Two years ago we went with another couple and made an entire meal out of appetizers – their potato latkes are to die for! (I should add that it’s a great place to hit any time of year – great restaurant, truly unique atmosphere, good food and drinks. I’m just a sucker for their Oktoberfest menu ;-))

One year ago: Barbecued Beans

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Portobello Pesto Pizza

Ingredients:

For the Pizza Dough:

½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast

1¼ cups water, at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups bread flour

1½ teaspoons salt


For the Toppings:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced

¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)

8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:

1. Make the Pizza Dough: Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.


2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.


3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.


4. Assemble the Pizza: Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven (if using). Heat oven to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.


5. While the oven is preheating, prepare the mushrooms and onions. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and both the mushrooms and onions are soft and browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.


6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. (You only need one ball of dough for this recipe, so at this point you can wrap one ball of dough in plastic wrap, put in a ziploc bag and freeze for another day - just move it to the refrigerator the morning you plan to use it).


7. Flatten the dough ball into a disk using the palms of your hands. Starting at the center of the disk and working outward, use your fingertips to press the dough until it is about ½-inch thick. Holding the center in place, stretch the dough outward. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and stretch again. Repeat until the dough reaches a diameter of 12 inches. Use your palm to press down and flatten the thick edge of the dough.Transfer your prepared pizza dough to a pizza peel, parchment-lined baking sheet or pizza pan (whichever you are using).


8. Spread the pesto over the pizza dough, just as you would pizza sauce, leaving a ½-inch border uncovered. Spread the mushroom and onion mixture evenly over the pesto, and then top with the provolone and Parmesan cheeses. Slide the dough onto the heated stone, or place your baking sheet or pizza pan into the oven.


9. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice and serve (be careful, it will be hot!).


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