Pesto Cashew Ricotta Pizza

This luscious green and white dotted Pesto Cashew Ricotta vegan pizza was our Sunday night feast last weekend. And not only was this recipe fun to make - pizza always is - it was surprisingly easy once all the prep work was done. You can even do the prep the night or day before for a super simple route to dinnerland.

Pizza. Fluffy whole wheat pizza dough, speckled with hemp and ground flax seeds is the base of this rustic earthy pizza. Rich, creamy, homemade lemon garlic cashew ricotta mingles with bold spicy green pesto sauce. A humble sliced red tomato, some red pepper flakes, lemon slices, extra virgin olive oil and sliced shiitake mushrooms complete this pie. Get the recipe..

Vegan. Pizza. Party.

Start with some simple sliced tomato..

Dollops of homemade cashew ricotta..

Add the pesto, shrooms..

before baking:

after baking:

And a few days later .. I made this pizza again it was so good!! Below is what that pie looked like..

Pizza #2 - twist on my recipe: I still used plenty of cashew ricotta, but alongside spicy marinara sauce instead of pesto, plus plenty of hemp seeds, a more rustic grained crust (Bob's Red Mill whole wheat + flax and hemp seeds rolled in) red onion, spinach and fresh basil..

Serve with a Fizzy Ginger Blood Orangeade:

And my fave Fully Loaded Kale Salad (or a simple pizza salad):

Food Memories. I love thinking about where my food favorites come from. Every time I post a recipe I think about when and where I first ate that. Or a version of it. Here is my pesto pizza story..

Pesto/Ricotta Pizza. My love affair with Pesto Ricotta Pizza began in a small pizza joint in Santa Cruz Cali where I grew up.

The drill.. You stumble into the musty, dimly-lit, red-and-white-plastic-table-cloth, soda machine in the back, video game in the corner, pizza cafe. Usually after school with friends by your side. You order up either a square cut/thick crust or skinny crust/triangle slice of pizza. The guys behind the counter plop it into the fire-pit oven for a few minutes to basically "reheat." While you wait, you grab some soda. It wasn't glamorous or terribly healthy - but the place was always buzzing with a few clusters of kids.

I always ordered the thick crust veggie slice. I despised the skinny slices. But one dreary afternoon the thick crust veggies were OUT. Gasp. So it was either a skinny pepperoni - all greasy and slick - or the odd looking pesto ricotta thick slice. My friend, also a thick slice fan, ordered it on a whim. Call it peer pressure, but I followed right along.

That thick green pesto looked like something growing on the bottom of a poorly kept swimming pool. And that thick ricotta? Well to me, it belonged stuffed between squiggly layers of pasta in a lasagna. Reluctantly, I bit into the chewy, tender slice. A bitterness from the basil and pine nuts overwhelmed my taste buds. The subtle sweetness seemed strange and pillow-y. I hated it. Wait, maybe. I took another bite and the flavor finally hit me in a new way. Pesto and white stuff was my new favorite pie.

Well, then many years later, I went vegan and now that traditional slice wouldn't suit my taste buds or ethics at all. Luckily, I've found a very happy in-between - free of dairy. This vegan pesto and cashew ricotta pizza is pretty fantastic. A very nice change from a red sauce pie. It is rich and creamy with every bite and I even love it in skinny slice form.

Big yay to another deliciously "veganized" recipe.

LOL. Oh, and this has NOTHING to do with this recipe, but it kinda made me laugh out loud. And everyone needs a good laugh to go with their pizza. Read this to giggle (has some foul language FYI, and bashes my favorite movie of all time. But it so made me LAUGH.) Jezebel: I watched Titanic so you don't have to. You're welcome..

Back to PIZZA.. the Toppings..

Pesto Cashew Ricotta Pizza
vegan, makes one XL pizza (you may have some leftover cashew cheese and pesto)

for the pizza:
1 ball of pizza dough (whole wheat + 1 tsp hemp seeds + 1 tsp ground flax seeds)
1 cup lemon garlic cashew ricotta
1 cup thick vegan pesto
1 large beefsteak or heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
2-3 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-3 thin lemon slices, seeds removed
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil rubbed on the stretched dough + a dash of garlic powder
spritz of lemon juice over top the assembled pie
red pepper flakes as desired

Lemon Garlic Ricotta
1 1/2 cups soaked and drained raw cashews (soak in salted water overnight)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cloves of raw garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water + more as needed
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
dash of pepper
dash of cayenne
1 tsp mixed dried Italian herbs (optional)
a few dashes of ground flax seeds (optional)
small scoop of nutritional yeast (optional)

(use your favorite pesto recipe or the one below)
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup spinach (or another leafy green)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped with stems
1 cup raw walnuts (or a mix of raw seeds/nuts you may have on hand - pumpkin seeds and pine nuts work well too)
2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
a few dashes black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
water as needed to thin out pesto during blend
optional: 1 small jalapeno, stem removed (for heat)

Pizza Dough
(double recipe for XL pizza - 1 packet makes about M-L sized pizza)
1 yeast packet
1 cup warm water
1 tsp agave syrup
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or another variety)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten - helps with the chewiness of the crust


Prep: soak cashews the night before in salted water - or at least for 4 hours.

1. Start your dough. Swirl the yeast and agave with the warm water. Let yeast sit for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the flour, vital wheat gluten, salt and oil - add to yeasted water. Gently knead dough into a ball. Place in a floured mixing bowl and let it sit for a while. It will puff up and become "happier" as it sits. If you need to knead a bit more to really mix the dough go for it. Place ball in mixing bowl and let sit for about 45 minutes to 2 hours.

2. While the dough is "growing" you can get started on your pesto and cashew ricotta. I do my ricotta first. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. You may need to add a bit of water to get the blend moving - depends how "soaked" your cashews are. Salt and spice to taste. You want a light lemony garlic flavor with a hint of spiciness from the raw garlic and cayenne. Transfer ricotta to a bowl and place in fridge.

3. You really don't even need to clean your blender - the bits of ricotta actually blend well in the pesto. Add add the pesto ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth - yet not too watery. If you end up with water pesto, add in more nuts and/or nutritonal yeast. Dried spices will also thicken things up a bit. Transfer pesto to a bowl and place in fridge.

4. Prep your veggies by slicing shiitakes and tomatoes.

*you can actually do all this prep work the day or night before if you'd like! Then the pizza part will be super easy. You can even place your fresh dough in a plastic baggy and seal it in the fridge for up to one day to use.

Preheat oven to 415-425 degrees

5. Knead dough on a floured surface - you can also use the hemp and flax seeds on the surface so that you get a nice seedy dough - with seeds along the crust and bottom. I like to drag the shaped dough in a pile of hemp seeds and a splash of olive oil. Shape dough into a pizza round and place on a lightly EVOO greased pizza pan.

6. Add a drizzle of EVOO and a light sprinkle of herbs and/or garlic powder.

7. Add the tomato slices.

8. Grab your ricotta and pesto and add dollops of each all over the pizza - alternating so that the pizza looks like a pretty white and green polka dot feast. Make sure you thin out each dollop with the back of a spoon.

9. Add the lemon slices around the edges - these should be removed before eating the pizza - but they add a very nice bright essence to the pizza. Add the shiitakes and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

10. Bake for about ten to fifteen minutes - depending on how thick or thin you rolled your crust. This pizza tastes amazing the next day for leftover too. Even cold!

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