Collard Green Pesto Pizza
A cross between my father’s Italian-American heritage and my mother’s Southern childhood, this collard green pesto pizza combines culinary traditions in exciting ways. Being from the northeast, I grew up without ever seeing collard greens at home or in grocery stores. I never even tasted them until about six months ago, when I was experimenting with vegetables out of which to make pestos. I love pesto, especially on pizza, so the idea for this recipe ended up being a no-brainer as soon as I tasted my collard green pesto. A vegetable pesto has the power to transform pizza night, taking it in a different yet delicious direction.
This particular pizza omits the layer of cheese that figures on most other pizzas, so let me explain. It’s not that I don’t love cheese, I do; however, I feel that it is often unnecessary. When I come up with pizza recipes, I prefer to go without the cheese layer - believing that a pizza that is great without cheese will be great with cheese as well. Consequently, this pizza isn’t nearly as heavy as a cheesy one, which also means that the vegetable topping gets to play a more prominent role. But if you love cheese on your pizza, by all means add a layer of cheese - it will be phenomenal.
The bitterness among collard greens can vary widely, due to how long they’ve sat around after being harvested, or the season in which they’re harvested. Cooking with the freshest produce is ideal but not always possible, so I’ve discovered a helpful trick for dealing with bitter collards. I always have some caramelized onions on hand whenever I prepare collard green pesto, and add it if the resulting pesto is too strong. I love pine nuts in pesto for the buttery richness they add, but feel free to substitute other nuts if desired.
This recipe for collard green pesto makes more than enough for one pan pizza, or two free form pizzas. Save any extra collard pesto for veggie tortilla night. (See recipe for Soft Flour Tortillas here.) The tangzhong pan pizza dough is found below while the free form pizza dough is found here.
Collard Green Pesto Pizza
This recipe can be adapted to a cheesy version by topping with a combination of shredded mozzarella and shredded cheddar, if desired.
1 recipe tangzhong pan pizza dough (see recipe here)
1 recipe collard green pesto (see recipe below)
Parmigiano-Reggiano or other Parmesan cheese
Remove the plastic wrap from your rested, risen pizza dough. Top your pizza with dollops of room temperature collard green pesto. Using your fingers carefully spread the pesto evenly over the dough, being careful not to tear the dough while leaving the edges free of pesto. Top with a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for ~15 minutes. I like to bake the pizza on the bottom rack as it gives the pizza bottom a nice crust. I move the pizza to a higher rack if the bottom crust is over browning.
Collard Green Pesto
2 bunches collard greens weighing ~ 2 pounds 3 ounces
½ cup pine nuts (or substitute with walnuts or pecans)
1 garlic clove - peeled and chopped
~½ cup caramelized onions (optional)
½ - 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for adding to boiling water
~¼ cup olive oil
½ ounce freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
Wash the collard greens well in a sink full of cold water in order to remove any sand. I remove the collard stalks by pulling my hand up each stalk and ripping off the large leaves. Alternately, most of the stalk can be left on while removing the thick bottom portion. If you do leave the stalk on, remember to increase the cooking time accordingly.
Roughly chop the collard leaves and submerge in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes (or 5 minutes if stalk is included). Drain pot, allowing collards to cool until able to handle (or cool in ice water). When cool, squeeze handfuls of collards, removing as much liquid as possible. Roughly chop the squeezed dry collards. Place in food processor with garlic, pine nuts, and ½ teaspoon salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Stream in ¼ cup olive oil while food processor is running. Taste pesto. If the pesto is too strong for your tastes, add ¼ cup of caramelized onions at a time until you’re happy with the flavor. Add more salt, ½ teaspoon at a time, until lightly seasoned. Add more olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, if a richer taste is desired. Spoon pesto into a bowl and stir in grated Parmigiano cheese. Use that day or refrigerate for later use. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before using.