Gluten Free Pesto Pizza - My Favorite Way to Be "Bad" (Without the Guilt).

By Shannon Gierl

So you know those days that for one reason or another, you just want to be bad?  I don't mean Sons-of-Anarchy-bad (although Charlie Hunnam aka Jax Teller makes bad look so darn good). I mean just a little bad.  Like I want pizza and red wine for dinner bad.  Well those days tend to come up about once or twice a month for me, and whether it's because of the weather, a busy few days, or a friendly little mood swing, I know just what to reach for (Jax Teller?!). Come on now.  Gluten Free Pesto Pizza! 

Jax is thinking he wants some gluten free pizza.  

Jax is thinking he wants some gluten free pizza.  

And don't worry.  This is one of those times you can be "bad" without the residual guilt afterward, because this pie is loaded with veggies and good-for-you herbs and can be made cheese-free.  The recipe tends to vary, but today I'm sharing one of my favorite go-to's:  Gluten Free Basil Pesto Pizza.  First up is the crust.  I know many of you probably have reservations about gluten free anything (let alone pizza!) but trust me - you won't know the difference.  And you won't have to worry about the damage that gluten might be doing to your stomach or any other organs in that radiant bod.  I've explored lots of different gluten free pizza flours, and finally this month landed on a favorite: Pamela's Gluten Free Pizza Crust.  It can be thick or crispy, depending upon how thin you spread it, and it is slightly sweet which melds perfectly with the basil pesto. You can find it at Whole Foods and Kroger, along with many of the larger grocery store chains nationwide.  

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So you've got the crust.  I use 1/2 of a bag for about a 12" x 9" pizza when I want thin crust. (That should feed about two if you are healthy eaters).  If you want thicker crust, use a whole bag and make it fit all the way to the edges of a 10 1/2" X 15 1/2" "jelly-roll pan".  Make sure you follow the instructions on the bag closely, and if you are placing the dough directly on the baking sheet (instead of parchment paper), grease it lightly (I use olive oil or coconut oil spray).  Tip: the dough will unfortunately get all over your fingers - it is sticky.  The package says to use gluten-free flour or oil on your hands to work with it; I have found that a little water goes a long way if you don't want extra oil on the crust.

Next up: the pesto (which replaces boring old pizza sauce here).  I keep it simple: basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and my secret ingredient: lemon.  Lots of lemon.  I also throw in an extra garlic clove for good measure and because to my Portuguese fiancé, more garlic is always a good thing.  He loves it when he comes home and the house smells like garlic and onions (no joke).  "Ahhh it smells like my Avó's (Grandma's) in here!  You could be a great Portuguese housewife!"  Hmmm. "Thanks?" :) 

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Moving on.  The toppings are usually a mixed bag for me: I use whatever is in the house, or fresh and organic at the grocery.  But for this pizza, I'll share with you my all-time favorite combination (and they go incredibly well with the basil pesto):  shiitake mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions, and if you like them, sun-dried tomatoes.  I love sun-dried tomatoes on my pizza because they add a nice chewy texture, but if you're not a fan, you can skip them and this pie is still magnificent.

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Now for the most sacred part of any pizza: the cheese.  For you vegans out there, I have tried this pizza cheese-free and it is still wonderful. So really you don't even need the cheese if you're not feeling a 'bad-like-Jax-Teller' vibe.  But if you are (I won't tell), my "secret" cheese for this recipe is smoked gouda (smoked mozzarella will also work).  If you use smoked gouda you can layer with some regular mozzarella to mellow the flavor and the two blend nicely.  

Lastly, like any good pizza,  you need some seasoning.  If I have fresh basil (which I do right now in my window Hydroponic Herb Garden -- it was the only herb that survived my un-green thumb so I guess I can't really call it a garden anymore)....anyway, I digress.  As I was saying - fresh basil on top is always a good choice. I also have what I call my little "cheat packet".  If you're in the Cincinnati area, head on down to Colonel De Gourmet Herb and Spices at Findlay Market.  I highly recommend them for inspired and easy cooking!  They have a spice blend called "It's A Pizza" I picked up this year and we have been using it since on our gluten-free pizzas.  If you're not in Cincinnati, any Italian or pizza seasoning blend will do the trick!  So when you're all done layering the fresh organic veggies and yummy cheeses, sprinkle this on top and pop it in the oven.  

And when it comes out grab a slice of guilt-free yumminess and what I like to call a 'gentleman's pour' of red wine, and fire up that Netflix.  Jax Teller in all his oh-so-bad glory awaits :).  Now, doesn't it feel good to be bad once in awhile?

What do you cook up or do when you want to be "bad"? Let me know in the comments below (and please, keep it clean folks!). 

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