Pesto Pizza (hold the milkshakes… please)!


You know those crazy people who don’t like sauce on their pizza (cough-my husband’s sister-cough)? Well this one’s for you!

pesto and tomatowith cheese

Remember the other week when Morgan and I went to a neat gourmet store/cafe in Charlottesville called Feast? Well we also bought a little jar of basil pesto.


I have a great memory of going out late for food one night with a friend in college – for some reason we thought pesto pizza washed down with giant milkshakes at midnight was a great idea. We were wrong (dead wrong), but that doesn’t mean pesto pizza isn’t delicious!


Pesto Pizza

1 ball of dough
1 jar of basil pesto or make your own (see recipe links below)
1 tomato
1 cup of freshly grated mozarella
a little bit of oil and a bit of flour

We bought a delicious and inexpensive bag of pizza dough at Chandler’s Bakery in Charlottesville.

If you have a pizza stone, preheat the oven with the stone in there to 525F. Flour a baking sheet and roll out the dough – preferably on a baking sheet that will make it easy to transfer the pizza to the stone (that’s always the hardest part!).

Drizzle a small bit of oil on the dough and then spread your basil pesto over it. It doesn’t take much pesto, maybe 1/4 cup for a medium size pizza. If you’d like to make your own, I recommend 101 Cookbooks’ recipe; Simply Recipes also has one but I haven’t tried it.

Slice the tomato and then cut the slices in half (I hate it when you bite into a piece of tomato but can’t bite through it all the way… let’s just go bite-sized!). Spread the slices over the pizza. Grate your mozzarella and sprinkle gingerly over the tomatoes.

Pull out the oven rack as far as you can, and get another person to help you carefully transfer the pizza to the stone. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Eastern Market is a bit of a cultural icon in the DC area; being one of the oldest farmers markets in the DC area. In 2007 it was ravaged by a 3-alarm fire; practically destroying the south hall, the only original building remaining. This was quite the loss for the community. Sure, there are plenty of markets in the area and they’re all great, but the Eastern Market is THE market of DC.

As the Saints Go Marching In

People have been hard at work to restore the building and this past weekend Eastern Market had its grand reopening. The old building was back in action with all the old vendors (and AC!) and was packed with people. I came out and enjoyed the festivities, picking up some fresh produce for the weekend’s meals.

Children and Bubbles

If you ask me, local in season tomatoes just taste better and when you have a simple recipe like this quality ingredients are important. This summer salad is not your conventional salad; no lettuce to be found here. It’s a nice variation.

Tomato and Onion Salad

Tomato and Onion Salad
Be sure to use fresh, high quality ingredients for this simple recipe.

4-5 small tomatoes
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon high quality vinegar (champagne, white wine vinegar, etc)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut your tomatoes into quarters and your onion twelfths. Combine all your ingredients in a medium bowl and mix to combine well. Serve with a grinding of black pepper and enjoy.

Kitchen Tips – Storing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great fruit that I enjoy year ’round. They go great in salads, work excellently in sauces and have a lot of potential ranging from butter to cheese. And don’t get me started on the health benefits.

Plum Tomato

A lot of people are surprised to hear that you should never store your tomatoes in the refrigerator (gasp!). That’s right. Tomatoes are from warm climate areas and should always be stored at room temperature. Chill temperatures cause damage to their membranes, resulting in a loss of flavor. A green tomato is especially susceptible and also run the risk of discoloration and a mealy texture (these two factors are less prevalent in fully ripened reds).

Tomatoes also produce ethylene gas as they ripen, something the banana is famous for. So be sure to store your tomato in an open area.

Reader Request – Vodka Cream Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me about homemade vodka sauce. She happens to love it, and she and her significant other have a huge garden where they are about to come into a large surplus of tomatoes – something like two bushels of tomatoes a week!

blanched tomatoes

I had never made vodka sauce from scratch, but Edwin and I are always ready for adventure here on DinnerCakes.

tomatoes simmering

I unearthed a discussion thread about making vodka sauce from scratch on Chowhound. A few of the commenters had some interesting ideas about making it from scratch, and a number of others just suggested a combination of canned and fresh tomatoes to really get the best taste. For this first attempt I used only fresh tomatoes, but I agree that adding some canned tomatoes would probably make a bit of a fuller sauce.

vodka sauce

My sauce came out light and fruity, and I served it over gnocchi pasta. My husband and I both came to the realization that while we love gnocchi for the first few bites, we get a little bored with it towards the end. I think we might have enjoyed this more served over a different kind of pasta.

However, this is a good, lighter style vodka cream sauce that’s just right for summer! Please let us know if you have your own variation of vodka sauce using fresh tomatoes.

gnocchi with vodka sauce

Summertime Vodka Cream Sauce
inspired by Chowhound forum

2 fresh tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vodka
1/4 cup light cream
salt and red pepper, to taste

Wash tomatoes and make a few shallow cuts in the skin. Boil water, add whole tomatoes to boiling water for a moment, then remove and run cold water over them (ie, blanche tomatoes). The skin will now peel off easily. Peel tomatoes and set aside.

Heat a large pot and add a liberal amount of oil. Mince garlic and add to oil. Stir so that garlic does not burn. Quarter tomatoes and add to pot; simmer on medium heat.

Continue to heat until tomatoes come apart. Stir occasionally and break apart tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they simmer. This process will take a little while until the tomatoes turn to a pulpy sauce. Continue to stir frequently while simmering so that some of the liquid boils off and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

As the sauce begins to caramelize, add the vodka and stir well. Add the cream last, then sprinkle with salt and red pepper. Pour over pasta while warm.