Kale Pesto Pizza

By Ann Fulton

Inspired by a customer favorite at a local restaurant, this easy-to-make pie might just redefine your typical pizza night - and increase its frequency!
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Inspired by a customer favorite at a local restaurant, this easy-to-make pie might just redefine your typical pizza night - and increase its frequency!


If you’ve been to The Fridge on the edge of the city of Lancaster, chances are good you’re a fan of their mushroom and kale pizza. (Or has dined with someone who is!)

The earthy vegetables sit atop a thin crust that’s adorned with just the right amount of nutty, smooth-melting Gruyere cheese. A touch of garlic oil seals the deal.

The simple combination is utterly sublime and transforms a slice of pizza into something that’s more redeeming than the typical slice and every bit as satisfying. Dare I say more so?

The following recipe is my homemade take on the Fridge’s fan favorite.


Inspired by a customer favorite at a local restaurant, this easy-to-make pie might just redefine your typical pizza night - and increase its frequency!While The Fridge doesn’t use pesto, I consider it a sauce alternative that adds an extra layer of flavor and makes this version a little more flexible.

This versatile sauce adds flavor to a wide variety of basic ingredients, elevating simple meals with ease while adding vibrant color and healthy appeal.


For example, my younger son isn’t fond of mushrooms, but he adores pesto and loves this pizza. Given his preference, I usually add the mushrooms more heavily to one half of the pizza than the other. He happily picks off any renegades and hands them to my husband or me.

I typically stick with the toppings as described in the recipe, but you could absolutely experiment with any that would complement the pesto-which is many! A variety of roasted or grilled vegetables, from eggplant, winter squash and broccoli to zucchini and onions-even slow-roasted tomatoes, like these gems- could yield delicious results.

Keep in mind that the pizza will only be in the oven for about 12 minutes, so pre- or par-cooking additional vegetables of choice will usually be necessary. And not to be forgotten, olive fans might enjoy a smattering of sliced, pitted kalamatas or even a favorite green olive.

It won’t be The Fridge’s pizza, but that’s okay!


(My husband wouldn’t be upset if I threw in a few anchovies. Anyone else?)

Inspired by a customer favorite at a local restaurant, this easy-to-make pie might just redefine your typical pizza night - and increase its frequency!

A fresh-tasting, easy-to-make pie that’s as wholesome as it is flavorful!


Kale Pesto Pizza
Yield: 1 (12-inch) pizza or 2 (8- to 9-inch) pizzas
Pizza night can be healthy and delicious! For an easy weeknight meal, prep the pesto in advance and use ready-made dough or a prepared crust-whole wheat for added nutrients and gluten-free if needed. I recently used a frozen cauliflower crust that paired beautifully.
For the pizza:
  • 1 pound store-bought pizza dough or homemade (whole wheat or GF as preferred-see notes)
  • Kale pesto (recipe follows)
  • 1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese (may substitute mozzarella or use a mix of both)
  • 1 cup lightly packed kale, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Optional: ½ to ⅔ cup sliced mushrooms; red pepper flakes
For the kale pesto:
  • 3 cups packed kale, preferably the Tuscan/Lacinato variety, thick ribs removed and roughly chopped (starting with an 8- to 9-ounce bunch will also provide plenty for the extra 1 cup above)
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mix of both)
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (may use 3 if small)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt and several turns of the pepper mill
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup (56-75ml) olive oil

For the pesto: In a food processor, add the kale, nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse several times until the mixture is chopped but still chunky. Scrape down the sides, and then turn the processor on and drizzle the oil through the feed tube. (For use with this pizza, I like to add just enough oil to make a spreadable pesto. You may thin leftovers, if desired, with more oil, pasta cooking water, a little white wine or broth.) Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. At this point the pesto is ready to go, but it may be refrigerated until ready to use and freezes well, too. The flavor will improve over time. Tip: When you remove the pesto from the processor, stir in any lemon juice or residual olive oil that may have seeped under the blade.

For the pizza: Preheat the oven to 425℉. If you’re using store-bought dough, check the instructions on the package. It might need to rest at room temperature prior to baking.

Prepare the pizza dough as directed, whether store-bought or homemade. I like to roll the dough most of the way between pieces of parchment paper and then transfer it to my 12-inch pizza pan and gently stretch to the edges of the pan. Alternatively, a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a baking sheet may be used. Or follow the directions for a pizza stone if you have one. Helpful hint: if you roll the dough in the parchment too much, it will stick; spraying the parchment lightly with cooking spray will help. For best results, roll or stretch the dough as evenly and thinly as possible.

Par-cook the crust for 4-5 minutes. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, and then spread an even layer of pesto across the surface of the dough. You will use roughly half of the pesto. (Use the rest for another pizza or as you would any basil pesto. It freezes well, too.)

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Finally, in a small bowl, toss the 1 cup chopped kale with the 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Rub the oil into the kale so it’s lightly covered. Stir in the mushrooms and toss to lightly coat if using. Distribute the kale mixture evenly over the top of the pizza. When using mushrooms, arrange them on top of the kale.

Place the pizza back in the oven, and bake until the crust is golden in spots, the cheese is melted, and the kale has a few crisp edges (about 12 minutes, give or take a few, on a metal pizza pan or baking sheet—check sooner if using a baking stone). If desired, top the pizza with a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Slice and enjoy.

Notes & Tips:

You may choose to make two 8- to 9-inch round pizzas. The surface area will be roughly the same.
For added ease, you could use a pre-baked crust and skip the pre-baking step.
The pesto yield is about 1 cup, about half of which can be saved or used for another pizza or other use and may be frozen.

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