Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza


Really, amazingly, deliciously, incredibly, mouth-wateringly good.  Really.


Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza



Lemon Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups lemon basil leaves, well washed and spun dry
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated hard cheese, such as parmesean or Sprout Creek Barat or Ouray (optional)


Lemon Basil Pesto

  1. Place the garlic and basil in the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube and process until desired consistency is reached. Add pine nuts if desired. Transfer to a bowl with a rubber spatula and mix in salt, pepper and parmesean cheese (if desired). It’s best not to add the cheese to the pesto if you plan to freeze it for storage; I often add pine nuts and freeze for up to 6 months.


  1. Pre-heat the oven as high as it will go, 550 degrees F on my oven.  A baking stone dramatically improves pizza crust crispness, airiness & texture, so I recommend one if you make pizza and/or bread frequently.  If using a stone, try to pre-heat for at least 1 hour (bare minimum 30 minutes).  If not, a perforated pizza pan is second best, then a regular baking sheet. Or you could bake it directly on the oven rack, with a baking sheet below to catch any dripping oil or cheese.
  2. Assemble the pizza.  Place a piece of parchment paper on top of a pizza peel (or dust a baking sheet with cornmeal or flour) and place the prepared dough (if your dough is pre-cooked and frozen, you may not need parchment paper, but for fresh dough, with these heavy toppings, parchment is the key to succesfully transferring the pizza from the peel to the baking stone). Drizzle the olive oil, then sprinkle about half of the grated hard cheese.  Dollop pesto and spread thinly with the back of a spoon. Slice mozzarella and liberally spread about the crust, then scatter chicken pieces and roasted garlic cloves. Sprinkle with black pepper, dried basil, and lastly the rest of the grated hard cheese.  If desired, brush the edges of the crust with a little olive oil and sprinkle with hard grated cheese.
  3. Transfer to the pizza to the stone (or put the pan in the oven, on the lowest rack) and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to carmelize.
  4. Remove from the oven with the pizza peel and allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Pizza dough recipe yields four 10-12 inch pizza crusts.  Amounts above yield one pesto pizza with chicken.


  1. I grew lemon basil in my garden last year and made several batches of pesto to freeze for the winter.  Like most herbs, it is easy to grow (at least outdoors in the summer) and worked well in conjuction with my tomato plants. Lemon basil is also becoming more popular in farmer’s markets; my CSA farmer, Betsey Ryder, grows lemon basil at Ryder Farm, and sells it, in season, at the Brewster Farmer’s Market, the NYC Greenmarket and at the Farm’s roadside stand.  If you can’t find lemon basil, any type of basil or basil pesto will work, but the lemon gives it a special tang without actually having to use non-local lemons.  Lemon verbena herb may work as well, although I find it a little sweet and more suited to desserts.  Fresh or dried lemon balm is quite astringent and could be used in small quantities to give a lemony boost to regular basil, but as a pesto by itself would taste medicinal.


The pizza will last well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; I can almost guarantee that it will be eaten long before that!


Lemon basil is in season in summer, but with frozen lemon basil pesto you can make this pizza year-round.


  1. I really like this recipe, its ratios are perfect for lemon basil. Too many recipes just sub out lemon basil for regular sweet basil and never embrace how unique lemon basil truly is. You embrace! Thanks.

  2. localkitchen

    I’m glad you like it! This one is a favorite in our house. Sadly, my lemon basil plants are not doing well in all the rain we’ve been having; hopefully there will be some at the farmer’s markets soon and I can stock up for the winter.

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