I love pizza, especially homemade pizza. But with many awesome vegan pizza options available in my hometown, at least under normal circumstances, it’s all too easy to avoid making my own. I’ve been wanting to institute some sort of semi-formal Friday night pizza tradition for a while now, but I often end up skipping it and treating myself to a slice made by a pro instead.
Since I’m home pretty much constantly now, and many of NYC’s eateries are re-opening slowly or delivering only outside of my neighborhood, I’m much more motivated to make my own vegan pizza pies. In the last two months, I’ve mostly used store-bought vegan mozzarella and tomato sauce. Nothing fancy, but always very welcome and satisfying. I’ve tried a few variations with vegan sausage and veggie toppings, too.
This week, with warm weather finally sticking around, I wanted to make something a little fresher and greener. In spite of the fact that I was DIY-ing, I took inspiration from the vegan-friendly pizzeria that’s closest to me, Cafe Viva.
Viva used to have two locations, one uptown and one downtown, until it became an uptown-only eatery in the last decade. For a while, it was one of the first few dedicated vegan and vegetarian pizza places in the city, and while that’s no longer the case, I have loyalty to Viva because it’s been around for so long, and it’s always been yummy.
Viva has traditional slices aplenty, but I’ve always enjoyed it’s more creative offerings, too. For a while, my favorite was the Mother Earth (soy meatballs, mushroom, peppers, broccoli, sautéed onions, and tomato sauce). Then I fell in love with the Zen (green tea herbed miso tofu, pesto, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted garlic on spelt crust). The pizza I’m sharing today isn’t a replica of either, but it draws inspiration from both. I’m calling it a “green goodness” pie, because it’s both of those things: good to eat and very, very green.
In place of a vegan cheese, I made a really tasty, pesto-marinated tofu. The pesto in question is my tahini pesto, which is great on pasta, but also really good as a spread for sandwiches or wraps. It’s denser and richer, I think, than regular pesto, and I suspected it would work really well as a tofu marinade. I’m a big fan of folding tahini into tofu scramble for creaminess, and the same principle applies here.
The rest of the pie is unfussy: just broccoli (I used frozen and defrosted florets) and spinach. Of course, you could use all sorts of other vegetables here: thinly sliced asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, peppers, and caramelized onions would all taste good. And if the pesto tofu on its own doesn’t quite do it for you, the addition of vegan cheese wouldn’t hurt one bit 🙂
The crust here is my go-to. I use 00 flour when I can get it (I had some in my pantry pre-quarantine, so I used it here), and all-purpose the rest of the time. Sometimes, when I’m craving a nuttier flavor, I use a 1:1 combination of all purpose and white whole wheat or whole wheat. I can vouch for all three, and if you’re not in the mood to make crust from scratch, store bought is A-OK, too. Here’s the recipe.
The pizza recipe makes between 6 and 8 servings (two or three smaller sized pizzas). If you’re cooking for one or two, you can cut the recipe in half or simply treat yourself to the gift of leftover pizza! I love my slices with a simple green salad and lemony vinaigrette, or with some sautéed leafy greens. And FYI, the herbed tofu is a nice little topping for toast or a tortilla pizza, if you’re not in the mood for the whole shebang.
Pizza is one of those quintessential comfort food meals that seems particularly welcome right now. This version is a little different—a little greener and more herbaceous, a little more nutritious and slightly less melty. A friend of mine, whom I’ve taken with me to Cafe Viva, would call it “hippie pizza.” But it’s got the tender crust, the acidic and slightly sweet taste of tomato, and—thanks to miso, nutritional yeast, and lemon—the saltiness and umami of cheese.
For me, it satisfies the need for comfort and the desire for something wholesome and earthy all at the same time. Hope you’ll get something like that from it, too. Happy Hump Day, friends, and I’ll be back this Sunday.