A season for unity
When I was young, I loved playing the game Capture the Flag. Two teams each have a flag at the other team’s base. The point is to run into the other team’s territory, capture their flag, and make it safely back home. There’s a jail for enemy players who get tagged when venturing into your territory, and a prisoner can be freed from jail if a member of their team makes it to jail, tags them, and they run back to the home territory.
What is it about these “war”-like games that is so natural to children? One day while playing, an opposing team member tripped into my path. We were hidden by trees from the others, and he broke character for a moment, his eyes welling up with tears. I broke character too, and instead of tagging him out, I motioned him to run back to the safety of his own territory. Our eyes held a glance, and my heart welled up. What magic there was in forgetting which “side” we were on and choosing unity instead of division! To this day, I remember that moment as one of the first times I felt a strong desire deep at my core: to create moments where enemies become friends. Where we forget which team we’re playing for and instead join hands. Reconciliation. Unity. Sometimes I find myself weirdly sentimental when I see a star quarterback bear-hugging an opposing team member after a big game.
The past month has been full of events that leave my heart in little pieces, attacks in Beruit and Paris and California and right here in my own city. My soul aches for that Capture the Flag moment. Couldn’t there be a world where we realize it’s just a game and break character and all start laughing at the same inside joke? Or hold hands and help each other up? Share a meal together around a table? In this season of light and holiday cheer, my heart pines for moments like those. Unity and reconciliation. Peace and light. Bear hugs and inside jokes. Because we’re on the same team.
How to make pesto Christmas tree pizzas
Food has a way of bringing unity, where we all gather around the table and set aside our differences. Around the holidays, one of our favorite traditions is to make pesto Christmas tree pizzas. We’ve had this tradition with our nieces and nephews, and as we’ve become parents, it’s a tradition we hope to continue with our son Larson.
Making Christmas tree pizzas is pretty simple, but it does require some finesse with the pizza dough to make the Christmas tree shape! To make the Christmas tree, you roll out the dough into a triangle shape, and then add a small rectangle of dough for a trunk. Make sure to use a pizza peel for this one: our favorite pizza peels are listed here. If you’re making a large tree like the one in the photograph, the conveyor pizza peel works very well for sliding it into the oven without sticking. If you have a standard peel or if you’re trying it with a well-floured flat surface (like a baking sheet), consider making smaller trees, which are easier to slide onto the pizza stone.
Once you’ve made the pizza shape, decorating is fun and customizable! You can use any veggies you like to decorate. Here we’ve used basil pesto for the green in the tree, red pepper as ornaments, and sliced red onion as garlands.
Related: Want to know more about pizza dough, pizza peels, and the best type of flour for pizza dough? Here’s everything you need to know about making artisan pizza.
Looking for more pizza recipes?
Here are some of our favorite other artisan pizza recipes to make at home:
Making this Christmas tree pizza recipe with pesto and veggie ornaments is the perfect holiday time tradition, especially for kids!
- Prepare the dough using either the stand mixer or food processor methods (you also can knead by hand; follow this video instruction for more). Follow the preparation instructions in the dough recipe if prepared in advance.
- Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 550°F.
- Prepare the toppings: Dice the red pepper. Thinly slice the red onion, then rinse it under cool water and pat it dry (which removes some of the bite).
- When the oven is ready, roll out the dough into a triangle shape, adding a small rectangle for a trunk. Place the dough on a floured pizza peel. (Note: in this case, the conveyor pizza peel works very well for larger trees like the one pictured. If using a standard peel or a well-floured flat surface, smaller trees are easier to slide onto the stone.)
- Quickly assemble the pizza: Spread a thin layer of pesto, then sprinkle with cheese. Add the “decorations” of red onions and peppers. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
- Transfer the pizza to the oven on the pizza peel, and bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.
Keywords: Pizza, Vegetarian Pizza, Pesto Pizza, Artisan Pizza, Christmas Tree Pizza, Vegetarian, Homemade Pizza
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.