“Good pizza is always fun.”

—Sally Meyerhoff, in a 2007 interview with GoDuke.com

Female winner of this year’s P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, champion of the XTERRA Trial Run World Championships and triathlete Sally Meyerhoff died on Tuesday when she collided with a pickup truck while riding her bike. Meyerhoff blogged enthusiastically about her racing and training; she was preparing to compete in the NYC Half-Marathon and the 2012 Olympic trials marathon before her life was tragically cut short.

Sally Meyerhoff competing in the 2010 NYC Half-Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Sally Meyerhoff competing in the 2010 NYC Half-Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net

When Meyerhoff was a rising star at Duke, she was interviewed for the school’s website and mentioned that her favorite foods included anything sweet and pizza. My kind of girl. I’m dedicating today’s recipe to Sally.

Pesto Pizza

1 ball of prepared pizza dough*

Cornmeal and all-purpose flour, for dusting work surface, rolling pin and pizza stone

1 batch pesto (see below for recipe)

1 medium-sized ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly

2 large portabella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 teaspoons olive oil, optional

Any additional toppings you desire, such as grilled chicken or salmon, spinach, sauteed zucchini, etc.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly flour a large cutting board or clean countertop and rolling pin with flour. Roll out pizza dough, trying to stretch it as you go, into a large circle. Dust pizza stone (you can use a baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone, but you might want to roll out the dough into a rectangle in this case) with cornmeal and plop the dough onto the stone. Spread pesto (recipe below) onto dough—the back of a big spoon works well for this—and top with toppings. Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and bake until crust is crisp and cheese is melted, about 15-20 minutes.

*Note on pizza dough: While making your own pizza dough isn’t hard, it’s just a little time-consuming and I’m a realist. If you’re able to buy some dough from your local pizzeria, fabulous. If not, I like the whole wheat frozen pizza dough from Whole Foods or the garlic herb refrigerated pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. If you’re using frozen dough, just make sure to thaw it according to package directions in advance so you’re not super excited to make your own pizza, but realize that all you have is frozen dough. That would be a major bummer.

Pesto recipe

This is a winter/early spring pesto recipe. When fresh basil is abundant in the summer, I usually replace the arugula with basil but keep the spinach because it adds extra vitamins and more vibrant green color.

1/4 cup chicken or veggie broth, or water**

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried

2 cups arugula, washed and dried

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts (or combine the two)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, pecorino or Grana Padano cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Place nuts in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat and toast until lightly browed, about 7 or 8 minutes.

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until a coarse paste is formed.

**Note on pesto: I use a combination of water/broth and olive oil to create a lighter pesto. Of course, olive oil is a good-for-you fat, so if you’d prefer a richer pesto, feel free to use oil only.