Sweet, Hydroponic Basil: The Secret to the Best Vegan Pizza - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Sweet, Hydroponic Basil: The Secret to the Best Vegan Pizza

Sweet, Hydroponic Basil: The Secret to the Best Vegan Pizza

By OZY Editors


The secret to the sweetness lies in the leaf size.

By OZY Editors

Your relationship with basil may consist solely of shaking some sad little green flakes into a casserole dish or saucepan. If that’s the case, my friend, you’re missing out. Fresh sweet basil is a delightfully aromatic, hugely flavorful gift to your food, whether it’s bruschetta, pasta, panini, pho, mixed drinks or even basil ice cream. And pizza, of course. 

But if you live in a city, it can be tough getting your hands on the fresh stuff. Square Roots in Brooklyn, New York, has taken on the challenge of getting basil from farm to mouth quickly and efficiently by growing plants in hydroponic shipping containers. The 40-foot-long containers — whose lighted interiors have an almost disco-like feel — can produce up to 50 pounds of basil a week, using just 8 gallons of water. 

The secret to the fresher taste? Leaf size. Being grown in a controlled environment means the plants can be carefully monitored. The larger the leaf size, the less bitter the flavor. Also, being grown locally means less processing and travel time. 

Sweet basil is packed with vitamin K, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber. Which should make you feel even better about blending up some handfuls into a delicious pesto that makes the perfect base for a pizza.

From the Rooted food show starring OZY’s plant-based food enthusiast, Nick Shippers, here’s a quick way to make a vegan sweet basil pesto pizza.

Vegan Sweet Basil Pesto Pizza

Dairy-free Parmesan

  • 2 cups (150 g) raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) nutritional yeast
  • Salt and garlic powder (both optional)

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups sweet basil, lightly packed
  • 1 large garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pine nuts and lemon juice (both optional)


  • Pizza dough
  • 1 cup red tomato sauce seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Dairy-free cheese
  • Toppings of your choice


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Prepare dairy-free Parmesan: Add ingredients to a blender and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Prepare basil pesto: Add ingredients to a blender. While mixing, slowly add extra-virgin olive oil until texture is smooth and creamy.
  • Assembly: Roll out pizza dough thinly. Spread pesto and sauce evenly across dough. Top with dairy-free cheese and selected toppings.
  • Bake on pizza sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.

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