In this recipe, I’ve jazzed up classic Italian sausage pizza with alternating swirls of pesto and red sauce, two different cheeses, and a chiffonade of either basil or baby spinach leaves. Feel free to use store-bought sauces to make it even easier!

Italian sausage pizza with pesto and marinara sauce

Sausage has always been one of my favorite pizza toppings, and when I say sausage, I mean small meatball-size hunks of the Italian kind, not the pre-cooked slices (though those can be tasty, too). There’s just something about the texture and flavor balance—springy, meaty morsels, anise and dried herb seasonings, creamy cheese, tangy tomato sauce, crunchy-chewy crust, and yes, those pools of grease that form on top during baking.

red sauce swirl

In my version of the classic pizzeria pie, I emphasize the herbaceous undertones in Italian sausage with a base layer of both pesto and red sauce. (The swirl, pictured above, ensures that both sauces end up on every slice.) Then, I keep things simple: nothing but bite-size pieces of cooked sausage, diced fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a finishing garnish of baby spinach (or basil).

before baking

You’ll get the tastiest results from freshly made cooked-down pizza sauce and bright-green pesto straight from the food processor. That being said, since you only need ⅓ cup of pesto and ½ cup of red sauce, this might be the time to reach for the jarred/canned stuff instead. I promise I’ll never judge!

Italian sausage pizza with pesto and marinara sauce


Can I use low-moisture mozzarella instead of fresh?

Sure! I like the fresh mozzarella because it’s less salty and not as greasy when baked. However, shredded low-moisture mozzarella would give you more of a classic pizzeria taste.

Do you recommend hot or mild Italian sausage for this recipe?

I like mild, but hot would be delicious, too. For reference, ½ pound of sausage is 2 to 3 links.

Is it important to make my own pesto and pizza sauce?

Nope. If you want to make your own, follow the links below in the recipe card. If you don’t want to make your own, choose the highest-quality options, though, since the flavors really shine on this pizza.

Do I really have to cook the sausage before putting it on the pizza?

Yes, you really do. Since your pizza will only bake for 10 minutes or less, it’s important to precook the raw meat to prevent undercooking and the risk of food-borne illness.

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