Friday, March 8, 2013

Pizza Topped with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

This winter I have been experimenting with topping a pizza with Brussels Sprouts (whenever I happened to have a handful left at the bottom of a bag—it doesn't take too many sprouts to top a pizza). Most of the toppings involved slicing the sprouts thinly before sautéing them—similar to the treatment I give them for a favorite winter pasta. The results were always delicious, but unfortunately not terribly attractive.

For the most recent rendition I decided to sauté large pieces (quarters) of the sprouts instead.

The results were very good with this method. Not only was the finished pizza nicer to look at, preparing the sprouts this way provides some textural interest to the topping as well. Instead of a soft, continuous layer of wilted greens (which is not necessarily a bad thing), the surface of the pizza is punctuated by chunks of the just tender sprouts.

The success of this recent rendition however, was probably not wholly due to the adjusted preparation of the Brussels sprouts. It is more likely that it was due to the happy combination of all of the ingredients involved...beginning with the introduction of some ricotta cheese into the mix. Recently when I was looking for a home for some ricotta that I had on hand, it occurred to me that the ricotta would pair nicely with the Brussels Sprouts. I decided to use some of it as a "sauce" for the pizza instead of my more usual sauce of seasoned olive oil. Then, instead of adding bacon or pancetta to the sautéed sprouts (see the aforementioned pasta sauce), I layered some thinly sliced prosciutto over the ricotta. The combination of the sweet ricotta, salty prosciutto and the slightly bitter sprouts was exceptional.

Because we love to have pizza for dinner at my house...and we love Brussels sprouts...I will continue to occasionally experiment with ways to use up those last few sprouts on top of a pizza (although, maybe not this year...the season for Brussels sprouts is rapidly drawing to a close). But there will probably not be quite so many experimental variations in the future. We have already had this particular version has definitely taken its place in our regular rotation of winter favorites.

Brussels Sprouts, Ricotta & Prosciutto Pizza

2 1/2 to 3 T. olive oil
1 shallot (1 to 1 1/2 oz.), peeled and thinly sliced
6 oz. Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and quartered
Salt & Pepper
1 ball of pizza dough (see below), rested
3 1/2 oz. Whole milk ricotta (a slightly mounded 1/3 cup)
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into large pieces
4 oz. Fontina, coarsely grated

Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized sauté pan set over medium to medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until wilted and beginning to caramelize—3 or 4 minutes (regulate the heat so that they don't burn). Transfer to a plate and return the pan to medium-high heat.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with a generous pinch of salt, tossing to coat the sprouts in the oil. Sauté the sprouts, tossing occasionally until they are golden brown in spots—adding another half tablespoon or so of oil if the sprouts seem dry. Reduce the heat and continue to cook until they are tender—about 5 to 7 minutes total cooking time. (Regulate the heat as necessary so that the sprouts cook through, but don't burn.) Return the shallots to the pan and continue to cook for another minute. Taste and correct the seasoning and set aside to cool.

Place the ricotta cheese in a small bowl and beat until smooth, seasoning with salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

Build the pizza: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 10 to 11-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pizza pan, baking sheet or pizza peel that has been dusted with flour. Using your fingers, push up the edges of the dough to make a slight rim. Quickly spread a thin layer of oil (about half a tablespoon) over the crust. Spread the ricotta over the crust to within a half inch of the edge of the dough.   Arrange the prosciutto evenly over the ricotta.

Spread half of the Fontina over the prosciutto. Scatter the sautéed Brussels sprouts evenly over the Fontina and top with the remaining Fontina.

Bake the pizza: If using a pizza pan or baking sheet, place the pizza in the pan on a pre-heated pizza stone in a pre-heated 450° to 500° oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is bubbling, about 12 to 15 minutes. To insure a crisp crust, slide the pizza off of the pan and onto the pizza stone as soon as the crust is set (after 4 or 5 minutes).

If using a peel, slide the pizza directly onto the preheated baking stone. Bake until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is bubbling—about 8 to 12 minutes.

When the pizza is done, transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges and serve.

Variation: This pizza is also delicious with the addition of some chopped thyme (about 1 t. picked). Add to the Brussels sprouts when you return the shallots to the pan.

Printable Recipe

Pizza Dough:
1/2 cup warm water (100º-110º)
1 1/8 t. active dry yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

Place the water in a large bowl and add the yeast. Let soften for a minute or two. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the oil, salt and another half cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough that holds its shape, adding more flour if necessary. Sprinkle some of the remaining quarter cup of flour on a smooth surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and sprinkle with a bit more of the flour. Knead the dough, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, until the dough is smooth and springs back when pressed lightly with a finger—about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size—about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is now ready to be shaped, topped and cooked or frozen.

Food Processor Method: Place the water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit until the yeast has dissolved. Place 1 1/3 cups of the flour and salt in the food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to blend. Add the oil and yeast/water mixture and pulse until the dough is homogenous. Begin to run the mixture in long pulses until the dough is smooth and elastic—it shouldn't take more than a minute. If the dough seems wet and sticky, add some of the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and give it a few kneads by hand.

Printable Pizza Dough Recipe

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