Roasted Root & Ricotta Pizza
Pizza nirvana, in my opinion, is hard to come by, but when you do, it’s just the best darn food you can possibly imagine. I think I was spoiled by my trip to Italy when I was 20. In the autumn air, I wander the streets of Florence with no particular agenda other than to savor every moment. In the beautiful old-world charm of this Italian favorite, I had my first slice of the mother land’s pizza.
First off, it was huge! Really huge! The diameter of a car tire, or so my mind’s eye remembers. I know for sure that I was shocked – absolutely dumbstruck – that this was the size of pizza every individual in the little restaurant was getting. No going “halvesy”. You ate your pizza like a big hungry man. And devour it without a shard of proper ladylike manners I did!
The crust was so thin and crisp. The sauce perfectly balanced with garlic and basil. The bubbly mozzarella was no doubt fresh as it could be. Because the crust was so thin and the toppings so minimalist (in the best sense of the word), when I finished and pushed back my chair, I felt “just right” – not too full but most definitely completely satiated. Shortly after that I bought my first original piece of artwork from a painter along the banks of the Arno River and felt immensely happy with my travel adventure.
Once back in the States, I did my best to replicate that experience, trying several pizza recipes and kneading the dough under the Florence watercolor I’d hung in my kitchen as inspiration. I’m embarrassed to admit, dear readers, that I was a really bad pizza maker. The texture of the dough eluded me and always came out, well, soggy. I basically gave up on homemade pizza for several years until Deb, at Smitten Kitchen, nudged me out of my misgivings with her many tempting pizza posts and a very simple dough recipe.
As it turns out, the trick to entering pizza nirvana, begins with a touch of honey and dough rolled so thin you can practically see through it. Once you’ve got that, you can’t go wrong. But, it turns out, you can improve upon perfection. Now, I’m not going to be so bold as to say this recipe for Roasted Root & Ricotta Pizza is better than that being made by little eateries in Florence. But… However… You see… On the other hand….
It’s really really really good. Not a “minimalist” pizza by any means, this crispy crust gets loaded with aromatic and smoky roasted potatoes, rutabaga, onion, garlic, and even carrots, not to mention creamy ricotta and melty mozzarella. Mama mia, am I hungry all of a sudden!
Roasted Root and Ricotta Pizza
Don’t be put off by the length of this recipe. It’s really not that complicated at all! Also, I’d encourage you to make the roasted vegetables and the dough the day ahead so you can whip this together quickly for a weeknight dinner or fun Sunday afternoon bite.
Roasted Root Vegetables
1 large rutabaga
3 large carrots
2 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2 T. olive oil
pinch of cumin
pinch of curry powder
pinch of oregano
freshly ground black pepper
1 t. honey (warmed so its fluid)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Peel the rutabaga and scrub the carrots and potatoes. Slice rutabaga, carrots, potatoes and onion into thin rounds. Mince the garlic. Place prepared vegetables and garlic on a foil lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and seasonings. Add the warm honey last, whisking as you add it. Drizzle oil mixture over the vegetables and toss with your hands to coat.
Roast vegetables in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until they are darkened at the edges and tender in the center. Stirring the vegetables once or twice through the roasting time will help them cook more evenly.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. You can store the roasted vegetables for a few days if needed.
½ C. warm tap water (may need 1 or 2 T. more water)
3/4 t. active dry yeast
1 t. honey
1 t. salt
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 C. flour
Whisk water, honey and yeast in a medium bowl until yeast has dissolved. Sit aside and cover with a towel until mixture is foamy and double in size, about 15 minutes. Stir in salt and oil. Add flour and work mixture with a spoon and your fingers until it comes together as a dough. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if you need, but try to avoid this if you can knead the dough without more water.
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and knead the dough for a few minutes.
Clean out the bowl you used to mix the dough and coat it with olive oil (or non-stick spray). Put the dough in, cover it with a clean dish towel, and let it rise for an hour or up to two, until it is doubled. If dough is not showing much life, place on top of a warm oven or radiator.
When dough is doubled, gently deflate it with the heel of your hand. Form it into a ball and let it rest on a floured spot with the bowl turned over top of it to keep out drafts. In 15 minutes, it is ready to roll out.
1 batch of pizza dough
½ C. shredded mozzarella
½ C. part-skim ricotta
1 batch of prepared roasted roots
Olive oil for drizzling
Cornmeal for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 500 F (or its highest setting if it doesn’t go that far). If using a pizza stone, preheat that with the oven. Roll out the pizza dough as thin as you can manage. Place on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal (if you don’t have a pizza stone, place parchment on a baking sheet). Trim away any excess parchment as it will burn in the oven.
Top dough with half the mozzarella. Spread out the roasted vegetables as evenly as possible over the dough. Dab on ricotta and top with the remainder of the mozzarella. Drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.
Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone or put baking sheet in oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling. Let sit for a minute before cutting and serving.
(serves 8 )