A pizza t0 celebrate springtime
After a long, dark winter without much in the way of fresh, local foods, asparagus causes a big stir when it arrives each spring. Usually, ramps show up at the market around the same time as the asparagus, and the two ingredients work well together in many dishes. This pizza may be the most fun way to enjoy them at the same time. Whirred into a verdant pesto, creamy with pine nuts and cheese, these vegetables make a seasonal alternative to tomato sauce. Morels or other foraged spring mushrooms would be another good topping choice, but the pizza doesn’t need a lot of embellishment to be a celebratory slice of spring. I’ve included a pizza dough recipe; it’s the one I like to use, and includes whole wheat for flavor and fiber. But if you have your own favorite recipe for pizza dough, use that. Or even start with a couple of premade balls of dough from the store. The important part is those green spring vegetables.
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch asparagus, about 8 ounces
- 1 bunch ramps, about 3 ounces
- 1 ounce Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup olive oil
To Make the Pizzas
- 8 ounces grated mozzarella
- 6 ounces fromage blanc
- Cornmeal, for dusting pizza peel
- In the work bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the bread flour and whole wheat flour and knead for 8 minutes. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium, and knead for another 2 minutes, until the dough forms a loose ball that climbs up the dough hook without sticking the bottom of the bowl. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and let rise for 1 hour.
- While the dough rises, make the pesto. Trim the pretty tips of the asparagus spears, slice them in half lengthwise, and reserve for topping the pizza. Trim about 1 inch of the woody bottom and discard or save for making vegetable stock. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces and put in the food processor.
- Wash the ramps well, and trim and discard the root end. Chop into 1-inch pieces and add them to the food processor.
- Cut the Pecorino Romano into small cubes, and add that to the food processor, along with the pine nuts and salt. Pulse until finely ground. With the processor running, stream the oil in until a smooth paste forms. Refrigerate until you’re ready to make the pizza.
- Preheat the oven (using a pizza stone, if you have one) to 500 degrees. Punch down the dough, and let it rise a second time while the oven heats. Divide the dough in half.
- On a floured counter with plenty of space, roll out the pizza dough to a 13-inch circle. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal and place the dough on it. (Or, if you don’t have a pizza stone, pizza peel set up, place the dough on a baking sheet)
- Spread ½ cup of the pesto over the dough, and top with half the mozzarella. Crumble half the fromage blanc over the pizza. Sprinkle half the reserved asparagus tips over the top. Transfer the pizza to the pizza stone (or place the baking sheet in the oven, if you don’t have a stone) and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browning in places. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Repeat with the remaining pizza dough, another ½ cup of pesto, and the remaining cheeses and asparagus tips.