Girls’ Night – Three (Grown Up) Pizza Recipes

Sausage, Peppers and Fresh Mozzarella Pizza

Ah, the humble pizza. I really think you’d be hard pressed to find a food that more accurately personifies America, or one that’s as easily amendable to regional and ethnic influences and ingredients. (Or for someone who doesn’t like it!)

I can’t really speak to other generations, and I’m not sure when pizza got such a strong foothold in the bedrock of americano, but I can say with certainty that it was the quintessential food of any child of the 80’s. I remember slumber parties and eating cold pizza in your sleeping bag in the middle of the night. And growing up on Book-It PIzza Hut pizza parties where if you read a certain number of books per month, you got a gift certificate for a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Basement freezers stocked with Ellio’s Frozen Pizza for after school snacks, and  Mom’s Bake At Home pizzas from the t-ball team fundraiser.

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Pizza

When I got older, one of my first flirtations with independence was being dropped off on Main Street in the little town where I grew up for a very grown-up (capital L) Lunch. Where’d we go? Sal and Joe’s Pizza. And then when I was dropped off at college, the ultime test of independence, who was I to deny the role that pizza played in every college dorm across the country? It’s the very glue that holds together cohorts: binging on pizza, cramming over notes that no one actually expects to ever recalling during exam time.

I think the reason that people take their pizza so personally is because everyone believes with the same conviction that they approach religion, that their version is the best. New Yorkers will put their thin, bubbly, chewy crust up against Chicago’s doughy, greasy, deep dish and fight to the death.  Don’t even pull South Philly into it. Their old Italian nonna-made tomato pie with it’s thick sicilian crust and chunks of tomato will change your life. (Though I may be a little biased on that one.)

Asparagus, Potato, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Now that I’m a Grown Up, I absolutely love the pizza dinner party. Pull together a toppings bar, portion out some dough and start pouring the wine. Not only does everyone end up with dinner that they love thanks to the custom toppings, but there’s always at least one guest who is completely awkward in the kitchen and provides the entertainment.

While my girlfriends are far from picky, and they are all great in the kitchen, I still couldn’t think of a better Girls’ Night menu than homemade pizza. This weekend I made the executive decision to choose the pizza flavors this time around, and judging by the lack of leftovers, I picked well. The vote was: Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese: 3, Sausage and Peppers: 3, Asparagus and Potato: 1.

You can certainly whip up homemade crust, but I’ve found that Trader Joe’s refrigerated dough is hard to beat in taste, and definitely in convenience. (I like their whole wheat crust the best.) Whole Foods also sells their pizza dough in their prepared foods refrigerator case, right next to their bake at home pizzas. No matter whether you make your own crust or buy it (and toss out the package before the guests arrive and pawn it off as homemade), get creative with the toppings and have a pizza night this week. America will be proud. Enjoy!

 

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Pizza

Click here to print this recipe.
Serves: 2-3 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetizer
Time to prepare: 40 minutes

One recipe Pomodoro al Forno roasted tomatoes
4 oz goat cheese
Cornmeal (for sprinkling)
Pizza dough
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at its highest setting. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and rest on a floured surface for 20 minutes. Roll out to desired shape, let rest for 5 minutes. Re-roll the dough, thinning to 1/4″ thickness. Fold over a border around the edges to create a thicker crust if desired.

Turn the oven to 450°F. Sprinkle an upside down baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a pizza stone, with cornmeal. Transfer prepared dough to baking sheet.

Bring the tomatoes to room temperature. Tear or cut tomatoes into bite size pieces. Brush the crust with the tomato oil, and scatter the tomatoes on the pizza. Add the crumbled goat cheese. Season with salt and fresh crushed pepper.

Bake 15-18 minutes, until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is melted. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sausage, Peppers, and Mozzarella Pizza

Click here to print this recipe.
Serves: 2-3 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetizer
Time to prepare: 40 minutes

1/3 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy depending on your preference)
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
Crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably ciliegine – the pre-cut small balls
Mama Lil’s Peppers or roasted or hot pickled peppers, depending on your preference, drained on a paper towel
Cornmeal (for sprinkling)
Pizza dough
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at its highest setting. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and rest on a floured surface for 20 minutes. Roll out to desired shape, let rest for 5 minutes. Re-roll the dough, thinning to 1/4″ thickness. Fold over a border around the edges to create a thicker crust if desired.

In a medium saute pan, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until the tomatoes burst and break down to a thick chunky sauce. Remove the lid and simmer to reduce to the thickness of a very thick salsa.

Remove the sausage from the casing, break into crumbles and saute in a skillet until cooked through completely. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Cut the mozzarella to the bite size, and lay out on a paper towel to drain the excess liquid off for 5 minutes or so.

Turn the oven to 450°F. Sprinkle an upside down baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a pizza stone, with cornmeal. Transfer prepared dough to baking sheet.

Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, leaving 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle the sausage, peppers, and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake 15-18 minutes, until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is melted. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Asparagus, Fingerling Potato, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted from: Bon Appétit, May 2009
Serves: 2-3 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetizer
Time to prepare: 40 minutes

5 ounces fingerling potatoes
Cornmeal (for sprinkling)
Pizza Dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, pressed
4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
1 1/3 cups grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
6-8 asparagus spears, trimmed, each spear cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven at its highest setting. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and rest on a floured surface for 20 minutes. Roll out to desired shape, let rest for 5 minutes. Re-roll the dough, thinning to 1/4″ thickness. Fold over a border around the edges to create a thicker crust if desired.

Place potatoes in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Alternatively place in a microwave safe bowl, lightly coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, cover, and microwave until soft, about 2 minutes. Drain. Cool. Cut potatoes into thin slices.

Turn the oven to 450°F. Sprinkle an upside down baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a pizza stone, with cornmeal. Transfer prepared dough to baking sheet.

Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in small bowl. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle green onions, mozzarella, potato slices, goat cheese and asparagus evenly on the dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.

Bake pizza until crust is browned and asparagus is tender, about 18 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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