Pizza making, with its ultra-hot oven, pizza stones and the awkwardness of yanking your uncooked pizza, toppings and all, off your pizza peel like a magician with a tablecloth, can feel a bit perilous to many home cooks.
While I heartily encourage everyone to try their hand at tossing some dough (or rolling out your dough, if you’re not interested in flinging flour in every direction), there is an alternative. And it’s not to pick up your phone and place an order for delivery. Another far less intimidating option is the often overlooked pan pizza.
Don’t confuse it with Chicago-style deep dish pizza, with its deep, crispy crusts and tons of gooey cheese. I’m talking about the thick-crusted variety that comes dangerously close to being mistaken for focaccia.
While New Yorkers and Chicagoans both may balk at the very sight of this crispy on the bottom, soft on the inside crust that, nestled into its pan, maintains enough structural integrity to hold a serious amount of toppings, this pizza hits the mark in a number of categories.
It’s easy to make, so anyone new to pizza making can dip their toes in the water without getting in over their heads. For bread lovers, it may offer a more satisfying crust-to-topping ratio. For topping lovers, you can pile on the pepperoni with abandon. What’s not to like?
The crust comes together quickly whether you’re making it in a bowl with a wooden spoon or in a food processor. It has a slightly wetter consistency than other pizza dough, which allows for it to achieve its customary puffiness with an open, airy crumb. It can also be made the night before and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to turn your oven on.
Yes, you can put any of your favorite pizza sauces and toppings on a pan pizza, but I like to explore all my options, so this week I ventured into the unconventional topping territory with broccolini and ricotta cheese.
Broccolini is similar to broccoli, but slightly sweeter with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. I like to sauté it in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes and serve it as a side dish, but it also makes a great pizza topping — especially when paired with ricotta cheese.
Ricotta, with its creamy, soft texture and neutral flavor, complements the more textural quality of the broccolini and combined with a generous amount of gooey mozzarella, the trio makes for a pizza that will have you reaching for another slice, or two.
Broccolini and Ricotta Pan Pizza
Note: Making a flavorful pizza from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult. The dough for this crust can be made the night before and brought to room temperature when you’re ready to fire up the oven. From Meredith Deeds.
• 3 c. unbleached flour
• 2 tsp. salt
• 1 1/2 c. water, lukewarm
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 1 c. whole milk ricotta
• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
• 1 bunch broccolini, stems trimmed and roughly chopped (about 2 c.)
• 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Place the flour and 2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend the salt evenly into the flour. (Alternatively, you can mix in a standing mixer or by hand in a large bowl.)
Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water and stir. Allow the water/yeast mixture to sit for about 3 or 4 minutes and when foamy on top, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir.
Turn on the processor and pour the yeast-water through the feed tube. Process until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the processor and bring together into the shape of a ball. Or, mix in a stand mixer or by hand in a large bowl until the dough forms a ball.
Place in a large bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Roll the ball around in the bowl to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (It can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. It will need to sit at room temperature, though, for about 30 minutes before proceeding.)
Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Using oiled hands gently stretch dough until it reaches the edges of baking sheet. (The dough will be sticky. If dough springs back, let it rest 10 minutes before continuing.)
Cover dough on baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until it is slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Meanwhile, place the ricotta cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Pour half of the oil mixture in with the ricotta and stir to combine. Set aside.
Add the broccolini to the skillet with the remaining oil mixture and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remove from heat and set aside.
Top the pizza with the shredded mozzarella, broccolini and dollops of ricotta and bake until bottom is crisp and top surface is bubbling and browned in spots, 15 to 20 minutes total. Allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes before cutting.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 500 Fat 24 g Sodium 1,170 mg
Carbohydrates 55 g Saturated fat 8 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 17 g Cholesterol 40 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, ½ carb, 1 high-fat protein, 2 ½ fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.