A Tale of Two Pizzas
A Tale of Two Pizzas
Rosse or bianche? That is the question!
On Saturday afternoon, I was whipping up some homemade white sandwich bread, and I decided I'd use some of the dough to make homemade pizza. Who among us doesn't enjoy a good pizza every now and then, right? My only struggle was, rosse, or a pizza with a tomato sauce base, or bianche, one that is tomato-free.
I have yet to meet a pizza I didn't like, so for me, either or worked just fine. But, my youngest daughter prefers a 'white' pizza while my husband prefers 'red'. I'm actually beginning to think that my youngest daughter is becoming a food snob. She's been exposed to gourmet-ish food since she was a baby and now it seems her palate might be a little too sophisticated for her boots! I'll never forget when she was about 3 years old, we went to a local family-style chain restaurant and she was quite displeased that there were no mussels on the children's menu. I've created a monster me thinks.
Anyway...rosse or bianche? Tomato based or tomato-free? I've always referred to tomato-free pizza as bianche but when I was doing a little research, I discovered that tomato-free pizza is often times referred to as 'bianca'. I tried to determine if there was actually a difference between bianche and bianca, but from everything I read, the terms 'bianche' and 'bianca' are interchangeable. For that reason, I'm sticking with my original 'bianche' terminology.
I had enough dough to make two pizzas so I decided one of each was the way to go. You'd think my struggles would have ended there, but noooo.....now instead of deciding on what toppings I was going to put on one type of pizza, I had to decide how to prepare two different pizzas. (I'm my own worse enemy sometimes, truly).
I like a pizza bianche that is a juxtaposition, or balance if you will, of savory and sweet. Sometimes I use ricotta from my base, sometimes I use light cream cheese. Sometimes I top it with basil, blueberries and goat's cheese, and sometimes, caramelized pears, rosemary and mozzarella. I didn't have any blueberries or ricotta, so that option was out, making my decision far easier. Pizza Bianche with caramelized pears, red onion, baby spinach, rosemary and bocconcini was my final decision for pizza number one.
To make the sauce for Pizza Bianche on this particular day, in a small bowl, I combined a half a container of soft light cream cheese with the zest of half a lemon and the juice of that very same half a lemon. I then finely grated one clove of garlic onto the cream cheese and seasoned it lightly with some freshly ground black pepper and about 2 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese. I find the parmesan cheese adds enough salty flavour for my liking, but you can always add salt to taste.
I also added the leaves of two sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped but before adding it to the sauce, I placed the finely chopped leaves into 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to infuse the oil and soften the rosemary just a little. When all of the other ingredients for my bianche sauce were combined, I spooned the softened rosemary leaves into the sauce and gave it a good stir, saving the olive oil to drizzle over the entire pizza when I was finished topping it.
To caramelize the pears, I peeled and cored one Bosc pear. I then sliced the pear into thin match-stick size pieces and heated a Tablespoon of butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When the butter was bubbly, I added the sliced pear and a teaspoon of brown sugar. It only took about 5-7 minutes for the pear to be golden and caramelized at which point I removed the skillet from the heat and starting building my pizza.
Putting it all together
After spreading out my pizza dough onto a pizza pan, I spread the Pizza Bianche white sauce over the surface, leaving about a half an inch all the way around for the crust. I then topped the sauce with roughly chopped baby spinach, thinly sliced red onion and the caramelized pears. I decided rather than use regular shredded mozzarella I would top the pizza with sliced bocconcini.
Bocconcini is a semi-soft, white, rind-less, unripened, mild cheese made from smooth, pasteurized cow's milk. It can come in the form of little bite size ovals, a small ball about the size of a large jumbo egg, or pre-sliced. Bocconcini is usually packaged in a light brine to preserve it's freshness and because it's such a mild cheese, it pairs very well with a wide variety of flavours and ingredients.
As a last little touch, I drizzled all of the toppings with the rosemary infused extra virgin olive oil. Pizza Bianche, or pizza number one, was oven ready. Now onto pizza number two!
Pizza Two: Pizza Margherita!
Authentic Italian pizza is very simplistic in nature, made with very few ingredients. The pizzas we in North America are accustomed to can have so many ingredients, it's hard to differentiate the taste of one ingredient over another. Perhaps the most simplistic and delicious of all authentic Italian pizzas is the Pizza Margherita.
Pizza Margherita owes it's name to Italy's Queen Margherita who, in 1889, visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples where the pizzaiola, (pizza maker), made a pizza just for the Queen that contained the colours of the then new Italian flag - red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). I'm a little embarrassed to tell you, but when I first saw 'Pizza Margherita' on a menu, my initial thought was 'ewww....tequila on pizza?'. That was many moons ago mind you and thankfully, my pizza knowledge has grown quite extensively since then.
Today, Pizza Margherita is definitely my preferred 'pizza rosse'. As such, and seeings how there was no one in the kitchen to object, Pizza Margherita was going to be Pizza Number Two for our dinner.
I spread the remaining dough out onto another pizza pan, and spread, dare I say it, jarred tomato sauce over the surface, leaving a border for the crust. I then topped the sauce with chopped fresh basil and spread around slices of bocconcini. Just 'cause I wanted to, I grated on some more fresh parmesan and drizzled the pizza with some leftover rosemary-infused olive oil, (waste not, want not, right?). Pizza Two was now oven-ready too. I preheated the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and stood there admiring my works of pizza art until it was time to place them in the oven.
Pizza Two: Pizza Margherita
La Cena e Servita!
Keeping a close eye on the pizzas baking away in my oven, I anticipated that it would take 15-18 minutes for them to cook. By the 16 minute mark, my mouth was salivating so badly, I couldn't wait any longer. Lucky for me, the crusts were a nice golden brown and the cheese was all melted. Time to call the troops for dinner.
I insisted that each person at least try one slice from both pizzas, (I can be a bit of a control freak/fuss bucket at times). The red onion, rosemary and parmesan savouriness paired perfectly with the sweetness of the caramelized pear. The lemon zest and juice added the perfect amount of sour, while the bocconcini and spinach kept everything in balance.
The Pizza Margherita was rustic and simplistic but loaded with flavour from the tomato sauce and fresh basil and again, the bocconcini was like the glue that brought everything together. When I prompted my family for their opinions, they all said both pizzas were delicious, with my husband telling me that I had now ruined going out for pizza ever again! (We'll see about that!).
True to form, though, when it came time to grab another slice of pizza, my husband went for the 'rosse' Pizza Margherita and my daughter, Pizza Bianche. Oh well...you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink from it a second time I guess.
A Tale of Two Pizzas!
Homemade Pizza Bianche and Pizza Margherita
Pizza Bianche with Caramelized Pear and Rosemary
- 1 pizza dough, homemade or thawed grocery store dough
- 4 oz. soft light, cream cheese
- juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
- leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 10-12 slices boconcini
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 1 handful fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to top pizza, optional
- 1 Bosc pear, Peeled and cored, cut into match-stick size pieces
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp brown sugar
Pizza Bianche with Caramelized Pear and Rosemary
- Peel and core 1 Bosc pear and slice into match-stick size pieces. Heat small skillet over medium high heat and add 1 Tbsp butter. When butter is bubbly, add pear slices an 1 tsp brown sugar, stir to combine. Cook until pear is golden and caramelized, about 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary and finely chop, discarding rosemary stems. Add finely chopped rosemary leaves to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a bowl combine: 4 oz. softened light cream cheese, 1 clove of garlic, finely grated, zest of half a lemon, juice of half a lemon, 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, soaked rosemary leaves, (don't worry if you add some oil to the mixture...it won't hurt) and season lightly with freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine.
- Spread dough out onto pizza pan or pizza stone. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrentheit.
- Spread cream cheese mixture over top of dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border all the way around for the crust.
- Top dough with roughly chopped baby spinach, thinly sliced red onion and caramelized pears. Top with slices of bocconcini and drizzle with rosemary infused olive oil. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake in heated 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-18 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing - enjoy!
Hints and Possible Substitutions
For the Pizza Bianche, you can easily substitute apples for the pear, riccota for the cream cheese and thyme for the rosemary. For an extra little something, add thinly sliced white potatoes!
If you don't happen to have bocconcini, shredded mozzarella works perfectly fine too. Have fun with your pizzas and make them your way! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
To add extra flavour, soak the finely chopped rosemary leaves in the olive oil first. It softens the rosemary and gives the olive oil fantastic flavour and aroma!