We love pizza in this house – frozen, delivered and especially homemade – I think my husband would eat it every day of the week if he could (or if I’d let him)! There are so many ways to make pizza different from the traditional pepperoni pizza that I’m always experimenting with something new. One of our favourite summertime pizzas is a simple tomato pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce and basil just picked from the garden. And in winter, we love a mushroom pizza – all warm and earthy. Spring calls for something lighter and fresher tasting. My springtime pizza with spinach is a wonderful change from the traditional.
This is a “white” pizza topped with delicious Salerno ricotta cheese, mozzarella, spinach and asparagus. No tomato sauce to be seen here! Before you think I’ve totally lost it by forgoing the pizza sauce, let me give you a bit of background…..When I was younger (a lot younger), I worked as a legal secretary. There were two “older” women working there who I thought were so worldy and sophisticated. They went out to all the neat restaurants in town and talked non-stop about this amazing white pizza they ordered all the time. I thought they were nuts. Until they took us “younger ones” with them one night to try it. My eyes were opened to something new and different – so fresh tasting, so elegant looking for a pizza.
My version is a bit different than their’s – the lemon scented ricotta adds an element of freshness and the addition of asparagus just gives it an air of spring. Here’s how I made it:
Step 1: Prepare the Ricotta
Salerno ricotta is a high quality soft cheese produced locally in the Hamilton area. As with most ricotta, it has a lovely white colour and a slightly salty taste. I usually use ricotta when making lasagna or manicotti. It’s used in making pastries such as cannoli. Here I’ve drained it to remove most of the water just to make sure the pizza crust doesn’t get soggy.
Place a cup of ricotta in a cheesecloth or paper towel lined sieve. Let it sit for about an hour to drain any of the excess whey. Then take a thin tea towel and wrap the ricotta. Squeeze out any excess water. You’ll want the ricotta as dry as possible. Once you’ve got it as dry as possible, grate the rind of one lemon into the ricotta. Set it aside until you are building your pizza
Step 2: Make The Dough
You may already have your favourite pizza dough recipe or if you’re not a baker, perhaps you use the frozen pizza dough from the bakery section of the grocery store. We use it sometimes when we’re in a pinch for time. My favourite pizza dough recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa and I’ve used it many times with great success – The Barefoot Contessa’s pizza dough
Step 3: Prepare Your Toppings
Again, I’ve used one of the locally produced Salerno cheese products. I love that these cheeses are made in the traditional way using only the freshest ingredients from the cooperative dairies of Gay Lea.
You’ll need about 2 cups of spinach, some grated parmesan, six to eight asparagus spears, the ricotta and some Salerno mozzarella, grated – about 2 cups.
Stretch out your dough by rolling or “pulling and pushing” it into place. I’ve used a pizza wheel for baking my pizza as it has a latticed bottom that allows air to circulate, giving the crust an extra bit of crispness. But I’ve also made it on a cookie sheet or bought those aluminum pizza trays from the store – both work fine.
Layer the ricotta and mozzarella on the dough. Then add the spinach and asparagus spears on top. Sprinkle with just a bit more mozzarella and about 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Drizzle about 1 TBS of olive oil over the surface.
Bake in a hot 450F oven for about 15-18 minutes or until the crust is puffed and golden, the cheese is melted and brown. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting into eight pieces.
The addition of the lemon to the ricotta gives this delicious pizza a light fresh taste – a perfect complement to the springtime asparagus. Serve it for lunch or as a quick weeknight dinner. Your vegetarian friends will love it too!
“Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”