Pizza Bianca with Roasted Garlic and Broccoli: A Tomato-Free Zone

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This time of year, I start to get tomatoed out. After spending the summer eating garden cherry tomatoes by the bowlful, putting them on pizzas left and right, and baking them into everything I can think of, I need a break. Don’t get me wrong – garden tomatoes are one of God’s greatest summer gifts, and I really love them. But by September, I occasionally need a tomato-free zone. That’s where this pizza comes in.

Pizza bianca is pizza made without tomatoes – no tomato sauce, no tomatoes on top, nothin’. And while this recipe may not be the most traditional pizza bianca, it’s still a great dish. The herbed crust is fabulous. Mixing roasted garlic into the ricotta gives the topping some depth, and the broccoli is just crunchy enough to make things interesting. I topped my pizza with sausage, but you can leave it off if you prefer a vegetarian entree. It won’t be missed.

Side note #1: If you aren’t with me in the Too Many Tomatoes club, you can use the herbed crust for a margarita pizza – or just about any other kind of pizza. It’s that good. As a matter of fact, this crust is so awesome that I usually make a double recipe and freeze half of the dough. If you want to freeze it, wait until the dough finishes rising. Cover the freezer-destined portion in plastic wrap and put it in a sealed plastic bag before popping it in the freezer. When you want to use it later, just thaw it out & you’re good to go.

Side note #2: Next week, Laura’s going to give you an idea of what to do with your leftover summer tomatoes. The ones you didn’t use on this pizza.

Pizza Bianca with Roasted Garlic and Broccoli*

For the herbed pizza crust
3/4 cup warm water (110-115 F)
1/2 tsp. active yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 cups flour, divided
1 tbs. Italian herbs
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. cornmeal

For the pizza topping
1 medium-sized head of garlic
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup ricotta
1 tbs. dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 heads of broccoli, chopped
1 link sausage (I used chicken apple) – optional
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
3 oz. provolone (smoked or regular), torn up

1) Make the herbed pizza crust: Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir briefly to combine, then set aside until foamy, about five minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, herbs, salt, and 1 tbs. olive oil, and stir together. Add in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and briefly knead until it is smooth and elastic. If it feels sticky, you can add additional flour, up to 1/4 cup. Grease the bowl, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover and set it in a warm place. Let it rise until doubled, about an hour.

2) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 F. Slice the top off the garlic head, including just the tips of the cloves of garlic. Drizzle the top of the garlic with 1 tsp. olive oil, then wrap the head in foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cloves have softened. (If you squeeze the garlic, it should feel a bit soft. Just use a hot pad holder when you’re checking!) When the garlic is roasted, open up the foil and set it aside to cool.

3) Dust the bottom of a 14-inch pizza pan with the cornmeal. Stretch the dough to fit the pan, and prebake the pizza crust for about 10 minutes in the 425 F oven.

4) While the pizza is baking, scoop the ricotta and oregano into a small bowl. Carefully break apart the (probably still hot) roasted garlic and peel the cloves. Stir the cloves into the ricotta and mix, mashing them as you go. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) Prepare the broccoli: Cut up the broccoli heads into bite-sized bits.┬áCut the stalks into smaller pieces. (If you want to use the stalks, be sure to peel them first. This gets rid of the tough skin so that the tender stalk is left.) Steam the broccoli for 3-4 minutes, keeping the chopped stalks on the bottom of the steamer basket. The broccoli is done when it is bright green and the stalks become tender. (If you don’t have a steamer, you can throw the broccoli in a pot filled with about 1/2 inch of water. Boil for 3-4 minutes.)

6) Prepare the sausage: I used a prebaked chicken apple sausage, so all I had to do was chop it up and pan-fry it to get the sides crispy. Any type of sausage will be fine for this recipe, and as I said in the ingredients, you can even omit the sausage. If you do use it, however, be sure that your sausage is completely cooked.

7) Raise the oven temperature to 450 F, and assemble the pizza! Scatter the mozzarella and provolone over the prebaked crust. Top with the broccoli and sausage bits. Then add the ricotta mixture in dollops around the pizza. Bake for 15 minutes, or until crust begins to brown a little bit. Enjoy!

*This recipe was adapted from a pizza cookbook that I borrowed from my sister. She’s looking for the title right now & I’ll link to it when she gets back to me.