I am borderline obsessed with pizza. My husband and I cook grilled pizza pretty often, especially in the summer. When I envisioned this recipe I planned on making individual grilled pizzas. A sudden rain storm and lack of propane convinced me to use my oven instead. This pizza reminds me of springtime with pencil asparagus, fresh ricotta, and pecorino romano. Applewood smoked bacon adds a layer of barely sweet savoriness. A drizzle of balsamic reductions adds a tart-sweet note. (Notes: This recipe makes more balsamic reduction & more garlic-thyme olive oil than you will need. It is easier to make the larger amount. Save the remaining balsamic to drizzle over fresh strawberries and ice cream. Save the remaining garlic-thyme oil to spread onto bread or a baked potato, or incorporate into a vinaigrette.) —hardlikearmour
- Makes one 12-inch pizza
pizza dough (or half of Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough recipe)
fresh whole milk ricotta (about 3/4 cup)
extra virgin olive oil
medium cloves garlic
fresh thyme leaves
slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon
handful pencil asparagus (if using thicker asparagus split stalks lengthwise)
grated Pecorino Romano (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
freshly ground black pepper
cornmeal or semolina (for dusting pizza peel or rimless baking sneet)
- Place pizza stone on oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 500º F. Oven should heat at least 30 minutes before cooking pizza. If pizza dough is refrigerated, bring to room temperature.
- Place a layer of paper towel in the bottom of a strainer, then add ricotta to strainer. Set aside.
- Steps 3, 4, and 5 can be done concurrently. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small pan or skillet over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Vinegar should reduce by more than half and become a syrup-like consistency. Set aside.
- Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Fry in skillet over medium heat until most of fat has rendered out, and the bacon is starting to crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Finely mince or press garlic and add to the oil. Once garlic starts to sizzle, remove from heat. Allow to cool for several minutes and add about 3/4 of the thyme leaves. Allow to infuse for several more minutes, then use immersion blender to combine. (You may need to transfer oil to a stick blender appropriate container to prevent oil from spattering everywhere.) Set aside.
- While completing steps 3, 4, and 5 remove tough ends from asparagus, and cut into approximately 1-inch lengths. Set aside. Coarsely chop remaining thyme leaves, and set aside.
- Form pizza dough into a 12 to 13 inch round. I like to work on a clean counter top. I first flatten it into a round using the palms of my hands. I then use my finger tips and work in a circular motion from the center to the edges pressing the dough down. I repeat this process several times until the dough is about 1/2-inch thick. Next I use one hand to hold the center of the dough, and the other hand to pull the edge of the dough outward working my way around the dough. After going around the dough a few times I cover it with damp paper towels and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes to let it relax. I repeat the pulling until it has reached the desired diameter, then use my hands to press down the edges so they are only slightly thicker than the center of the dough.
- Dust your peel or baking sheet with semolina or corn meal. You don't want a thick layer, but need enough to prevent the dough from sticking. Carefully transfer the dough to the peel, and gently reform the circular shape if necessary.
- Brush the dough with the garlic-thyme olive oil. Grind some black pepper onto the crust. Sprinkle with about 3/4 of the pecorino. Scatter the bacon and asparagus over the cheese, leaving about a 1/2- to 3/4-inch border uncovered. Crumble the ricotta over the bacon and asparagus. Sprinkle the remaining pecorino over the ricotta. Gently press ingredients to flatten slightly.
- Pull rack with pizza stone as far out of the oven as possible. Transfer pizza to stone using a quick jerking action to get the crust onto the back of the stone. Once part of the crust hits the stone, you can slide the peel out from under it. Slide rack back in, and bake pizza for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust has risen, cheese is melted and crust and cheese are starting to brown.
- Remove pizza from oven. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with chopped thyme. Cut into wedges, serve immediately, and relish springtime!
- If you don't have a pizza stone you can bake the pizza on a sheet pan. Just place the oven rack in the center to bake it. Top the dough directly on the baking pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.