I lived in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania for 3 years prior to moving to Seattle. If you’ve never been to central Pennsylvania, it is a very rural area. My apartment was directly across from cow pastures, and passing an Amish family in their horse and buggy was a normal part of my day. I was in my mid-20’s and I wanted desperately to move to an area with more going on.
So when we got the opportunity to move to Seattle, Zac and I were thrilled! We were finally going to be in a place where there was constantly something to do! The item at the top of my list was to find a place where I could take a cooking class. It’s something I always wanted to try, but never had the opportunity to because of where we lived.
Zac and I took our first cooking class together at a little place called The Pantry in Ballard. I was beside myself; it was everything I had hoped! Everyone was incredibly welcoming. The class was small and intimate; we cooked the meal from start to finish, and could be as hands on or off as we wished. The instructor shared a broad range of knowledge about the cuisine and cooking techniques, and the dishes were delicious!
The Pantry quickly became one of our favorite spots in Seattle. We enjoyed it so much that we signed on as volunteer assistants to help with classes. One night, we were both assisting with a class called “Great Pizza at Home”. The class taught you how to make pizza dough from scratch, and how to cook the dough to achieve restaurant style pizza at home. It consisted of about 12 to 14 students, and enough dough for 40 pizzas!
The first part of the class was pretty chill, but once the first pizzas were in the oven it turned into rapid fire pizza preparation. The Pantry provided at least 10 different toppings, and students were free to top their pizzas however they liked. One student topped her pizza with preserved lemon and asparagus, to which I instantly thought “oh gross”. I’ve always been a pizza traditionalist – plain cheese and nothing more. But tasting pizza with asparagus and preserved lemon threw all that out the window. It was absolutely delicious!
That flavor combination has stuck with me since, so I set out to recreate that pizza at home.
- I started out with a base of extra virgin olive oil and minced calabrian chiles; this takes the place of a traditional red sauce, which wouldn’t work well with these flavors.
- Next, I put down a layer of mozzarella, then dollops of ricotta cheese flavored with lemon. I subbed out preserved lemon, and instead added lemon zest and juice to the ricotta. You still get that same great lemon flavor, but don’t have to purchase a jar of preserved lemons. If you have them on hand, by all means, feel free to add them to the pizza in place of the juice and zest in the ricotta.
- The pizza is finished with diced asparagus. I suggest getting asparagus stalks on the larger side for this pizza. Thin stalks will cook too quickly, and become too soft. Thicker stalks will have enough time to cook, but still remain crunchy.
You will not be disappointed in these flavors! Let me know how you like the pizza in the comments.
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Baking Steel – my preferred method for cooking pizza at home; retains heat & cooks pizza faster than a pizza stone.
Pizza Peel – necessary for getting the pizza onto and off of the steel.
Homemade pizza topped with bright lemon ricotta, crispy asparagus, and spicy Calabrian chiles.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 3 calabrian chiles, minced
- ½ lb asparagus, 1 inch dice
- ½ c shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¾ c ricotta cheese (fresh or store bought)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 oz pizza dough
- All purpose or semolina flour (for dusting)
I personally use a baking steel to cook my pizza at home. The instructions below are written for a steel or pizza stone. If you have a different method for cooking pizza at home, I suggest you focus on the steps under “to prep pizza toppings” and “to assemble the pizza”.
To prep the pizza dough
- If you are using a baking steel (or pizza stone), place the steel on a rack in the top third of the oven. If you are using two baking steels, place one steel on a rack set in the very top of the oven and one on a rack set in the very bottom of the oven.
- Preheat the oven at 500 degrees. Once the oven comes to temperature, let it heat for an hour prior to cooking the pizza. *See note. If you have not already, remove your pizza dough from the fridge and place on the counter to warm. *See note
- Dust your counter and pizza peel generously with flour. Stretch your pizza dough into a 10 to 12 inch circle. Carefully place it on the pizza peel, and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Gently shake the pizza peel to make sure the dough isn’t sticking. If it does stick, carefully unstick the dough from the peel and add more flour. If the dough has contracted while resting, stretch it slightly.
To prep the pizza toppings
- In a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and calabrian chiles. Stir to combine and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and set aside.
To assemble the pizza
- Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, spread the oil/garlic/chile combination over the surface of the dough, leaving ¾ to 1 inch of space around the edges.
- Evenly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the dough.
- Drop tablespoon size dollops of ricotta cheese evenly around the dough, then evenly spread diced asparagus. Do not press asparagus into the dough. *See note
To cook the pizza
- Once the pizza is assembled, gently shake the peel to make sure the pizza isn’t sticking. *See note
- Oven the oven and pull out the rack with the baking steel (if using 2 steels, pull out the rack in the top of the oven). Hold the pizza peel towards the back of the baking steel, parallel to the steel. Gently move the pizza peel forward and back to slide the pizza off the peel and onto the steel.
- Close the oven and cook for 6 minutes.
- Rotate the pizza 180 degrees and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Rotate the pizza 90 degrees. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the top and bottom of the crust is golden brown. If you are using 2 pizza steels, transfer the pizza from the top steel to the bottom steel.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. Let rest for 1-2 minutes before cutting and serving.
To prep the pizza dough
- A baking steel (or pizza stone) needs time to come up to temperature, which is why the oven should heat for an hour at temperature prior to cooking the pizza. If the baking steels are not heated properly, the pizza will not crisp and the cheese will burn before the dough is cooked through.
- Pizza dough stretches best when it has had time to warm on the counter. Removing the dough from the fridge about an hour prior to stretching will give it enough time to warm.
To assemble the pizza
- The asparagus will seem loose on the pizza, but that’s okay. Pressing the spears in could break the dough or cause the dough to stick to the peel making it harder to slide onto the baking steel.
To cook the pizza
- Shake the peel gently. If the pizza is sticking, now is the time to unstick it. If it is still sticking when you go to slide the pizza into the oven, the pizza will fold over on itself and burn.
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: homemade pizza, fresh ricotta cheese, asparagus and lemon, lemon juice, lemon zest, mozzarella, pizza dough, pizza peel, baking steel, different pizza flavors, pizza topping combinations, calabrian chiles, garlic, olive oil