White Pizza with Ricotta Cheese, Jalapeno, Pear and Arugula

This pizza has it all: thin crust and lots of flavors: savory, sweet and spicy. You are going to love it!white pizza with arugula, pear and jalapeno

The weekend is here! It looks like it will be a busy one for us with some birthday parties to attend. It was a busy week, too. I volunteer at my boys’ school quite a bit and in addition to the regular hours there I also teach Art Vista classes. It is an art program that includes a short presentation of famous prints, new art-related vocabulary and an art project. It is completely run by parents. It is a bit of work, especially if done for 2 grades, but the kids love it. Some of them, especially the younger ones, have never worked with clay or pastels and it’s great to see them absorb all the information and work hard to express themselves. So, yesterday I did one lesson for my younger son’s class and have a second one coming up on Monday.

If your weekend is not going to be very busy you should try making my pizza. It surely is one of the best pizzas I have ever had. The crust is thin and crispy and the combination of flavors is just awesome! Last year, while vacationing in Mammoth Lakes, my sister ordered a white pizza that had serrano peppers, honey, mint and prosciutto. It was delicious despite the spiciness. When we got back I tried to recreate it, using my recipe for pizza dough that is the best. I combined the toppings from another favorite pizza I have been making for a while that include red onion, sliced pear and arugula. It turned out just amazing! I make it almost every Friday.

a piece of white pizza with ricotta cheese, pear and red onion topped with arugula

Let’s start with the dough. As with every pizza dough it requires some time to rise and double in size. Flour here is very important. To ensure the pizza is thin and crispy you need to use a good quality bread flour and I always use King Arthur’s bread flour. Using all-purpose flour will give you a soft and chewy pizza. This recipe yields plenty of dough, enough to make 2 big pizzas. I make one pizza for grownups and second one for the kids. I bake them, one at a time, on large cookie sheets.

pizza dough on a counter

Working with yeast and dough can be intimidating. I wasn’t too into it until I started working as a teacher/chef at a local cooking school for kids. We made dough a million times during my time there and I got quite familiar with it. Did you know you can refrigerate or even freeze pizza dough? Just let it thaw overnight (when frozen).

To make the dough, using a stand mixer and a dough hook, combine bread flour, sugar, yeast and salt. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in warm water (about 110 degrees) and olive oil. Turn the speed up to medium-high and mix for about 4-5 minutes until it forms a ball on the hook. If it seems too sticky, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time.if If the dough is too wet, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead it several times. Oil the sides of a large bowl and transfer the dough there. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside, preferably in a warm spot, away from open windows and any breeze (that’s a trick my Grandma taught me). On a cold day I will turn the oven on and keep the dough on the counter close by. Let it rise for 1-1.5 hrs.

When the dough is ready, punch it once or twice to get the air out. Leave it for another 5 minutes. Flour your work surface again and knead it for 3-4 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Working one piece at a time, stretch the dough. There are few ways to do it. One is to press your knuckles into the flattened dough several times and then roll it out using the rolling pin. Another one is to stretch the dough in your hands by letting it hang on your fists. Then roll it out. I typically use both ways to get it to stretch nicely.pizza dough on a baking sheet with olive oil drizzled

Once the dough it stretched out, transfer it onto the baking pan. No greasing needed if using the silicone mat.

To keep the dough from absorbing the moisture from the cheese (or tomato sauce) drizzle some good quality olive oil. Here I used lemon flavored olive oil that I got last year when visiting Napa Valley. You can also use spicy olive oil made by simmering 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes for 3-5 minutes (discard the flakes before adding to the pizza). Use a pastry brush to spread the olive oil all over the dough.

ricotta cheese, garlic, basil, parmesan cheese

To make the cheese spread (enough for 1 large pizza), combine 8 oz of ricotta cheese, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (parsley, mint, oregano work great, too), 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt. Stir it well and spread it all over the dough. You shouldn’t put a lot of the cheese mixture, just enough to cover the surface. Remember, crispy not soggy.

Next, add thinly sliced red onion, jalapeno slices and sliced pear. If desired, add some grated fontina cheese. Place it in the oven and bake about 10-12 minutes until golden on the edges and the top.

pizza with cheese, pear, onion and jalapeno before baking

When done, drizzle some honey on top and add fresh arugula. Cut into smaller pieces and serve at once. Reheat in preheated in 350 degrees oven for 5 minutes.white pizza with arugula

Makes: 2 pizzas        Prep time: 30 minutes    Ready in: 2 hrs 15 min

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough:

  • 3 1/2-4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoon) instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degree F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • olive oil to grease the bowl and dough

Flavored (optimal) olive oil to drizzle on the dough.

Cheese spread (enough for 1 pizza):

  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, mint)
  • 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of salt

Toppings:

  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
  • 1-2 ripe but firm pears, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese (optional)

Honey to drizzle, fresh arugula.

Directions:

  1. Pizza dough: using a stand mixer with the dough attachment combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast. With the mixer running on low, add warm water and olive oil. Mix for 4-5 minutes, until smooth, elastic and formed a ball around the hook. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead several more times. Grease a large bowl and place the dough in there. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 1-1.5 hrs.
  2. Cheese spread: In a small bowl combine all of the ingredients and stir well. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the dough doubled, punch it once or twice then let it rest another 5 minutes. Flour the work surface and transfer the dough there. Knead it for 3-4 minutes and divide it in half. Stretch and roll the dough until it reaches the desired size to fit the baking pan or pizza stone.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread the cheese mixture. Add red onion, jalapeno, pear slices and grated fontina cheese, if using. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden on the edges.
  5. Drizzle some honey on top and add arugula. Cut and serve.

Enjoy!

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