Thursday, February 10, 2011


When I saw this recipe at Annie’s Eats, my first thought was Hey, I don’t have a broccoli pizza in my repertoire yet! My second thought was how nifty it is that Annie and A share a hometown, Bloomington, Indiana, and that this pizza is based on a beloved specialty of a restaurant I’ve heard A speak of, Mother Bear’s. (I think I’ve eaten there once myself.) Obviously, we were fated to give this a try. A admits he’s never tried Mother Bear’s spinoccoli pizza, not having been the type in his youth to order an all-vegetable pizza, no matter how alluringly cheesy. So I can’t compare Annie’s creation to the original, but I can definitely vouch that this is one tasty pizza. I usually avoid recipes that rely on white sauces—haunted by too many experiences with heavy, pasty, bland spinach lasagnas, mac and cheeses, and vegetarian casseroles—but this one was subtle and blended with the cheese to give the pizza a just-right chewy texture, not too moist or too dry or too creamy. The cheese (the cheddar is a nice touch) and the green vegetables, perfectly balanced, are the stars here; there aren’t really any other flavors except for the gentle garlic infusion in the sauce (which as a garlic-lover makes me want to experiment with mincing the garlic and just leaving it in there for a stronger hit). But really, when you’ve got cheese sauce and broccoli, who could ask for anything more?

Since I was using Trader Joe’s crust and a rectangular baking pan, I think my pizza was a little larger than the recipe was written for, so I amped up the vegetable quantities slightly. (I am a fan of amping up the vegetables when they will go unnoticed beneath a blanket of cheese, particularly when it’s spinach, which cooks up so much smaller than you expect that you can always fit in a little more.) Afraid of the heavy/pasty/bland curse of bad white sauce, I didn’t quite use all of it when topping the pizza, which I regretted later when it turned out to be so pleasant and unobtrusive. The thin layer I used was fine, but a tiny bit more moisture wouldn’t have been unwelcome. Next time (which will be soon; I’m craving spinoccoli again just from writing this) I’ll use it all.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
¾ cup heavy cream or half-and-half (I used half-and-half)
1 clove garlic, smashed but left whole
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound pizza dough
¾ cup packed baby spinach leaves, torn
1¼ cups very small broccoli florets
2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until bubbling and light golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in the heavy cream and garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated Parmesan until completely melted and smooth. Discard the garlic clove.

3. Roll out the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Spread the sauce over the crust. Sprinkle the torn spinach leaves over the sauce, then evenly distribute the broccoli florets. Top with the shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

4. Place the pizza in the oven and and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

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