So now that we’ve officially launched into this new realm of food blogging, let me share with you a somewhat unpopular opinion: I don’t really like red sauce on pizza.
I just don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love tomatoes, and I like marinara sauce on pasta and all that. I actually think if we were to deep dive into my mental archives that what led me to my disliking of the ubiquitous pizza sauce was the enthusiasm of when Papa John’s first came to our hometown growing up and we ate their notoriously saucy pizza at every chance we could get. Pre-game meal? Call Papa. Friday night after the football game? Call Papa. Four ravenous highly metabolized teen girls at a sleepover? Call Papa! I can still remember the heavy red sauce glopped onto that thick crust. The pizza was never hot either, always just a few degrees above room temp. Cheese falling off (too much sauce!)
As my pizza tastes evolved out of high school and into college, I came across the frozen wonder that is California Pizza Kitchen’s crispy thin crust white pizza. Have you ever had it? It opened my eyes to the fact that if you like cheesy bread more than you like a saucy pie– you can actually make it and just CALL IT PIZZA. White garlic sauce, all kinds of cheese, a few fresh-ish frozen herbs, and suddenly you are in late 90s LA, living luxe. Eating White Pizza.
Now as an adult and avid pizza connoisseur, I seek out white pizzas everywhere I go. From the classic Margherita with fruity extra-virgin olive oil, cheese, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil– to the very-American, very midwestern, Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza…I have yet to meet a white pizza I don’t like.
My personal favorite white pizza combines my favorite cheeses with quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic and herbs. Top it with lightly dressed arugula and pair with a glass of crisp white wine. Homemade crust is a must, and it’s a breeze as long as you set an alarm the day before to mix it together.
Three Cheese Ultimate White Pizza
Makes one 12-14″-ish pizza, perfect to split with a friend!
6 oz Taleggio, cut into thin slices
6 oz Fontina, shredded
1.5-2 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil plus 2 Tbsp for dressing greens
4 C Baby Arugula/Spinach/Baby Kale/whatever feels right
Salt & Pepper
2 tsp Fresh thyme and/or oregano (your choice!)
One pizza crust: I use many different pizza crusts depending on the day, how much time I have, how my hair looks that day etc. but my most recent favorite is the hands-off, no-fuss recipe that is Jim Lahey’s. Jim’s pizza crust is based off the very popular no-knead philosophy where essentially you stir necessary ingredients ahead of time– and let the natural goodness that is time slowly stitch together the gluten strands making a delicious crispy flavorful dough with about 5 minutes worth of work. Jim’s recipe is at about a million places on the internet but I found it through Molly Yeh’s amazing cookbook. Since then it’s been a go-to. One tip I would recommend though is to make sure when you stir the ingredients together, do a good job. The water itself isn’t enough to soak up any dry flour bits on the bottom from the get go. Use a whisk or a rubber spatula at first when you pour in the water and really make sure everything is moistened before you put it to bed.
Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 500 degrees at least one hour before baking. This is where I rely on Siri the most in my life. I set a reminder two days before to MAKE the dough and after I get it all wrapped up and on the counter– I set another reminder along the lines of “remind me at 4:00pm to pre-heat the oven with the baking stone.” Works like a charm. Unless of course you just dismiss the reminder. Then…you eat at 9pm.
To make the garlic oil: Put the extra virgin olive oil and the thinly sliced garlic into a cold 8″ skillet and put the heat on low. Let this slooooowwwly warm up to infuse the oil with garlic goodness. I like to keep doing this until the garlic becomes slightly toasted/light brown. Once you’ve reached garlic nirvana, pour into a small pour/ramekin and set aside.
Cheese Tips: Taleggio is a semisoft, washed-rind, smear-ripened kinda stinky Italian cheese and can be hard to slice. Fontina is a sorta-soft cheese and can be hard to shred if you are using a hand grater. For both of these cheeses, pop them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. This will make it a lot easier to slide/shred. I like to put the cheese onto a chilled plate or even just a scrap of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the cutting board.
For the Greens: Take the baby arugula and place into a medium bowl. Dress with 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix together. Use your hands.
For the Dough: Once the dough has been sitting and is looking all bubbly and scientific on the counter– and you know the stone in the oven is insanely hot, it’s time to get going. First, pull out your pizza peel (if you don’t have a peel you can use the underside of a jelly-roll/sheet pan), and sprinkle it with cornmeal. The cornmeal essentially acts like a million tiny marbles for the pizza to shake around on and not stick to the board. Editor’s note: I once threw a full blown adult temper tantrum when my beautiful to-be-cooked pizza crumpled up into a wrinkled mess trying to slide it onto the hot stone. My woes were solved when this amazing pizza peel was gifted to me and now I use this handy conveyor belt to slide my pizza onto the stone instead of holding my breath, lighting a candle, and praying to Beyonce that the pizza transfers without issue.
Carefully plop the dough onto a well-floured work surface and stretch to approximately 14″. I like to do this with a combo of a rolling pin at first and then use the weight of my hands and fist pizzeria style to stretch the rest. Toss dough at your own risk. If the dough snaps back and won’t stretch, it’s mad at you. Set it aside to rest and calm down for 5ish minutes before stretching again.
Once your dough is the right shape, carefully transfer to pizza peel. If you are not using the conveyor peel linked above—give a little shimmy/shake back and forth to make sure it’s going to slide off onto the stone when the time comes.
Take a pastry brush and cover the bottom of the pizza with the garlic oil. If you’re feeling really sassy and have no fear of inevitable garlic breath, make sure you get some of the toasted garlic pieces on the dough as well. Scatter the shredded fontina all around the pizza, then evenly space the Taleggio on top. Finally, sprinkle with shredded pecorino and a few cranks of black pepper (optional, but encouraged).
Carefully slide the pizza onto the the stone. Pray to Beyonce if necessary.
Cook for 10 minutes until the crust is puffed and starting to brown and the cheese is melted. For an extra blast, turn on the broiler for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking to really brown the cheese (watch it like a hawk. Beautiful brown cheese can turn to black burnt cheese in an instant).
Use your pizza peel to slide out the cooked pizza and put onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Dress with greens. Eat. Drink. ENJOY.
All images and text © Reba Toloday / The Proper Binge
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