Sunday, 24 March 2013

Quattro Stagioni (Four Season) Pizza

For me, the weather outside often determines what I want to eat. Cold, snowy weather? I want a hearty stew. Hot and humid? I want  barbecue and a cold beer. This week, it officially became spring. Mother nature of course, I think, did not get that memo (at least here in Ottawa) as we received yet another dump of the white stuff. In the last month, we've had warm weather, brutally cold weather; we've had all the snow melt completely, only to return, covering the ground anew, a few days later. I was speaking with one of my co-workers and she commented on how Ottawa, around this time, seems to experiencing all four seasons in a few weeks time. It's very true, but that comment also inspired me!

'Quattro Stagioni' in Italian means 'four seasons'. The traditional quattro stagioni pizza consists of four sections of toppings: artichokes, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ham and olives. But inspired by our 'four-season-spring' I decided I wanted to create a pizza with four sections of spring inspired toppings. Although, it isn't traditional, the combinations I came up with are absolutely delicious.

I am notoriously bad with doughs and so, I have made it my mission to correct this. I searched around for a dough that seemed easy to make. I found that The Kitchn had a really great article entitled "How to Make Really Good Pizza at Home" and decided to follow that. The recipe is straightforward, simple and relatively quick. If you follow the instructions, you will be sure to have an excellent pizza dough.

One great thing about pizza is that the combinations of what you can put on top of the crust are endless. The four flavours I cam up with are fresh and spring inspired and each of them would be good on their own pizza., but are great all together. For those recipes, see below, but I encourage everyone to be a bit creative and come up with their own unique toppings!

Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) Pizza

Thin Crust Pizza Dough 

*Tips for the best pizza dough:
-Ensure that your yeast is fresh
-Give yourself time when cooking to let the dough rest and rise
-Add about 3/4 of the flour that the recipe calls for at first. This will ensure that your dough does not become too dry. If it is still too sticky to handle, add the rest of the flour. 
-The recipe called for a 500°F oven. My oven runs hot, so I bake my pizzas at 475°F for ten minutes. They came our golden and crisp.

Topping no.1: Basil & Sweet Pea Pesto with Sovrano Cheese

1 cup fresh or frozen sweet green peas
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Sovrano Cheese (or Parmesano Reggiano)

This recipe can be done in the food processor or can be hand-chopped. I prefer the hand-chopped method, giving the pesto a more rustic feel. Finely chop the basil and run your knife through the sweet green peas, breaking them up. Add to a bowl with one clove of garlic, finely mined, olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix together. When  you are ready to assemble the pizza, spread the pesto on the dough and top it with your cheese of choice. I used Sovrano which is sharp and salty, contrasting the sweet pea and basil mixture. 

*Although it was very hard to choose, I think that this topping was my favourite of them all!

Topping no.2: Fresh tomato sauce with Basil & Mozzarella

1 large tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic
2 basil leaves chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
Salt & Pepper
Torn Basil leaves
Mozzarella cheese, grated

Add the chopped tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, sugar and salt and pepper to a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and is not too runny. When you are ready to assemble the pizza, spread the sauce on the dough and place the basil leaves and mozzarella on top. Simple and classic pizza topping!

Topping no.3: Wine Braised Leeks and Fresh Asparagus with Sovrano Cheese

1 leek, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
4-5 asparagus stalks, sliced thinly
Sovrano Cheese (or Parmesano Reggiano)

Take the outside leaves off from the leek. Slice the leek down the centre (longways), then chop each half into smaller pieces. Fill a large bowl with cool water and add the sliced leeks into the bowl and move them around, then let them sit in the water for about 10 minutes. Because of the way leeks grow, dirt and grit can get caught within. This method will allow the grit to come off of the leeks and settle to the bottom of the bowl. 

Heat a medium sized skillet and add the butter and olive oil. Gently take the leeks from the water and add them directly into the pan. Add the wine and water, and cover to let cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The leek mixture, when ready should be soft and almost spreadable. When ready to assemble the pizza, spread the leek mixture on the dough, top with the very thinly sliced asparagus and the cheese. 

*This topping was a close second to the basil and pea pesto - almost too close to call!

Topping no.4: Canadian Style Oyster Mushroom & Bacon pizza

4 oyster mushrooms, clean and sliced
4 rashers of bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
Fresh Tomato Sauce (see above)
Wine Braised Leeks (see above)
Mozzarella Cheese

When ready to assemble your pizza, top the dough with the tomato sauce, and some of the leeks. Top with the bacon, fresh oyster mushrooms and Mozzarella cheese. This was my take on the classic Canadian style pizza, we all know and love! 


-Tina (Turnip)

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