You want to make a 3-year-old’s (food) dreams come true? Okay, cupcakes, but also, let them make their own pizza and then eat it. I don’t know about other 3-year-olds, but the one I belong to loves it when she gets to assist in food preparation, especially when the outcome is one of the two things I mentioned above. And honestly, the same thing probably holds true for most of the adults among us as well.
The Wee One wanted a pizza party last weekend, and I was more than happy to comply with her wishes. I’d been thinking about Faygie’s favorite pizza dough on and off for weeks now: it’s been a fast favorite of mine since I made that red pear + gorgonzola pizza a while back, and will continue to be a favorite until the end of time. It’s so, so easy to make and work with that it’s hard not to fall in love with it. I’d also been seeing lots of things popping up in the produce section that I hadn’t seen in a little bit: asparagus seems to be something I keep noticing, which typically means I am craving it.
Which is why this pizza exists: mostly, it’s a big mash-up of wants and needs and mid-winter mini-parties held for no reason whatsoever, except that having a child sometimes means you get to do randomly fun things like hide out in room-sized sheet forts and bake donuts because it’s snowing. Such is the joy of young children: for me, it makes up for all of the sleepless nights and relentless colds we managed to wade through this past winter. I now feel like celebrating every day we wake up without the sniffles.
This recipe is simple: get some ricotta, feta, and parmesan, add some fresh asparagus and maybe some green onion, a little red pepper flake, and you’re off. The “sauce” is merely a combination of ricotta and parmesan thinned out with some milk and seasoned. After that, throw everything else on top, bake, and serve. And at the end, Citrus-philes? You get to squeeze a big, fat lemon over it.
Need I say more about the glories of fresh, roasty asparagus surrounded by cheese sitting atop a perfect pizza crust? Nope.
Three Cheese + Asparagus Pizza
for the crust:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil + more for oiling the bowl
- 3/4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup warm water (110˚F to 115˚F)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
for the topping:
- 2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (by all means, use whole if you’d rather)
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1-2 tablespoons whole milk
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, ends trimmed, chopped into 3 to 4-inch lengths
- 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- few pinches red pepper flake, to taste
- 2 lemons, sliced into wedges, for squeezing over
Make the crust:
Add olive oil, yeast, sugar, honey, and water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and salt. Fit the paddle attachment to the mixer, add in 2 cups of flour, and paddle on low until dough begins to form, adding more flour to the bowl as needed (I got to 2 1/4 cups total.) Once a rough dough has formed and has begun to pull away from the bowl, remove paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook attachment. Mix on medium speed until dough is smooth, slightly tacky to the touch, and cleans the bowl, about 5 minutes.
Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer, form it into a ball, and roll it around in the oiled bowl until it is completely covered. Find a warm spot in your kitchen and allow the dough to proof 2 hours under a clean towel.
Once proofed, it is either ready to use or can be stored overnight in a plastic bag or sealed container. I had to punch mine down once when I left it overnight, which was a few hours after I had placed it in the refrigerator; after that pummeling, it stayed put. If you do refrigerate overnight, let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour or so before using it to allow it to get back up to temperature.
Make the cheese base:
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta and a 1/2 cup of the grated Parmesan. Add the milk to thin to desired consistency. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the pizza:
Preheat oven to 450˚F.
Sprinkle a half sheet pan or pizza stone lightly with cornmeal. Roll out the (room temperature) pizza crust into a large (and in my case,rough; no judgement!) circle as large as the pan. Drizzle lightly with a tablespoon or so of the olive oil, then bake for 4-5 minutes.
Remove from oven and place pan on a heat-safe surface. Remember while you’re working that your pan is hot. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the top of the crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Top messily with asparagus in a mostly single layer (some overlap is welcome here, just keep it somewhat even), then top with feta and remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle with red pepper flake and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Cook for 16-18 minutes, until cheese has melted and asparagus is fragrant and roasted. Remove from oven and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over, or squeeze lemon over the whole thing just prior to serving. Serve immediately.