three-cheese asparagus pizza with lemon.

three-cheese asparagus pizza.

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.

three-cheese asparagus pizza.

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.

three-cheese asparagus pizza.

Need I say more about the glories of fresh, roasty asparagus surrounded by cheese sitting atop a perfect pizza crust? Nope.

Pizza inspired by freezing cold winter temperatures; crust adapted from Faygie’s recipe for semolina pizza dough found on her wonderful blog, Life Tastes Good.

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 (110หšF to 115หšF)
  • 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 450หšF.

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.

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  • Reply Willow @Will Cook For Friends January 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Oh! Oh! I want a slice! I think this is the first year I’ve actually been *craving* asparagus. I used to despise it (after picking it for a few summers as kid — not fun work), but have recently grown to like it. Still, I’ve never craved it like I have these past couple weeks. I keep seeing it in the store, and telling myself I need to wait… wait… for spring so I won’t be disappointed by it. Now I know exactly what to do with it when I get some. I LOVE making pizzas at home, and it sounds so fresh and bright with the lemon and ricotta. YUM!

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      yay! you know, i go through stages with asparagus: sometimes, want it so bad. other times, i’m okay. this was one of the former. ๐Ÿ™‚ You know i just figured out recently how it was grown?!? Mostly b/c i had never thought about it, but it’s a weird vegetable in that way, right? i’ve never seen it in the ground, but that must just look odd. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know it’s a spring thing normally, but if you watch, you can find some pretty decent stuff in stores. Hit or miss, to be sure, but thankfully it’s easy to tell.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats January 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    FH and I are FREAKS for asparagus and often have pizza parties so I CAN’T BELIEVE that we haven’t made (or consumed) asparagus pizza yet! We will have to rectify this ASAP.

    • Reply shannon January 23, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      “…and meat?”


  • Reply Faygie January 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Oh, YUM!! I want this pizza so badly right now!

    This IS going to be made sometime soon. Real soon.

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      oh i hope so! I love it when you make my things, and i know how much you like pizza…:)

  • Reply Deb January 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Oh my goodness! The pizza is lush with flavor and the crusty dough cradles all the goodness of asparagus and feta, just outstanding!

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you, Deb! i had fun making it…that crust of Faygie’s really is wonderful, and i haven’t screwed it up yet, which is something big.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs January 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I get so lazy about making pizza! We live quite close to a Dewey’s, so whenever we get the craving it’s all too easy just to get takeout. But they don’t have asparagus! Love the lemon, too. And that cheese base looks excellent. Really nice recipe — thanks.

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Well, i mean, if you live close to a Dewey’s…hard to argue with being lazy. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would be too.

  • Reply elizabeth January 23, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I wished I like asparagus more to try this, but I will likely shamelessly steal this cheese mixture as a way to incorporate ricotta into more pizzas, because while Michael hates ricotta (I KNOW), he loves feta. Especially with the whole splash of lemon–having lived in New Haven, home of the clam pizza, I can attest how well a good splash of the stuff can be on a pizza.

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      it’s totally okay to steal the cheese mixture for other things! I say go for it: i can think of all sorts of things it could serve as a base for.
      what is WRONG with that man…how does one even go about hating ricotta? confused face. ๐Ÿ™‚

      oh man…clam pizza? oooohhhhh…i bet that’s incredible.

  • Reply Monica January 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

    This pizza looks so, so good! The filling is incredible but I’m also mesmerized by the edges of that crust. I love a good crust. : ) I also like using cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza dough (as opposed to olive oil)…I like that extra grit and the dryness from it. And you know I say that as an ‘expert’ since we’ve made homemade pizza like *two* whole times now! ; )
    And thank you for thinking of us – I told my little guy you mentioned us and got a big smile. Your daughter must be a fantastic little helper. She may only be 3 but I have a strong suspicion that she follows instructions and focuses far more than my 8-yr old fella…

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      seriously, when you make pizza sometime, really do try at least this crust: it’s wonderful, and sort of a must if you’re a crust-lover. i like the grit of cornmeal also…it takes away from that “doughy” sort of thing you get from using flour.
      hey: i’ve only made it a handful of times myself, so we’ll learn together! pizza is pretty awesome that way in that once you’ve done it a few times, you’ve mastered it and then you can play all you want.
      aw…tell your little dude i say hi! The Wee is a fantastic helper: it’s a snow day here today and she actually made her own pumpkin spice pancakes ( not the cooking part, but the measuring and mixing). the kid has some focus, although there are limits to that, as i’m sure you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Stacy @ Every Little Thing January 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Asparagus and cheese are like two peas in a pod. I’ve made asparagus tarts before but not pizza – will do next time!

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      this is very much like a tart in the way that it roasts and crisps up that asparagus: and i agree, it’s wonderful with cheese. all this talk has me wanting to make it again today. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} January 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    This household LOVES asparagus. I love that the vegetable in general–even before it gets to my kitchen– is a labor of love. I suppose that’s stretching it when I buy commercial ag asparagus at the grocery store, but when I get it at the farmer’s market I think about how you have to plant asparagus YEARS before you want to harvest it. I forget the details, but I read about it in Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Mineral, Vegetable.” You have to cut the crop down for two years or something before you can harvest your first edible stalk. Can you imagine the patience that must take? The foresight? To dedicate a piece of your land to cultivating a vegetable that won’t give you any gratification (except by virtue of its very existence, blowin’ in the wind) for the next two years. I just think that’s so neat. And I think your pizza is a worthy end for an asparagus to meet. Just lovely.

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      don’t you wonder how someone figured out growing asparagus the first time? because you’re right: you don’t realize because it’s readily available in most markets what all goes into getting it there (which can be the trouble with food appreciation today, imo). asparagus really is an exercise in patience, and we forget that. I forget that, although working with more and more fruits and vegetables has given me an ever-growing appreciation for how things come to my table, for sure.

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook January 25, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Your daughter has good taste! This is a yummy pizza. And I hope it was followed by donuts!

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      ha! EVERYTHING is followed by donuts, Abbe. EVERYTHING.

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    2.0 is going away this week. This is important because he’s a pizza purist/caveman, and would never go for a pizza like this. It’s too “sophisticated.” Fair enough, I say, for I’ll add it to my He’s-Away menu for the week.

    Thanking you in advance for making my week more tasty.

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Mr. Table is also a pizza purist: nothing but meats like italian sausage and pepperoni on his pie, no thank you. Or canadian bacon; he likes that from time to time. but meat and meat only. no schmancies allowed.

      don’t we all have “the man is gone” menus, too. ALL of us.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog January 27, 2014 at 8:33 am

    I’d like to join you and the wee one under a fort made of sheets with a slice of this pizza. Snowy weather was invented for donut making. Love this pizza!

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      i could not agree more (and there’s room for you in our tent fort!)

  • Reply Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) January 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Yummm. I like any meal that I get to squeeze a big fat lemon over at the end. I guess that does make me a citrus-phile.

    This pizza is an excellent idea. (And that asparagus looks so good! I have trouble finding asparagus that tiny, which is definitely the best kind…)

    • Reply shannon February 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      seriously, allison, i could find a reason to squeeze a lemon over almost anything. my life is lived squeezing lemons over things most days. ๐Ÿ™‚

      i had been eyeing the asparagus for a little bit: i was wary too, but i had had some a few days prior to this and it was amazing. i took my chances again, and it paid off. I figure no matter what, roasting makes everything better. Definitely i’ll make this again closer to spring when we’ll have an onslaught of it.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I’m going to have to try Faygie’s pizza dough recipe for sure! Love that the Wee One got to help out in the kitchen. I can’t wait til I have kids old enough to cook with me ๐Ÿ™‚ That must have been so much fun! And i’ve totally heard that kids are more likely to eat things that they had a hand in preparing. So does that mean you got the Wee One to eat a vegetable??

    • Reply shannon February 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

      it’s SO good! and easy, too, which makes it even nicer. i’ve always had trouble with getting my doughs to stretch out nicely, but this one i have no problems with.
      kids are GREAT in the kitchen: not only does it let them learn about cooking, but it gives you a chance to get things done and entertain them. it can be messy, but worth it: i think she’s been “helping” in the kitchen since she was sitting up in a high chair.
      heck no that doesn’t mean the Wee ate a vegetable! ๐Ÿ™‚ no way; i made her a special smaller chicken and cheese pizza. but she *sees* vegetables, so i’m really just hoping osmosis works.

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