Thursday, January 24, 2008

Homemade Pizza with Fennel Sausage and Rapini

There are some things in life that are so commonplace, you just assume that no matter where you live, they'll be there. Like supermarkets, gas stations, McDonald's, and pizza dough.

Every weekend of my life in Rhode Island, I went to Crugnale's Bakery to pick up 3 lbs. of pizza dough for $1. Like eggs and milk, it was a staple in our house.

Rhode Island -- the state with the highest percentage of Italian-Americans -- has an extraordinarily high number of bakeries, all of which sell pizza dough.

Imagine my shock when we moved to North Carolina and discovered that not only were there no Italian bakeries to be found, but people didn't even know what I meant when I asked for pizza dough.

I searched markets, delis, and bakeries:

Me: "Excuse me, do you sell pizza dough?"

Guy: "We don't sell pizza, Ma'm."

Me: "No, not pizza, just the dough."

Guy: "Just the dough? Why, don't you want the pizza?"

Me: "Well, I do want pizza, but I want to make it myself."

Guy: "Pizza Hut delivers you know."

After weeks of similar conversations, I decided to make my own. I asked my mom for a recipe, and three days days later, an envelope arrived in the mail. The recipe inside was so tattered and stained from years of use, I figured it had to be good. It's more than good. It's foolproof. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes to make.

Pizza Hut, eat your heart out.

Homemade Pizza Dough
Makes approximately 2 pounds of dough.
Print recipe only here.

1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups of warm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl, dissolve in 2 cups of warm water, yeast, sugar, and salt.

Using a spoon, gently blend.

Add 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to start. Blend with a spoon just until the dough starts to form, then using your hands, transfer to a floured surface.

Knead well—adding flour if it’s too sticky—until the dough becomes springy and smooth. It should take a good 5-10 minutes of vigorous kneading. It will be soft and silky when done.

Place the dough in a large, clean bowl coated with olive oil and rub some olive oil on top of the dough. Cover with a clean, dry dishtowel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size (at least 2 hours).

Punch the dough down to release air bubbles. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface to roll out. You can let the rolled out dough rest for about 30 minutes; it will rise slightly and create a puffier crust.

Leftover dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Coat the inside of a Ziploc bag with some cooking spray and drop the dough in; that way it doesn’t stick to the plastic. Allow to come to room temperature before rolling out.

Tips for Making Good Pizza Dough

*Make sure your yeast is fresh and not past its use-by date.
*When kneading the dough, push it away from you, then pull it towards you with the heel of your hand. Vigorous kneading (including breaking a sweat) will make for a lighter, crispier crust. The dough should feel silky soft when it's ready.
*Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area. Cold temps prevent it from rising well.
*Always punch it down to release air bubbles.
*Freshly made dough is easy to roll out. Start in the center and roll outwards, ensuring it's an even thickness so it'll cook evenly.
*Always preheat your oven before cooking your pizza to get an extra crispy crust.

Now it's time to make pizza! I'm submitting this recipe for Fennel Sausage and Rapini Pizza to Joey, of the beautiful 80 Breakfasts, who has chosen pizza as this month's Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day theme.

Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, broccoli raab, and rape, is a popular Italian vegetable. Though it resembles slender, leafy broccoli, it is actually a relative of the turnip. Rapini's bold, slightly bitter flavor pairs perfectly with spicy fennel sausage, sweet caramelized onions, and sharp provolone cheese. Blanching and shocking the rapini helps remove some of its bitterness and maintain its vibrant green color.

Fennel Sausage and Rapini Pizza
Print recipe only here.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 pound fennel sausage, sliced**

1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese

1/2 of the dough from recipe above (or 1 pound of store-bought dough)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F if using a pizza stone or 425-450 if using a baking sheet.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper (if using a stone) or to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with 1 tsp olive oil.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Boil rapini for 2 minutes; drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Shocking the rapini will maintain its vivid green color and stop it from cooking. After a couple of minutes, drain the rapini in a colander.
Slice sausage links. In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a skillet, and pan sear 4-5 minutes per side, until they are brown and crispy. Remove sausage to a plate.
In the same skillet over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add sliced onions and sugar; stir occasionally, until onions begin to caramelize, about 5-6 minutes. Add the rapini and crushed red pepper, and continue cooking, about 2-3 minutes, until rapini is slightly browned. Return sausage to skillet and stir. Remove from heat.

Place half of the provolone cheese on the oiled dough. Arrange the sausage mixture on top, then add the second half of the provolone cheese.

For a pizza stone, bake at 500 degree for about 10 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

For a baking sheet, bake at 450 for about 25 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.
Sprinkle with grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese before serving.

**Fennel sausage is mildly hot and spicy and can be found at Italian markets and delis. Otherwise, substitute any type of sausage you like.

You might also like:
Fig and Fennel Pizza
Potato and Gorgonzola Pizza
Broccolini and Sun-Dried Tomato Pie
Spinach, Nutmeg, and Ricotta Calzone

Don't forget to check Joey's round-up of pizzas on Feb. 2nd!

Save This Page on