Oh, pizza. How I love it, in all its forms. From the thick, gooey, doughy hunks that make the perfect post-pub takeaway (Domino’s I’m looking at you – and yes, I’ll probably be in touch soon) to the actual “proper” stuff that they eat in Italy, with a crisp crust stretched thin and an elegantly restrained amount of topping.
I’m a regular patron of the Pizza Express chain and I generally order the same thing – the Soho, which is essentially a margherita topped with rocket, Parmesan shavings and a drizzle of olive oil, and at 13 WW points it is workable as a dinner with a little bit of austerity earlier in the day. Pizza Express has recently challenged its diners to come up with a new pizza topping – and while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to improve on my beloved Soho, the prospect of a £5000 prize AND a place on the Pizza Express menu was enough to make me pause for thought.
I wanted to do something that had a recognisable culinary link to Italy and traditional Italian cooking. And, for some reason, my thoughts turned towards a pasta dish that D cooked about a year ago which consisted of ravioli filled with a roasted butternut squash puree, subtly flavoured with amaretti biscuits, and then tossed in a sage butter. Apparently this is a dish most famously found in the Cremona region of Italy, and is traditionally called tortelli di zucca.
I liked the idea of squash roasted with sage on top of a pizza. I thought that adding amaretti biscuits might be a step too weird alongside all the other flavours that I would need, but liked the idea of a bit of crunchy texture, so added a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds just before serving. I was a bit concerned that the sweet squash would fight with a sweet tomato base, so made this a pizza bianchi, flavouring ricotta with roasted garlic, a touch of lemon zest and a hint of Parmesan cheese before spreading it on the pizza base (shop bought, much to my chagrin – I must try and make my own dough at some point) and topping it with the roasted squash, some roasted red onion (to add another savoury note) and, of course, mozzarella.
D had a go too and his was far prettier than mine:
Behold the pizza puttanesca - also based on a classic pasta dish. The sauce was absolutely delicious - baby plum tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and a touch of chilli all whizzed together and then topped with mozzarella (of course) and more anchovies and olives. We decided it was a bit of a marmite pizza - if you love those strong, salty flavours then likely you would love this, but if not it would be a bit much.
Whether or not we win the £5000, it was fun to do and I must say I am rather inspired to do some more creating - although I've promised myself that I will actually make my own dough next time!