There was a lot of asparagus in my fridge recently. A lot. So what to do? I could have used it in soup, or in a frittata, or had it simply grilled in a salad, but I wanted something a little more outside the box. How about pizza? An asparagus and prosciutto pizza, no less.
Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza Casting Call
It was a lot of fun to throw this pizza together. I wanted the asparagus to play the lead role, and my thoughts immediately turned to that classic combination of the tasty green spears with lively, salty prosciutto. With the two stars of the pizza cast, it seemed to me my usual go-to tomato sauce might try to steal the show. So in its place, a tasty blend of ricotta, garlic and fresh basil covered the base — like the musical chorus behind the production.
As far as the supporting cast goes, a scattering of red onion slices was next, followed by little nests of paper-thin prosciutto all over the pie. (I used skinless prosciutto, for easier eating — good as it is, I find it hard to bite through the fatty layer and don’t fancy pulling a pile of hot pizza toppings onto my lap, or a higher landing zone, if you know what I mean). More cheesy goodness came in the form of torn pieces of creamy buffalo mozzarella — another new ingredient for me and one to be used again — and of course the obligatory grating of parmesan before the pie went into the oven.
But I get ahead of myself, because I haven’t addressed the asparagus yet. Oh, the asparagus! Much as I love the look of the whole stalks, I decided to cut them in half to make things a little easier for eating. That said, it doesn’t look half bad, if I say so myself. Once baked, it was tender and juicy, all that local asparagus promises to be.
If you look really closely at the photos, you might be able to tell that there’s a secret ingredient on this pizza, a bit like a surprise cameo appearance by an actor you know and love. When I roast asparagus I wake it up it with a spritz of fresh lemon juice. I didn’t think that would work with pizza, so I gave it a generous sprinkling of lemon zest before it went into the oven. Just the thing!
Dough and Memories
The whole works started with a homemade whole wheat dough (so easy when the mixer does the work of kneading for you!). Under 10 minutes of prep, followed by eight minutes of machine kneading, and then the dough did its rising thing while I went to the market. Nothing like coming home to the glorious fragrance of yeast dough! And yes, you absolutely can use a pre-made dough — I know a couple of shops around here that sell it in bags.
Years and years ago, I often made pizza on a Friday night. The kids would be in the next room watching cartoons or playing Sonic the Hedgehog and I’d be making dough, getting the toppings ready (usually cheese and pepperoni) and listening to them having fun. Happy memories.
This asparagus and prosciutto pizza makes for happy memories too.
Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza
© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life 2017
I’ll post my dough recipe another day, so this post focuses on the toppings — the most fun part, right? This recipe makes enough toppings for a 10 x 15-inch “free-form” pizza. If you don’t make your own dough (and I don’t always) you can buy dough in bags and ready to be formed. Just be sure to let a pre-made dough come to room temperature before stretching it out. If you like, drizzle some olive oil and grate some more parmesan over the pizza before serving (I was too eager to eat it to think of that!).
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
- 1 tbsp cornmeal (for under the pizza crust)
- 15–17slender spears asparagus, trimmed and cut in half
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 or 3 grindings of fresh black pepper
- pinch of salt
- 150 g ricotta cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 6 fresh basil leaves, rolled and then sliced into thin strips (chiffonade)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- a generous grinding of black pepper
- pinch of salt
- about 1/8 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
- 50 g shaved prosciutto (skinless if you like)
- 125 g buffalo mozzarella
- zest of half a lemon (or, about 1 heaping tbsp)
- 1 heaping tbsp grated parmesan
Once all your ingredients are ready to go, sprinkle the cornmeal evenly around a large baking tray (bigger than 10 x 15 inches). Flatten out the pizza dough and start stretching it. Once it’s on the way to the size you want, lay it on the tray and use your knuckles to push and finish spreading it out; if the dough tears in any spots, just patch it back together. The size depends on how thin you want it to be. I like to leave the rim thicker than the base.
Toss the asparagus halves in a bowl with the 1/2 tbsp olive oil and the pepper and salt indicated. Set aside.
Mix the ricotta, garlic, basil, dried oregano, pepper and salt together well, then spread over the pizza base, but not on the edges. Distribute the red onion slices around the ricotta. Next put on the prosciutto slices; I like to make little nests by twisting the ham as I lower it onto the pizza. Tear pieces off the buffalo mozzarella and intersperse them between the prosciutto nests.
Now it’s time for the real star of the pizza, the asparagus. Place the half spears around the pie so each slice will have a good helping.
Finally, scatter the lemon zest over the pizza and follow up with the parmesan.
Slide the pizza into the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the toppings are cooked.
Slide the pizza onto a cutting board immediately, slice and enjoy this ode to springtime!