Spinach, Pesto and Sausage Pizza

Pizza is often used to teach math, especially fractions and percentages.

I recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which, for one year, Kingsolver and her family ate almost entirely locally. They live on a farm which enables them to raise poultry and tend an incredible garden. At the end of each chapter, Kingsolver’s daughter Camille shared her thoughts, recipes, and seasonal weekly meal plans. I was inspired by the Kingsolver’s weekly pizza night to make my own pizza as close to 100% from scratch as possible.

Let’s see how I did with my “pizza math”.

The Elements

  • Crust
  • Sauce
  • Pesto
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Spinach

Crust: 100% made from scratch

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

I often purchase pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to have on hand to make pizza at home. But this time, I overcame my “fear” of yeast, and whipped up Camille’s recipe for pizza dough.

It was so easy, and delicious!

Note to self: make your own dough more often…

Sauce: 50% made from scratch

Pizza sauce ingredients

Pizza sauce ingredients

For the sauce, I followed my typical “recipe,” which involves throwing canned tomatoes and some seasoning into a pan. I used 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes (I like my sauce chunky!) 1/2 cup red wine, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, a dash of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine all ingredients and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Combined sauce, simmering

Combined sauce, simmering

While I have taken the step away from pre-made tomato sauces, opting instead to make my own from canned (no salt added) tomatoes, I give myself 50% on this one because I have yet to take the step towards canning my own tomato sauce. This is a definite goal for me this summer! I plan to grow tomatoes again this year (and maybe one or two other vegetables, but that is a story for another day), and I will definitely be canning my own 100% from scratch tomato sauce.

Pesto: 100% made from scratch

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Our favorite pizza from Mellow Mushroom (our go-to take out pizza place) is Kosmic Karma, tomato sauce base topped with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto swirl.

When I asked my husband what he wanted on our pizza, he asked me to recreate the Kosmic Karma. I was pleasantly surprised to find nice, local basil at the store, and jumped on the opportunity to make my own pesto, using walnuts instead of pine nuts (since that is what I had on hand).

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Inspired by Edible Perspective

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency (I used 3 Tablespoons).

Pre-baked pizza

Pre-baked pizza

The Toppings: 0% made from scratch

I decided to add a bit of sausage to our Kosmic Karma imitation. I used a Tuscan sausage made in-house at my local Whole Foods using local pork. While I am happy with this choice of meat, no from-scratch points for me here… though I’m not sure I will ever reach the point of making my own sausage…

As for cheese, I chose mozzarella and goats milk feta. Kingsolver has a chapter on cheese making, which peaked my interest in this unexplored area of kitchen science. Kath makes it look easy… I might be ordering rennet and experimenting with cheesemongering in the near future…

His and Hers pizza slices

His and Hers pizza slices

The spinach also gets 0% made from scratch since it was neither local nor home grown…

So, let’s add things up:

“Made From Scratch” Pizza Math

  • Crust – 100%
  • Sauce – 50%
  • Pesto – 100%
  • Cheese – 0%
  • Sausage – 0%
  • Spinach – 0%

Total: 41.67% made from scratch

Delicious!

Delicious!

Had I made this without the sausage, my percentage would have been much higher… Not bad for my first foray into homemade crust.

This pizza was delicious, and it gave me great joy to know that I had made so many of the elements from scratch. The added time spent making crust, sauce, and pesto was time well spent in the kitchen.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

-L

Spicy Lamb Ragu

More and more these days, meat is a very rare component of my diet. I am eating more legumes, more tofu, and plenty of nutrient rich vegetables. I don’t miss meat at all – but sometimes, a hearty bowl of lamb ragu sounds too delicious to pass up.

bowl of ragu

It has been COLD in Virginia for the past week. We’re talking highs in the 20s, lows in the teens. I grew up in Texas, y’all… I am not a fan of such cold! At least we have has some snow flurries, because – let’s be serious – cold without snow is just plain obnoxious.

The more I eat seasonally, the more “in tune” I feel with what my body wants and needs. In the summer, I crave juicy fruits and fresh, crisp veggies. In the fall, I begin to turn to roasted root vegetables. And during these cold stretches of winter, sometimes there is nothing better than comforting foods like pasta with meat sauce.

2 bowls

This dish was made super special thanks to two “foodie finds” at Whole Foods – local ground lamb and fresh pasta. I chose black pepper pappardelle, and it was perfect.

Spicy Lamb Ragu

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Wine and Food

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  •  2 small fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound fresh pappardelle (or dried if you can’t find fresh)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

bowl from above

Method

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the lamb and saute, stirring to break up any clumps, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a towel-lined plate.

Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat from the pan, and return the pan to medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Return the lamb to the pan and add the broth, 1/2 cup water, white wine vinegar, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and rosemary. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently, uncovered, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 25 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute longer. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, and toss and stir to combine. Add the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and toss again. Divide pasta into shallow bowls, top with more Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

lamb ragu

Isn’t pappardelle a beautiful pasta? I love the way the thick noodles fold in the bowl, and they way they stand up to a meat sauce. 

This dish was very well received by my meat-loving husband. We enjoyed the leftovers again later in the week, served a top a base of fresh spinach (you gotta get your greens in, after all!).

2 bowls above

The only thing missing was a glass of wine… The cookbook suggests an Argentine Sangiovese or an Italian Barbera, which have enough acidity to stand up to the tomato sauce. We have served this dish with wine in the past, at a dinner party with friends, and it was a lovely pairing.

What type of foods do you turn to in the winter?

-L