Sunday night is pizza night in my house. Made-from-scratch pie–nothing tastes as good right from the oven…sweet Italian sausage, lots of cremini mushrooms, chunks of green pepper, mozzarella and sauce…my idea of heaven.
But last night I was in the mood for something else, something different. As I usually do in cases like this, I reached for a couple of pizza cookbooks. Lessee…fennel and fontina? Nope , my squeeze is not a licorice lover. Navel oranges and hard boiled egg? Not at the point of a gun. Two hundred-odd pages later, I still lacked inspiration. “I’m thinking something with roast pears, Asiago, and a non-tomato sauce” comes her voice from the living room. She knows I have a weakness for pears. A non-tomato sauce…roast red peppers? Sounds like a plan.
Roasted Pear, Sausage and Red Pepper Pizza
1 recipe for dough (not the whole wheat version)
3 ripe pears (I used Bartletts)
3 red bell peppers
6-8oz. sweet or hot (your choice) Italian sausage
1 handful smoked sundried tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs balsamic vinegar or to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
6-8oz. Fresh mozzarella, some sliced, the rest grated
3-4 oz. Asiago, grated
Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Wash & towel dry the peppers. Cut each in half, removing the stem, seeds and pith; place peppers in large bowl. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in the palm of your hand. Rub the red peppers to coat the skins with oil then place them skin-side up on the cookie sheet. Place in oven, set timer for 20 minutes.
Spray another cookie sheet with cooking spray. Peel, cut the pears in half lengthwise. Remove center core, stem. Place pears cut side up on cookie sheet, put in oven.
When timer goes off, turn the cookie sheet with the peppers 180 degrees in oven. Turn the pears cut side down. Set timer for 20 minutes.
Saute your Italian sausage until no red is visible. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a bowl, leaving behind as much fat as possible. Return skillet to heat, saute chopped onion until just lightly browned. Add the garlic; saute one more minute. Remove from heat; set aside.
When the skins of the peppers are charred, remove from the oven. Place in a bowl and seal with plastic wrap. Set aside
for ten +/- minutes. The peppers will continue to cook some and the steam will help the charred skin separate from the flesh of the pepper. The pears are done when the tip of a pairing knife slides easily into the thickest part of the pear. Set aside.
Increase oven temp to 475F.
Check peppers. When cool enough to handle, use your hands to rub the charred skin off each of the peppers. Do this over the bowl; you want the juices. Place the cleaned peppers in your food processor, along with the juices, the sundried tomatoes, onions and garlic. Put the cover on and let her rip…you want a smooth, thick sauce. Taste, adjust your seasonings, adding balsamic vinegar first. Taste again, season with salt and pepper. Add some red pepper flakes, process again, taste one more time…be careful not to overdo the red pepper flakes.
When pears have cooled, thinly slice across the pear.
On a clean, flour-dusted surface, work your dough into a circle by hand – no rolling pin. When it gets to about 8″ in diameter, dust your pizza peel* with corn meal, making sure to use more at the front edge of the peel…if your pizza
sticks here when you try to slide it onto your hot pizza stone, you’re in deep doo-doo. The corn meal will also add a nice subtle crunch factor to the dough. Put your dough on the peel and continue to work it with your hands until it just fits on the peel.
Toppings: leaving about 1″ at the edge, start with one big kitchen spoon of red pepper sauce. Pour it in the center of the dough, work it out toward the edge with the back of the spoon, then sprinkle on a layer of mozzarella. Next, the pears. Cover as much of the surface of the dough as you can with an even layer of pear slices; follow that with a dusting of Asiago. Sausage is next…make sure the pieces aren’t too big, and cover as much of the surface as possible. A thin layer of sauce follows, then more grated mozzarella and Asiago. All around the rim of the crust, lay thin slices of mozzarella.
Open your oven door. Place the front edge of the peel against the back edge of the pizza stone. With a firm jerk, slide the front edge of the pizza off the peel onto the stone, then slide the peel out of the oven, then set your timer for 10 minutes. **
When ready, slide the peel under the pizza and remove the pizza from oven, let sit for 2 minutes. Slice, serve with napkins. We found this goes very well with a California Merlot; cold beer works well, too.
What makes this recipe so good is the balance of the sweet pears against the sharp Asiago and the sweet, smoky taste of the red pepper sauce. The recipe makes more sauce than you really need here so store the rest in the fridge and use it the next time you need some inspiration.
* Not only are these tools inexpensive, but they make pizza making so much easier. Buy a big peel and stone, about 14″ in diameter. Leave your pizza stone in the oven; if you have an older oven with cold spots, the stone will help eiminate them. Just make sure to move your stone to the lowest rack when your use your broiler.
** The baking time depends on how hot your oven runs, and how crispy you like your crust. If you want your crust more chewy than crispy, bake it 8-9 minutes; more crispy, 9-10.