As happy as I am that warm weather is becoming the norm rather than a novelty, I’m a little bummed that this means that it will be very soon time to put away my beloved Baking Steel until the late summer/early fall. I received it for my birthday last year, and between Marc Vetri’s dough recipe and this heavy hunk of steel, our pizza-making has been on point ever since. I haven’t tried all of the various pizza styles in Mastering Pizza yet–I want to get the Neopolitan version down cold before I do–but we have been trying several of the topping combinations in the book, all to relatively delicious results.
Take, for instance, this sausage and fennel pizza. There’s really not much to it–you roast the fennel ahead of time, and then sprinkle chunks of fennel, sausage, and cheese on the sauced-up dough–but my god is the end result amazing. I think the magic is in the roasted fennel itself–Vetri has you toss the thin slices with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper and then roast it with the used lemon rinds. It comes out so flavorful for so simple a preparation and balances well with the savory sauce and the rich mozzarella. If you’re on the fence over fennel’s anise taste, this might be what tips you over to the enthusiasts’ camp as that particular flavor is far more mellow here.
I’m hoping to get a few more pizzas in before Memorial Day, as that’s often the turning point for the weather holding above 80 degrees fairly consistently and our building getting warmer. And who knows–maybe we’ll get a little cold snap one of these days for which the only remedy will be some homemade pizza. At least it will give me something delicious to look forward to when my beloved summer is finally over.
Spicy sausage and fennel pizza
Slightly adapted from Mastering Pizza by Marc Vetri
Makes one 10-12 inch pizza
- 1 ball Neapolitan style dough at 70% hydration, recipe and preparation here
- ⅓ cup pizza sauce, recipe here
- 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, torn and drained well
- 2 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
- ⅓ cup roasted fennel, recipe below
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- Fennel fronds, for garnish
Heat oven to 500 degrees and place the baking steel/stone on the rack closest to the oven.
Once the dough is prepared and on the pizza peel, ladle the sauce onto the dough and spread into a thin and even layer. Spread the cheese, sausage, roasted fennel, and both cheeses on the pie and then carefully place the pizza on the steel/stone and cook for 6-8 minutes. Switch to the broiler and cook for an additional 2 minutes until the crust is deeply browned. Remove from oven, let rest for five to ten minutes, and then cut and serve. Garnish with fennel fronds as desired.
Lightly adapted from Mastering Pizza by Marc Vetri
- 1 large fennel bulb, quartered and cored
- ½ lemon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- ¼ cup olive oil
Heat the oven to 500 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Either using a knife or a mandoline, slice the fennel very thinly and place into a bowl. Toss the fennel with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper, thyme leaves, and olive oil; adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Spread the fennel out into an even layer on the baking sheet, along with the lemon rind, and roast for 25-30 minutes or until the fennel is lightly browned and soft, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning. Let cool before using on a pizza; leftovers can be kept for up to 4 days in an airtight container.