Three Cheese White Pizza with Fresh Arugula – Amanda’s version

I decided to try something different last week: meal planning. I’m usually a cook-or-not-cook-based-on-mood person. Thus dinner could consist of a homemade meal or just granola and yogurt. It’s mostly up to chance, but after almost an entire month of hardly being able to cook for myself (long business trip) I decided to take advantage of being home.

I Googled meal planning, because where else does one start? I came across this recipe for three cheese white pizza with fresh arugula – basically a salad on a pizza. It sounded good (well, the three cheese part sounded good, I wasn’t 100% on the arugula, but I went with it), and of course I couldn’t use pre-made pizza dough. I had to find a recipe for the dough that wouldn’t be terribly time consuming, but would still yield a good crust. I did not want to turn the recipe into a day-long ordeal. Nobody wants that.

What I found was a crust recipe from the kitchn – it had the perfect amount of prep time and will probably become a go-to. A few caveats if you choose to make the crust: The recipe makes double the amount of crust you need for the pizza recipe. Consider making a second kind of pizza, saving the dough, or doubling the white pizza recipe (which you’ll want to do if cooking for more than 3 or 4 people anyway). Parchment paper (at least the stuff I have) is only oven safe to 420 F. The recipe says bake the crust at 500 and recommends using parchment paper to deal with the sticking. It’s up to you how to handle this – perhaps you’re a pro with a peal and cornmeal and scoff at parchment paper. If you do decide you need the benefit of the paper, watch it closely, consider turning down your oven by 20 or so degrees, and make sure none of the paper overhangs your pizza stone/baking sheet. Finally, cut the salt. I found that 1.5 teaspoons was excessive and made the dough salty. I haven’t had the chance to try it again, but consider cutting it to 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp.

The original pizza recipe calls for fat-free ricotta, but I used part-skim. I don’t see any real reason to stick to fat-free so just use what you want to use. The recipe also calls for canola mayo, which I do not keep in my house (we are not mayo people). Mayo would probably make the pizza a bit richer, but can certainly be left out. If you’re worried about the consistency of the cheese mix, you could add a little cream and olive oil.

I found the thyme to be a little over-powering. I did sub dried (I was having a hard time locating the fresh stuff at the store and also getting a little sick of wandering around the produce area, and my boyfriend did not find my “I just need a little thyme” jokes amusing), which certainly had an effect. You can try leaving it out if you are inclined to.

Do not worry about measuring the Parmesan exactly. If you love Parmesan, use extra. If you don’t, you could sub similar hard cheeses (a hard aged cheddar, asiago, etc.). Parmesan is the star cheese flavor in this show – ricotta and mozzarella are yummy, but not exactly flavor-packed. I don’t recommend cutting it entirely, but follow your preferences.

Finally, I seriously recommend reading this entire recipe through before you begin.

To make the pizza:

Three Cheese White Pizza with Fresh Arugula

For the pizza:

One crust recipe (below)
2 tsp olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed (adjust depending on your love of garlic)
2/3 cup ricotta
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1.5 ounces fresh shredded Parmesan or roughly 1/3 cup (DO NOT USE that weird powdery kind from Kraft. I’ll never forgive you. In fact, if you own any of that, throw it out now. At the very least buy the pre-shredded stuff from BelGioso)
3 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (or cut enough to cover your pizza)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups baby arugula

For the crust:
3/4 cup warm water (not hot – this is for the yeast and hot water will kill it)
1 tsp active dry or instant yeast
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Pat the mozzarella dry and place in the freezer for easy slicing.

Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). Make sure to put your baking sheets or pizza stone in when you turn the oven on. Pizza stones especially should be preheated with the oven.

Combine the yeast and water until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and salt and mix until a dough forms (the kitchn describes this as a shaggy dough). Remove the dough from the bowl onto a clean work surface and knead any flour remaining in the bowl into the dough, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This should take roughly 5 minutes. See this link for help with when to stop kneading (I’m a big fan of #4, the windowpane test). You may need to add more flour as you knead, but be sparing. Adding too much flour to dough does not beget tasty results.

Let the dough rest on the counter under a towel or bowl as you prep the other ingredients.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic cloves. Cook for 2-5 minutes until garlic is brown and no longer raw. Be sure to flip the crushed cloves for even cooking. Remove from heat and reserve olive oil (for dressing the arugula). Finely chop the garlic (or use garlic press).

Combine the ricotta, garlic, Parmesan, pepper, thyme (if using), and pepper in a medium bowl. The original recipe says to use an electric mixer to do this, but mixing by hand is sufficient. Taste the mixture and add more pepper or salt if desired.

I pre-baked my pizza crusts prior to adding toppings. To do so, slice the dough in half. Work each half into a round, then place on parchment paper (or, again, use corn meal and your peal) and work into a thin pizza crust, roughly 10 inches round. Do not forget to dock the dough – pricking with a fork all over will prevent a giant air bubble from forming between the top and bottom of your dough. Bake the crusts for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the mozzarella.

The mozzarella should be firm enough to slice thinly at this point, so remove it from the freezer to do so.

After the crusts have baked for five minutes, you’ll need to remove them from the oven. I used baking sheets, so this was easy for me. For those of you with pizza stones, I suggest a pizza peal or using a thin, rimless baking sheet as a pizza peal. You could also attempt not pre-baking the crust.

Quickly spread the ricotta mixture over the crust. Then lay the slices of mozzarella over the ricotta in an even layer. Return to the 500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. The crust and cheese should be golden brown.

While the pizza is baking, combine the lemon juice, reserved olive oil (supplement with extra oil if necessary), and balsamic. Toss with the arugula to coat.

Remove the pizza from the oven and place the arugula on top in an even layer. Slice however you prefer (I did quarters – one quarter was plenty of food for me) and serve.

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