Garlicky White Pizza with Herbed Ricotta, Artichokes, and Arugula

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I’ve had a few white pizza photos kicking around for a while now, so I’m going to go ahead and continue with the theme this week following Monday’s margherita pizza with heirloom tomatoes.

Let me first tell you a little secret.

(Granted, it’s not terribly interesting, but whatever.)

For many years I’ve had a blatant bias about white pizza and basically never ordered it or made it. Ever. Why, you ask? A few reasons. First and foremost, I adore fresh tomato sauce, thus you can understand why it’s never occurred to consume a white pie. Indeed, the perfect slice needs to have the proper ratio of sauce to cheese. This is a subjective assessment, of course, but for my tastes usually there’s not nearly enough tomato sauce on the slice, in which case it’s not really pizza so much as melted cheese on bread. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in and of itself, it’s just not good pizza, in my view.

And to put on my nutrition hat, the simple fact is that a white variant is not nearly as healthful as one with tomato sauce. (Relatively speaking, that is—just to be clear.) Even if made with whole grain crust and fresh veggies and herbs, as I do here, the main element is clearly the cheese. I mean, they don’t call it “white” for nothing, right? Delicious, yes. Nutritious, not so much.

For both of these reasons I pretty much never eat white pizza.

And then, one day earlier this year I had leftover ricotta cheese from an eggplant parmigiania in the freezer and decided it was time to give white pie a shot. I mean, seriously, what’s not to like? It was time to challenge my pizza prejudice by conducting a little cooking experiment of my own.

I steamed a few fresh artichokes in white wine, garlic, and lemon and scattered their chopped hearts atop a bed of garlicky, herbaceous ricotta cheese (ricotta cheese, EVOO, crushed black pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a touch of lemon zest + fresh parsley, basil, oregano, and garlic) then covered the whole thing in fresh mozzarella, parmigiania reggiano, and a bit of smoked provolone. (More baking details here.) Slices were adorned with arugula microgreens, an important addition for balance to brighten and lighten the dish’s colors and flavors. (Regular arugula will suffice, or another green with some bitterness to it.)

I can not convey how amazing this pizza was—especially for this previous pizza purist. The artichokes lent a tender, toothsome bite to the creamy, flavorful cheese redolent of garlic and herbs, while the greens were the ideal garnish. 

It’s certainly not as pretty as a red-sauced pie, and this unexciting picture in no way does its tantalizing flavors justice. Indeed, I was so enthralled by the aroma I dug right in and forgot to stage a better photo, as you can see from this half-eaten pie. 

Here endeth my pizza partisanship.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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