This Romanesco pizza is a study in texture and umami-rich Mediterranean flavor, featuring homemade olive pesto and tangy feta cheese.
Romanesca cauliflower (or Romanesco), with its mesmerizing patterns of perfect, pea-green fractals, is by far the sexiest vegetable at the fall farmers' market. Its flavor is similar to white cauliflower — mild and nutty — so it benefits from the umph of stronger ingredients and seasonings like herbs, salt, and olives.
In this pizza, I wanted to emphasize Romanesco's unique shape and texture, so I kept things simple with a smooth olive pesto sauce and crumbled feta cheese. The end result looked just like an alpine forest landscape viewed from the airplane window. And it tasted earthy and verdant, warm and bold.
Though the flavors would suggest a Mediterranean feel, my husband and I both agreed that it was much more Lord of the Rings than Mama Mia!. A trick of the eye, perhaps?
Romanesco Pizza with Olive Pesto and Feta Cheese
- Cutting board and knife
- Food processor
- Medium pot
- Rolling pin (optional)
- Large rimmed baking sheet or baking stone/steel
- Pizza peel (optional)
For the olive pesto
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- ½ cup pitted green olives
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
- 3 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ⅓ to ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the pizza
- 1 (1-pound) head Romanesco (a.k.a. Romanesca cauliflower), cut into bite-size florets
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- ⅔ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (if using a baking sheet) or as high as it will go (if using a baking stone/steel; place the stone/steel in the bottom third of the oven before you start preheating). Let the oven preheat for at least 30 minutes. Then, if you’re using a baking stone or steel, switch the oven to Broil on high.
To make the pesto
- To make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olives, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, and pine nuts. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are all finely chopped and the mixture is uniform in texture, then, with the processor running, stream in the oil until the pesto is creamy and spreadable. You will need at least ⅓ cup of oil. Season the pesto with black pepper and set it aside. (You'll only need ½ cup of the pesto for your pizza; store the rest in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.)
To cook the Romaesco and assemble the pizza
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Drop the Romanesco florets into the boiling water, let the water return to a boil, and then cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, drain the Romanesco, and dump the blanched florets into the ice water. Let the florets soak for 3 to 5 minutes, then drain them and set them aside until you're ready to bake the pizza. (This process will slightly cook the Romanesco and lock in the bright lime-green color.)
- Stretch or roll out your dough to a 12- to 14-inch circle, then transfer it to an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet or a lightly floured pizza peel (if using a baking stone/steel).
- Spread ½ cup of the olive peso evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Arrange the Romanesco florets on top of the pesto, and sprinkle the pizza evenly with the feta cheese.
- Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese has browned in spots—8 to 10 minutes on the baking sheet, 6 to 8 minutes on the baking stone/steel.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. Slice and serve.
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