I know, I know, it’s spinach pizza. It sounds kind of boring. We’ve all seen some version of this before. But this one is different from all of those sodden, cheese heavy versions.
It’s light and fresh with some heat and chew, and unlike those cheese bombs, it’s the sort of thing I can (and do) eat all the time without feeling overstuffed.
Years ago, when I was new at pizza making, I had trouble with spinach as a pizza topping. I usually sauteed it first and did my best to drape the limp bits over the crust. The spinach was tough to distribute evenly that way and the resulting pizza tended to be by turns a little soggy or barely spinach-y.
It wasn’t terrible (it was still pizza) but it wasn’t anything I was proud to share with the world. I mostly gave up on it and devoted my pizza making efforts elsewhere.
Then I had a version of spinach pizza at our dear departed neighborhood pizza joint, Great Lake, that changed how I thought about what a spinach pizza should look like. It was so incredibly green and pleasantly salty and it disappeared even before their excellent margherita pizza we brought home.
It set the wheels turning for me to make my own take on spinach pizza. I have no idea if I got close to Great Lake’s version, but this is one makes me happy. I’ve been making it for several years now, and I can’t get enough of it.
A pile of raw shredded spinach gets tossed with olive oil, garlic, some grated parmesan cheese, and a serious dose of crushed red pepper flakes. Then it gets mounded almost implausibly high on a thinly stretched pizza dough, slicked with a light coating of olive oil with a dusting of flaky sea salt and a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella.
Then it goes into a blazing hot oven where the spinach slumps into a thin layer while the edges of the crust bubble and puff and turn deep golden brown.
The hot dry oven cooks the spinach quickly and helps some of the moisture evaporate so the crust stays crisp. This pizza is not just spinachy, but also garlicky with a real kick of heat on the back end. I can’t get enough of it.
Spicy Garlicky Spinach Pizza
- 1 pound pizza dough (500 grams)
- 5 ounces baby spinach washed and spun dry (142 grams [one clamshell package])
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper use 1/4 teaspoon if you’re very heat sensitive
- 3 ounces shredded aged mozzarella (85 grams)
- 1/2 ounce finely shredded parmigiano reggiano (14 grams)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- flaky sea salt to taste
About one hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven with your pizza stone or steel inside (no need to put a pan in the oven if you don’t have a stone/steel) to 500-550° F (as high as your oven will go).
- Gently stretch your pizza dough into a circle or oval as large as will fit comfortably on your pizza stone (or steel or baking pan). Mine is usually about 14″ by 10″. Spread one tablespoon of olive oil over the pizza dough and sprinkle with sea salt, focussing especially around the edges. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese in a thin layer over the center of the stretched dough, leaving at least a one-inch perimeter around the edges.
- Chop the spinach finely. Place the spinach, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and shredded parmigiano reggiano in a medium mixing bowl and toss until well combined. Add a pinch of salt and toss again. Pile the spinach mixture over the pizza dough, again leaving at least a one-inch perimeter around the edges.
- Transfer to the hot oven, and bake for 7-10 minutes or until the spinach has cooked down and the crust has deep brown spots on the edges.
- Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.
- Slice and serve.
Originally published on February 10, 2014.