Cauliflower Crust Pizza. And what about Tomato Sauce?

Today’s harvest: Cauliflower, broccoli

BEHOLD! The garden has produced a cauliflower!
After days and days of my garden being dead, this newborn baby deserved a real celebration. Of course, a special recipe was in the works.

This is one of the recipes I’ve been most curious about for quite some time. After seeing it around the net and on Green Kitchen Stories, my curiosity grew stronger by the day.
Sure, anything topped with cheese and tomato sauce is bound to taste great (and this rule usually applies even when your tomato sauce ends up being bland), But what about those people who, like me, eat their pizza without mozzarella on top?

I am a throw-all-the-vegetables-you-can-find-on-top kind of pizza person. In Italy, this kind of pizza is called ‘Ortolana’ (lit. ‘The one from the vegetable garden’), and it can include anything from a couple sad grilled zucchini to a feast of eggplant, zucchini, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, arugula, and whatever else is in season, according to the pizzeria. So, since it’s so difficult to get a proper veggie-topped pizza in most restaurants, I love to make my own. Cauliflower pizza just seemed like the perfect excuse to enjoy this topping one extra time per week.

It’s a kind of pizza you can have before yoga, so to speak.

The result? Much better than expected. I also made cauliflower ‘rice’ before (even though I like best to address it cauliflower couscous) and was so pleased that’s pretty much my staple to go alongside curry now. I am loving cauliflower every day more!

cauliflower-pizza-ingredients

THE TOMATO SAUCE ISSUE

I would like to spare a word about the very heart of pizza: the tomato sauce that goes on top.
For people who have their pizza mozzarella-less, the quality of tomato sauce is paramount for the best pizza. My formula – and my mom’s, and my grandma’s, has always been the same: add some good quality tomato passata to a bowl, chop up some capers, add them in along with salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, and mix. If it tastes good, then great. If not, add more of this and that until you’re happy with the taste.

Yes, there is something missing.
No, I’ve never heard of a single italian family or restaurant add garlic to their sauce.

Personally, garlicky pizza makes me think of New York. Even in NY, if you visit some authentic wood-fired oven Italian pizza place, you’ll see how the pizza lacks that garlic flavor you are going to find in most non-italian pizzas.
I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other, as long as you’re using fresh, good quality ingredients. I love my pizza without garlic, but I did add a pinch of garlic powder to the crust.

And damn, did it taste like New York.

So, do you like your sauce with or without garlic? If you make your own pizza, do you add it at all? I’d love to know!

And now on to the recipe!
The crust recipe was a mix of things found on the net. Mostly, I was inspired by this one.
There is basically a cheese overload here, that’s why I had even more reasons to skip the mozzarella on top, but you can go crazy with the toppings, of course!
Did it pass the mozzarella-less test?
You bet it did.

RULES FOR MAKING SURE YOUR PIZZA HOLDS TOGETHER

  • Make sure you squeeze the cauliflower VERY well once it’s cooked. This step is crucial, and if the cauliflower is too moist it won’t hold together. If it seems a bit wet even after you squeeze it, be patient and leave it to dry for a bit.
  • Use baking paper, and oil it well. This will grant you a crispy bottom crust.
  • Do not spread your cauliflower crust too thick, but don’t spread it too thin, either. I’d say about 1/4 inch, maybe a tad more. If it’s too thick it might stay too moist on the inside, and if it’s too thin it might break easily or overbake.

Cauliflower crust Vegetarian Pizza
Low carb, high fiber, all good!

Cauliflower Crust
1 Small head cauliflower
1 Egg + one white
1/4 cup Parmesan / Parmigiano
1/4 tsp salt
Basil and garlic powder (I used 1 tsp basil and 1/4 tsp garlic) dried herbs are great too!
1 tbsp Ricotta or cream cheese

Tomato Sauce*
A half cup tomato Passata, or good quality canned tomatoes
A pinch of salt and pepper
Oregano
5-6 capers, rinsed and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

* You might end up with leftovers, but I have some suggestions at the end of this post on how to use it up!

Toppings
Mozzarella cheese, sautéed onion, sautéed mushrooms, olives, grilled vegetables of sorts, arugula, sautéed radicchio…whatever you prefer!
There is just one rule here: pre-cook your vegetables  by either sauteeing or grilling them in olive oil first, with a pinch of salt. This will grant the best results, even when preparing them for regular pizza.

  • Wash and trim your cauliflower first, breaking it into florets. Dry them very well, and pulse in a food processor until you get a very very fine cauliflower kind of couscous. The finer, the better!
  • Cook it: it can be easily done in a microwawe. Put it in a deep dish, cover it with another dish, and microwave it on high for about 3-4 minutes. It should get fluffier and produce steam.
  • Now, the most important step: get a clean towel or cheesecloth, and let it cool a bit. Once it gets easy to handle, use it to squeeze as much water out of your cauliflower ‘flour’ as you can. Spend a little time and energy on this step, as it will make or break your pizza. The cauliflower must be as dry as possible.
  • In the meantime, prepare the sauce by adding all the ingredients to a bowl and mixing together. Add the ingredients to taste: start with a little, then add more if you find the sauce to be bland. If using canned tomatoes, purée them first or mash them well with a fork. For 1/2 cup sauce, I’d use 1 tbsp olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and oregano. Also take care of your toppings, so that you have everything ready. You can even prepare this the night before, so that it gets even more flavorful!
  • Preheat the oven to 480 F˚ / 250 C˚. Prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper. Lightly coat it with a thin layer of oil. Make sure you do not skip oiling the paper! This will help develop a crispy crust on the bottom.
  • Add the cauliflower along with all the other ingredients for the crust to a bowl, and get your hands in there! Mix well, until everything is combined and you get a sort of dough-like texture. Your mixture should be easy to form into a ball with your hands.
  • Put said ball on your oiled paper and pread it out with your hands. Make it round, square or those funny oval shapes that look so cool on Pinterest. Make sure there are no holes and the crust is even – see tips above for crust thickness.
  • Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 430 F˚ / 220 C˚ and bake until it starts to turn golden. it could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven and on how much water you managed to squeeze out.
    At this point, add the tomato sauce. I like to cook it for some 5 minutes before adding the last toppings. Add all your toppings at the end, and finish it off with another 5 minutes. You could even get it under the broiler for a minute, so if you’re using cheese it will turn golden brown and delicious.
  • Cut it up with a pizza wheel and stuff your face to your heart’s content!

SOME DELICIOUS PIZZA PAIRINGS
Here’s a modest list of some of my favorite veggie pairings, along with some cheeses if yu’re in the mood for it:

~ Mushrooms, Radicchio (&Gorgonzola);
~ Artichoke, Olives(& some tangy cheese like Brie);
~ Grilled or sautéed Eggplant & Zucchini (with grated Parmesan!);
~ Arugula or mesclun, lightly dressed in olive oil and balsamic glaze (please add the Parmesan to this one!);
~ Spinach, Mushrooms (&Ricotta) – the addition of potatoes or squas here is just great;
~ All of the above together.

SOME GREAT WAYS TO USE LEFTOVER TOMATO PIZZA SAUCE
There’s a thousand things you can do with it!

~ Add it on top of mushrooms, slices of eggplant, slices of sweet potato, or other veggies along with some mozzarella and parmesan to make pizza style baked veggies;

~ Sauté whole garlic cloves in a bit of olive oil until fragrant, add the sauce along with some olives and you’ve fixed yourself one of the quickest pasta sauces ever;

~ Sauté some onions, add the sauce and cook some eggs in it;

And these are just a few ideas. Anything else comes to mind?

So, how do you usually top your pizza? Please let me know in the comments!

Happy baking! :D

cauliflower-pizza

  1. I think as long as you don’t compare it with real dough-based pizza, this version is gorgeous. Good tips, I’ve made cauliflower pizza a couple of times and had mixed results!

  2. I really have to make a cauliflower crust pizza soon. I’ve wanted to make one ever since I saw the recipe on Green Kitchen Stories. Man, there are just waaay too many awesome things to cook and bake! Loved your suggestions on different pizza toppings. My favorite pizza topping probably is prosciutto+ricotta+arugula. Quite a fun (and super tasty!) summer version is one with peaches+goat cheese+basil (without tomato sauce thought). You can see a version on delicious:days (http://www.deliciousdays.com/archives/2012/08/16/a-classic-gets-a-facelift-flammkuchen-with-peaches-goat-cheese/).

    About your family’s tomato sauce: Did I understand right that you don’t heat it up? Just mix it in a bowl? That’s so quick and easy! And next time I really have to throw in some capers too! I always cook mine for at least half an hour. And yes, I add a bit of garlic (sliced so the aroma is rather mild) as well as onions and chopped basil stalks to the sauce…

    • Hi Sini! I’d actually love to try the GKS one too, I just went with this method because I wanted something with less eggs in it. And prosciutto+ricotta+arugula is one of my favorites too, but I would have never thought of pairing it with peaches! Scary as that sounds, I’d love to try it. After all, we eat prosciutto with melon…so, why not peaches? Thanks for the link!

      Yes, tomato sauce is raw like that. What you do in home ovens is putting the sauce on halfway through the cooking, so it has time to cook down a bit, get tasty and lose the extra water. On wood-fired oven, the heat is so high that tomato sauce cooks immediately anyway.

      The chopped basil stalks are such a great idea. How did I not think about it? I’ll totally steal it from you! :D

    • Thanks for asking, I just realized I didn’t write it! I recommend baking at 480F˚/250C˚ for 5 mins, then turning down the oven to 450F˚/230C˚. If the oven is too low the veggies will release water.

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