Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pizza with Asparagus, Bacon, and Homemade Marinara Sauce

Yum, homemade pizza. We love the stuff around here. If I wasn't always so scared in the past of making the crust, we would probably have it much more often. Well, it's not the crust I am scared of, it's rolling out the crust that frightens me. I know, it seems very silly. I love to bake, and do all those sorts of things which require patience, but I don't know. When it came to pizza crust, I was intimidated. Having to roll it into a circle shape just seemed difficult. It's not like a pie crust, where you get to trim off the ratty edges. This had to actually look like a circle.

Well, I am happy to report that all the fear is now a thing of the past. I have faced the challenge head-on, and I won! I battled the crust, and I was victorious. More on that in a bit, though.

The above photo is a shot of some wild asparagus, brought to us by my mother and father in-law, who pick it out of their very own backyard. It tastes so much better than store-bought asparagus, in my opinion. It's almost sweet, juicier than any other asparagus I've had, and it cooks up so tender despite the thicker spears. It can be purple in color when first picked, but it gradually turns green while it's cooking. It's actually handy; it's got a built-in doneness indicator!

When I found this recipe for a flatbread appetizer topped with asparagus and pancetta in Cooking Light Magazine, I knew I wanted to make a variation of it. Instead of a flatbread, I would do a pizza. I would use bacon in place of the pancetta, and I thought I'd add some homemade marinara sauce (the original recipe doesn't have a sauce).

After searching Recipezaar briefly, I discovered a whole-wheat pizza dough recipe that could be made in the bread machine. We've made pizza dough this way plenty of times, but this was a new recipe and I wanted to give it a try. As it turns out, this may have been the best homemade dough we've ever had! It wasn't as dense or dry as some whole-wheat doughs can be, and a sprinkle of dried herbs made it flavorful and colorful. Best of all, though? It was a dream to work with! By hand, I was able to pull and stretch it into the correct shape, and made it fit the pizza pan just right. It was easy! I wondered then what I had been so worried about; I could totally handle this! I just hoped that the rest of it would be as simple.

Well, it was! I baked some bacon in the oven until it was crisp, and broke it into crumbly pieces. The asparagus was sliced lengthwise thinly, then artfully placed on the pizza. A healthy sprinkle of freshly grated mozzarella topped it off. But wait! I'm forgetting the sauce.

Oh, the sauce. Who knew something so ridiculously simply could be such a showstopper? Seriously, this sauce required absolutely no cooking whatsoever, and contained simple, everyday ingredients. I got this gem from Recipezaar; I chose it mainly because of the ease. I was very pleasantly surprised when I tried it and discovered just how delicious it was. It was thick, tangy, spicy, with a hint of sweetness...just wow. We also used it as a dipping sauce for some ravioli that I served on the side. I could probably just have eaten it straight, with a spoon, but I restrained myself. But next time, who knows?

I'm going to post the pizza recipe, because I took an existing idea and modified it to our liking, as well as the sauce recipe, just because it is so divine.

The recipe for the whole-wheat pizza dough can be found here.

Kittencal's No-Cook Pizza Sauce (or Marinara Dipping Sauce)

adapted from Recipezaar

makes about 2 1/2 cups


1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (original recipe says you can use either 1/2 or a whole can)

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fresh minced garlic (I believe I used 2 cloves)

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. sugar

1 pinch salt (can add to taste)

1 pinch cayenne pepper, to taste (I think my "pinch" was more like a healthy dash; next time I may lighten up on it a bit)


1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl; mix very well. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as needed.

2. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, more if possible, before serving.

Pizza with Asparagus, Bacon, and Homemade Marinara Sauce

Recipe by Bri

serves 4 (maybe)


1 whole-wheat pizza dough

cornmeal, for dusting

6 slices bacon

8-10 spears asparagus, sliced thinly lengthwise

1/2 - 3/4 cup homemade marinara sauce (see above)

3 oz. freshly grated mozzarella cheese (part-skim works well)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange bacon on a cooling rack, then place the cooling rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in oven for at least 20 minutes, until crispy and browned. Set aside to cool.

2. Dust work surface with cornmeal, then place pizza dough on cornmeal. Stretch dough into a 12-inch circle, then place on a 12-inch round pizza pan.

3. Spread marinara sauce on surface of dough. Crumble the reserved bacon over the sauce. Next, lay asparagus across the pizza, and finally cover everything with mozzarella cheese.

4. Crank the oven up to 400. Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and the dough feels and looks fully baked. Serve immediately (preferably with extra marinara on the side for dipping your crusts!).

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