When I first moved to Juneau I was very excited to finally have a real kitchen. In equipping my newly-acquired kitchen, I invested in a pizza stone. Up to that point was almost exclusively a cheese pizza eater, but I decided I wanted to branch out with my pizza toppings. Granted I still order cheese pizza when I get Domino’s, and sometimes I make a more adult, more gourmet version of a cheese pizza – my Four Cheese White Pizza. But most of the time I go for something a little more involved than just cheese for a topping.
I started out adapting internet recipes or being inspired by topping combinations on menus. That’s where my recipes for Pesto Pizza, Sausage and Ricotta Pizza, Barbeque Chicken Pizza, and Four Cheese White Pizza (mentioned above) originated. Then I started investing in some cookbooks. My kitchen is not overflowing with a plethora of cookbooks – rather I have a handful of cookbooks that are well-used. One of the cookbooks I selected for my kitchen library was My Pizza by Jim Lahey (readily available on Amazon). Since purchasing this cookbook, my boyfriend and I have been making pizza for each other every Sunday as part of our weekend routine. There are many delicious recipes in My Pizza (we’ve tried most of them), but our favorite by far has been the Sausage and Fennel Pizza.
Fennel seeds are used to season Italian sausage so you can see how this combination of toppings would work well together, but in this recipe you’ll actually be using the bulb. Thinly sliced fennel is placed atop the pizza and drizzled with a little olive oil so that the fennel roasts as the pizza cooks, bringing out its natural sweetness. The result is heavenly!
What is fennel bulb you ask? It can be found in the produce section (often with the organic produce) and is sometimes labeled as “anise.” Honestly it looks kinda like an alien species – an oddly shaped onion sprouting green stalks covered in feathery fronds you’d expect to be growing on some sort of swamp creature. Its peak season begins in the fall so now is a good time to find it in stores.
Sausage and Fennel Pizza
Prep Time: 15 minutes (not including dough or sauce)
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes for Brick Oven-Style, 15-20 for normal baking
No-knead Pizza Dough or 1/2 batch Thick Crust Pizza Dough
Fresh Pizza Sauce
3-4 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
3 oz. Italian Sausage
2 tbsp. minced Onion
pinch Chili Flakes
1/2 c. freshly-grated Pamesan (I use Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Break the sausage into small clumps and lightly brown it in the skillet. Keep in mind it will continue to cook in the oven.
2. Thinly slice your fennel bulb (I like to use a mandoline). I usually use between 1/4 to 1/2 c. of fennel slices. You’ll probably have to cut the stalks off to make the bulb easier to handle, but reserve some of the fronds for garnish.
3. Gather your toppings.
4. Spread your tomato sauce over the dough. Pull the mozzarella into clumps and scatter over the pizza then distribute the sausage.
5. Layer the fennel over the pizza then drizzle it with olive oil. I’ve found that I enjoy the fennel rings more than the disks from the center of the bulb so you’ll notice I only use those slivers.
6. Sprinkle the onion over the pizza. Finally, top it with the parmesan, chili flakes, and salt.
7. Cook your pizza Brick Oven-Style or at 425° F for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
8. Scatter a few pieces of fennel frond over the hot pizza for garnish (you’ll notice the fronds resemble dill, but they don’t taste like it). To make the crust extra-tasty brush it with a little olive oil as soon as the pizza is out of the oven.
9. Allow the pizza to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing (that way you don’t sear the roof of your mouth and the cheese has a little time to set). Now you’re ready to enjoy this incredible flavor combination!