Monday, October 15, 2007
Porchetta & Roast Radicchio Pizzas - a Recipe
The fragrance of savory porchetta – slowly roasting on the spit, is one that permeates the markets of Tuscany, from the seaside villages of the Maremma all the way to Florence’s maginificent Mercato Centrale.
Porchetta (por-KET-tah) – usually a whole piglet that’s heavily salted, stuffed with fennel seed, rosemary, and garlic, and turned slowly over a wood fire – is traditionally sliced at market and served sandwiched in a roll (see the photo below). But the incredibly moist dish also makes an appearance on the region’s holiday tables as a uniquely Tuscan take on roast suckling pig.
It’s possible to buy porchetta, some made in-house, at States-side deli counters these days – a fact I delight in once the weather turns crisp. Which it finally has! We spent most of the weekend outdoors in sweaters and jackets, and by evening it’s been positively brisk.
I’ll probably write about how to make your own porchetta soon, but in the meantime, these pizzas make use of the store-bought variety. And if you can’t find any, don’t let that stop you from preparing the dish. With its long-simmered tomato sauce and caramelized radicchio, this is a fantastically aromatic recipe for celebrating the shorter days and longer light of autumn. Leftover roast pork, pepperoni, and even prosciutto all make great substitutions for the porchetta, though if you use prosciutto, wait until the pizzas come out of the oven to lay on the paper-thin slices. The tomato sauce tastes even richer the next day, freezes well, and is also lovely on pasta.
Makes 4 individual pizzas
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced very small or even pulsed to a coarse paste in the food processor
2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
3 cups canned chopped or crushed tomatoes
½ cup red wine
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp granulated sugar
½ small head radicchio
1 portion pizza dough (about 20 oz. Click on the link for a recipe)
2 – 3 slices of porchetta (be sure to ask for a leaner cut if that's what you prefer, though I enjoy the smoky flavor that comes from the pork fat)
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
scant 1 oz. pecorino romano cheese for grating
Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the onion. Sprinkle with salt and sweat, stirring often, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic cloves and stir for 2 minutes more. Then add the tomatoes, the wine, and the bay leaves. Season well with pepper and a little more salt. Stir in the sugar and raise the heat to medium high. Bring to a bubble, reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring to the bottom often to prevent burning.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Cut the radiccio into 4 wedges, being sure to keep a portion of the core intact on each quarter so a little section of it holds each wedge together. Cover a baking sheet in foil and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange the wedges on the foil, drizzle with more olive oil, and season with salt. Roast for 15 minutes, turn each wedge over, and roast for 30 minutes more.
When the tomato sauce is finished, correct the seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary – tomatoes often need quite a bit of salt to bring out their savor. When ready to continue, discard the garlic cloves and bay leaves.
Put a pizza stone (if you decide to use one – it’s not imperative) in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 F.
Sprinkle a flat cookie sheet (no sides) with cornmeal. Using a sharp knife, divide the pizza dough into 4 portions and roll or stretch each one out to a circle about 6 inches in diameter.
Arrange the 4 dough circles on the cornmeal, brush with olive oil, and season with a little salt.
Ladle on no more than 2 tbsp of the tomato sauce per pizza and spread out with the back of the spoon, leaving a thin border bare around the edge of the dough. Tear over a few small pieces of porchetta. Grate over a very fine dusting of pecorino romano (see photo above). The cheese is more of a seasoning agent than a feature in the dish here – I prefer using a microplane for the task. Sprinkle over the minced rosemary, and finally, arrange a wedge of radicchio in the center of each pizza.
If you’re using a pizza stone, sprinkle it liberally with cornmeal and slide the pizzas onto the stone. Otherwise just put your cookie tray into the center of the oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the crusts are lightly golden. Serve immediately.