I realize this could be a fairly controversial post. Eggplant is one of those things that you either love or you hate. There's not much middle ground. I for one, love it, so I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to use it (besides my old standby of grilling). For some reason ricotta seems to be divisive as well. I'm not sure why though - I love the creamy texture and flavor it adds to Italian dishes and desserts. So if you are a ricotta and eggplant lover like me, you'll love this pizza. It is a simple and straightforward pizza, but it makes for a beautiful presentation and lovely vegetarian dinner.
The recipe calls for either using homemade ricotta or store-bought, but it provides extra instructions if you use a supermarket brand. I've never made my own ricotta, though I plan to very soon. The store-bought ricotta needs to be drained for about an hour to remove excess moisture. So no big deal, you just need to plan ahead. I even think you could do this the night before and then refrigerate the drained ricotta until you need it.
The eggplant is broiled (or grilled) before it's added to the pizza, which removes excess moisture and gives it a golden-brown color. I loved the crispy edges of the eggplant, and the flavor played very nicely off of the garlic and Parmesan-infused ricotta. Adding basil to anything will give it that bright and fresh finish, and this pizza was no exception. I actually didn't really expect Joey to like this pizza all that much, but he is apparently coming around to eggplant - he even had seconds!
As I've been mentioning a lot lately, Caroline has really developed a love for helping in the kitchen, and she really liked helping with this pizza. She especially loved helping me stretch out the dough, then dropping dollops of the ricotta onto the pizza. And even though most people probably wouldn't label this as "kid-friendly" (a term I don't really believe in anyway), she devoured a big slice of it. I served this with a cherry tomato salad with olives and fresh herbs, and I thought it was a great side dish - I think a simple green salad or roasted asparagus would be great as well.
Pizza with Eggplant, Ricotta, and Basil
adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook
makes one 12-inch pizza
- 1 pizza dough
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
- 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the crust
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs minced fresh basil leaves
- 1 Tbs minced fresh parsley
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
Preheat the broiler. Trim the top and bottom of the eggplant, and use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel two parallel sides of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil, turning once, until golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.
With the baking stone in the oven, preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, garlic, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
Sprinkle a pizza peel or large sheet of parchment paper with cornmeal and stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle. Brush the outer edges of the dough with olive oil. Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge (I actually ended up using my fingers to spread it).
Carefully slide the pizza onto the stone and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly but carefully arrange the eggplant slices on top, overlapping them somewhat to form a flowerlike design. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, season with additional pepper, and continue baking until the crust begins to brown in spots, an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven and allow to cool 1 to 2 minutes to allow the cheese to solidify. Cut into wedges and serve.