When I soaked the cannellini beans for pasta e fagioli last week, I used a whole pound, not thinking about quite how big runner cannellinis get (they are huge once soaked, up to 1 inch long!). I used only half a pound in the soup, so I had a lot of cooked cannellinis in the fridge, waiting for their day in the sun.
I don’t know when I first thought of a pizza. I was musing on the idea of making a white bean spread, because it is easy (and I wasn’t in the mood for all the chopping of a soup or stew) and because the beans had been sitting for few days and I
rationalized assumed that the texture of the whole bean was starting to suffer. But we didn’t have any bread (nor carrots, nor radishes; I really need to get back to the farmer’s market), so I would have to make bread, or crackers, or something. And really? The easiest bread I know how to make is pizza dough. Flatbread, if you will. So you see, it is through my laziness that I make great discoveries such as these: white bean pesto is amazingly good on pizza.
Truly, I didn’t know how it would turn out. I thought the pesto might dry out too much in the high heat of the oven; I thought the texture might be too heavy or gummy; I don’t really know what I thought. But I didn’t think it would be this surprisingly rich, buttery, flavorful, fantastic. The white bean paste itself was a revelation; the toppings, while delicious, were definitely playing second fiddle. I can think of many fantastic variations on this theme: my original idea included lots of fruity Kalamata olive oil, with baby peas, freshly snipped herbs, cracked black pepper and a bit of lemon zest. Alas, I ran out of olive oil when making the pizza dough; hence it became more of a pork fat affair: hearty, garlicky greens (sautéed in bacon grease) and Portuguese linguica sausage (with the sausage grease added to the cannellini pesto). Either way, it was delicious. This is also a great example of how meat & cheese can be the bit players, even in a pizza, adding flavor, fat and textural interest to a dish while the main players are the grains, legumes and vegetables. White beans are the star here: buy good ones, heirloom if possible, dress them up with some herbs and spices, and top ’em with any old thing that comes to hand. You might just be surprised at how good it is.
White Bean Pesto Pizza with Linguica & Garlicky Kale
- 1 recipe Quick(er) Whole Grain Pizza Dough
- 6 tbsp olive oil, divided (or bacon or sausage fat)
- 1/2 lb linguica or other spicy sausage, cut into 3 or 4 lengths and sliced in half lengthwise
- 2 cups (12 oz) cooked white beans, rinsed & drained (I used runner cannellini)
- 1 tbsp garlic chives (or scallions or regular fresh chives) chopped
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 lb kale, chopped (fresh or frozen)
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 a small red onion, or one small shallot, chopped
- 4 oz mozzarella, grated
- 1 oz parmesan or other hard grating cheese, grated
- Make pizza dough and allow to nearly double in volume. If you have the time, punch down for a second rise.
- Preheat the oven as high as it will go (550 degrees F on my oven).
- Brown sausage. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering but not smoking. Add linguica, cut side down, and cook over medium-high heat until browned on both sides, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove linguica to a clean plate, and strain sausage grease through a fine sieve into a medium, heat-safe bowl.
- Make white bean pesto. Add white beans, garlic chives, salt, oregano, marjoram, pepper, paprika and 2 more tbsp of olive oil to the sausage grease. Using a potato masher or fork, mash beans well until a uniform paste forms (I left mine a little chunky; you could also do this step in the food processor if you like a smooth paste). Taste and adjust seasonings and/or oil. Set aside.
- Sauté vegetables. Wipe out the linguica skillet and heat the last 2 tbsp of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 2 – 3 minutes, until vegetables just begin to soften. Add kale, stir, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Remove from heat.
- Roll & shape dough. Turn your pizza dough out onto a floured work surface and cut in half. Reserve one half under a clean kitchen towel; shape the other half into a pizza crust by tossing & stretching with your knuckles. Each half will yield a 12-inch crust (or larger, if you like a thin crust and are better at stretching than I am). Arrange the crust on a pizza peel (or baking sheet, if you do not have a pizza stone) covered with parchment or liberally sprinkled with corn meal.
- Assemble pizza. Thinly slice the cooked linguica, crosswise, and gather all of your ingredients for pizza assembly. Drizzle a little olive oil across the top of your pizza crust, if desired, then add: parmesan cheese, white bean pesto, kale mixture, mozzarella, linguica, more parmesan, and a sprinkle of oregano.
- Cook pizza at 550 degrees F until linguica is sizzling and the mozzarella is just beginning to brown, about 7 – 9 minutes. Assemble the second pizza while the first is cooking. Remove from oven, slice and serve.
Yields 2, 12-inch pizzas.
- I can envision a lot of flavors working with this white bean pesto base: feta cheese, fresh oregano & mint, and preserved lemon, with or without some cooked chicken; sun-dried tomatoes (especially packed in oil, if some of the oil is added to the pesto), roasted garlic cloves and pecorino cheese; a simple drizzle of really good olive oil with fresh herbs from the garden and just a dusting of parmesan, almost like a hearty crostini.
- Though I added linguica to my version, it started out in my head as a vegetarian pizza; lots of olive oil in the pesto, lots of baby Spring vegetables on top. I think this would easily make a delicious vegetarian version; even a vegan version, as the creaminess of the white beans seems to eliminate the need for cheese. (I actually had only about 2 oz of mozzarella on hand, so one pizza was made with only a few dustings of parmesan. We did not really miss the mozz.)
- I used wild garlic chives, which grow all over my yard, in the pesto. The chives look something like commercial chives, but larger, resembling large, flat blades of grass that grow in distinct clumps. Remember that, according to Wildman Steve Brill, any wild plant that smells or tastes like onion or garlic is safe to eat; there are no poisonous comparators. Just make sure to break a leaf and sniff: garlic/onion = safe to eat!
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Year round, although wild garlic chives are only around in the Spring.