Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friday night pizza... on Thursday!

Due to an occasion tomorrow and since we still wanted to do a pizza this week, I had to prepare the Friday Night Pizza a day early... woo!

While I'm a big fan of our favorite whole-wheat pizza dough, tonight's pizza, Tomato Polenta Pizza, went in a different direction in the crust department. A smooth, firm layer of "polenta" forms a creamy, set base to adorn the top with luscious slices of fresh plum tomatoes and thin strips of mozzarella cheese.

I say "polenta" because this version doesn't actually use cornmeal, which is what I go to when I think of polenta. Instead, this version uses fine semolina - a.k.a pasta flour - which is finely ground durum wheat. Semolina has the benefit of a very fast cook time and while it doesn't necessarily have the same exact flavor, we didn't think it was that much of a stretch! Rather than using water to cook the semolina, we used milk for an ultra creamy texture - once you drizzle the fine grains into the pot, don't stop stirring because it will thicken almost instantly. Since the mixture is fairly dense at this point, a couple eggs are stirred in to lighten the mixture, along with a handful of fresh grated Asiago cheese to melt in for a nutty flavor.

We spread the mixture in a large pizza pan - if your pan has holes in the bottom, line it first with foil or parchment paper so it doesn't get pushed through them. If it seems difficult to spread evenly, lay a couple strips of saran wrap on top and just used your hands to push it around. You'll want to do this at least a couple hours ahead of time so the mixture firms up and holds its shape. Before we layered on the tomatoes and cheese, I crushed a bit of dried basil leaves and scattered them on top. The original recipe called for seasoned breadcrumbs to be scattered on top before the assembled pizza went into the oven, but I smashed a few garlic-and-herb seasoned croutons to use instead.

Baked until the cheese is gooey and golden brown, I was easily able to slice the pizza into wedges and the slices were sturdy enough to pull out each without falling apart! The acidity from the fresh tomatoes on top was a nice, sharp contrast to the velvety base - I didn't know if the "crust" would end up being tough due to the second bake after being already cooked in the pot, but the semolina held up quite well and my concern was for naught. The eggs worked well to give the semolina mixture lift and retain a light texture. I also thought the use of the breadcrumbs (well in our case, seasoned croutons) on top was an awesome idea and one I'll be using again.

I have a killer plan for lunch tomorrow now - I think I'm going to heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil inside and add the pizza slices - this way the semolina bottom gets golden and crisp while the cheese and tomatoes can gently rewarm from the bottom up... hurray for leftovers!



  1. Well it looks wonderful (of course). I've never cooked with semolina, all I can envision is a spoonbread sort of texture.

  2. The pizza looks delicious. I wish I had a slice of it now. It looks similar to the pizza I had a Cheesecake Factory recently......

  3. Quinn - Kind of, I guess - more firm though.

    Debbie - Thanks!