Asparagus Ribbon Pizza with Ricotta and Lemon
Almost as soon as it arrives, the spring asparagus is gone. With knowledge of their fleeting presence, bowl after plate after slice featuring the tender green spears is all I seem to crave. Over the past few weeks, we’ve lingered over many such meals.
If you’re an Instagram follower you’re probably familiar with my #fridaynightpizza hashtag. Yes, we enjoy pizza once a week, preferably with a big glass of wine to accompany it. It’s almost too simple to blog about, but this pie was such a hit I had to share before the short-lived asparagus season comes to a close.
The fresh flavor of my spring asparagus shaved into ribbons pairs with creamy, crumbly homemade ricotta, lemon and parsley for brightness, and a hit of garlic on a cracker-thin crust. A pizza that is a nutritious balance of protein, produce and whole grain, and super spring-y to boot!
What’s in it for me?
Asparagus is packed with vitamins K, A and C, calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and an impressive number of antioxidants, including glutathione that plays a role in protein synthesis and prevention of certain cancers and diseases. One of the richest sources of B vitamins, particularly folic acid, asparagus helps regulate levels of blood sugar and homocysteine, and is an extremely beneficial addition to a fertility and pregnancy diet.
Ricotta is moist and slightly sweet, traditionally made in Italy with the liquid whey leftover from making mozzarella. One quarter cup (2 oz) is roughly 100 calories, 7 g complete protein, 8 g fat and only 2 g carbohydrate. Ounce for ounce it has nearly 3 times as much calcium as cottage cheese and nearly twice as much as milk.
One tablespoon of fresh parsley provides over half the DV of vitamin K for adults, as well as 8% and 6% that of vitamins C and A, respectively — for only 1 calorie! Like other herbs, the vitamins, minerals, and volatile oils in parsley offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties to promote better health.
Because we prepare fresh dough in bulk and individually freeze balls, our pies typically come together in less than 30 minutes, making it ideal for a weeknight family meal or cut into smaller squares for an evening soirée. And because the combination of topping (and dough) ingredients are practically infinite, each pizza can be unique and adapted to accommodate anyone — from vegans or vegetarians to those eating gluten-free or a discerning two-year-old. How can you not appreciate a good pizza?
From 2016 on this one may be the first we make each spring!
Tell me… What’s topping your spring pizzas?
- 1 ball of homemade or a favorite store-bought pizza dough, brought to room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes
- 1 lb asparagus spears (DO NOT snap off the woody ends)
- Juice from 1/2 lemon + 2 to 3 tsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup whole milk (full-fat) ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- Good-quality extra virgin olive oil, to finish
- Crushed dried hot pepper flakes, to serve
- Preheat the oven to its highest temperature -- for us that's 550 F. Move the racks to the highest and lowest shelves, and if you have a baking stone, set it on the lowest rack now so it's hot when you're ready to bake. If you have a pizza peel, sprinkle it with a light layer of coarse semolina or cornmeal.
- Working with 1 asparagus spear at a time, holding tightly at the woody end normally snapped off, use a vegetable peeler (the Y-shaped kind works best) to shave each spear into long, thin ribbons. Transfer the shaved asparagus to a bowl, and add lemon juice, 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Toss to evenly coat, and set aside.
- On a lightly floured surface (I use a large piece of wax paper) roll or stretch the pizza dough into a 12-inch round. If using a baking stone, transfer the dough to a pizza peel lightly dusted with coarse semolina, cornmeal or flour. (The back of a large baking tray dusted in the same manner works as a decent stand-in for a peel.) Without a stone, transfer the rolled dough to a large dusted baking tray that the pizza will bake on.
- Evenly distribute the garlic slices all over the dough, crumble over or spoon out the ricotta cheese, and then arrange the dressed asparagus ribbons over top. Use the peel to carefully transfer the pizza to the top of your preheated stone, or place the pizza in its baking tray on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the asparagus is lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the top with lemon zest and parsley leaves. If desired, drizzle over some really good quality extra virgin olive oil. Slice, and serve immediately with hot pepper flakes on the table.
If your oven only goes up to 500° F, the total cook time will be closer to 10 or 12 minutes, but keep an eye on it.
+ Use feta or goat cheese in place of, or in combination with, the ricotta. If you're vegan, try crumbled firm tofu mixed with a bit of nutritional yeast.
+ Try truffle oil or aged balsamic vinegar instead of extra virgin olive oil.
+ No lemons? Give orange a whirl.
+ Add more protein with raw walnuts or hazelnuts, pieces of cooked chicken or turkey breast, small shrimp, crumbles of spicy sausage, or a few slices of prosciutto or bacon.
A Heather Goesch Nutrition original.
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