Pizza Radicchio, Fontina and Walnuts, a seasonal alternative to the classic red pizza with tomato sauce, played on the pleasantly bitter tone of the radicchio, the richness of the mozzarella and fontina, and the sweet crunch of the walnuts. A luxurious Pizza Night on a winter day.
Song of the day: The Real Thing - Lisa Stansfield.
Before Pizza Night became a weekly "thing" at home in Canada with Loreto, it was a recurrent and welcomed activity with my family in Rome.
A glimpse at Pizza Night with my family
On a Friday night if it was my mom making the dough, on a Saturday night when I was in charge of the kitchen.
My dad often helping with the toppings, then everybody sitting at the table, nibbling on some antipasto, waiting for the pizza to come.
The 'pizzaiolo' (me or my mom) would have all the pizza pans oiled, the pizza dough balls partitioned and the toppings ready. With skilled hands, we would stretch the pizza in the pan, reaching the borders and leaving the edges a little thicker than the center, then spreading the toppings, and always finishing with a drizzle of olive oil before it hit the oven. When one was ready, it would be put on a pizza plate, cut in slices with scissors, and brought to the table, then it was time for the next one.
Hard life being the pizzaiolo of the night, we eat a slice of pizza 'on the go' while making the next one for the family to enjoy, sitting down only when the next pizza is in the oven. Red cheeks from the oven and the fast pace, how I love those nights!
In Canada, with Loreto, we've been hosting Pizza Night on a whim, that is when the craving hit, and we're often inviting friends over to share the pleasure. Pizza night for us can happen any day of the week, lol.
One thing remains the same: in both Countries, here and there, I hardly miss a week without Pizza.
We tend to stick to seasonality even when choosing the topping for our Pizza. If in the summer we appreciate zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, in the winter we veer towards richer, bolder, flavors, using mushrooms, potatoes, and one of my favorite bitter greens, radicchio.
Who loves Radicchio raise a hand
I am aware that outside of Italy there is little knowledge about radicchio, and even among the ones who know about it, there is a percentage that does not like its bitter taste. However, the ones who love it, love it dearly. Me among them. Radicchio is choke-full of minerals and vitamins and with properties beneficial for the whole body, especially for the immune system in the period in which it is more exposed to viruses.
Radicchio on pizza and more
As for the radicchio I used in this Pizza, it is the variety called Radicchio rosso di Treviso precoce, with long red leaves and a white main rib. It is the same variety I used to make Risotto. It is slightly more bitter than the round, cabbage-shaped, red radicchio called Chioggia, that I used in a salad. You can use both, whichever you can find. Just chop the leaves, dress them in olive oil, salt and pepper and top the pizza with it. No need to cook the radicchio before, it is going to cook together with the mozzarella, fontina, and walnuts. Before hitting the oven, our pizza is always drizzled with e.v.o. oil.
In Italy, Pizza Radicchio e Noci (Pizza Radicchio and Walnuts) is a popular choice and it is listed on the menus of restaurants and pizzerie among the more famous ones. It is often called "Trevigiana" (from the city, Treviso, where they produce radicchio), and Gorgonzola is the most common cheese used, together with Mozzarella.
What cheese to use
I decided to use Fontina, instead of the pungent Gorgonzola (which I love, by the way). They are both rich, flavorful and aromatic cheeses, that melt wonderfully and are a great counterpart to the bitter edge of the radicchio. Feel free to choose which one you like best. Anyway, do not forget the walnuts; they provide a nutty sweetness and a nice crunch.
In Canada, we had Pizza Radicchio, Fontina and Walnuts with Loreto a couple of times before I left. Here, I shared it with my mom, dad, my brother, and his girlfriend. The moans of appreciation were more eloquent than a thousand words.
Pizza is about highlighting seasonal, local produce and combining flavors for the most wonderful balanced textures and flavor experience, that is Italian cooking! This Pizza Radicchio, Fontina and Walnuts is a great example of how flavors can dance together in a wonderful performance called PIZZA!
Happy Pizza Time!