Cauliflower Pizza Crust with Basil Ricotta, Zucchini, & Onions
So if you are a Pinterest nut like myself, you may have seen some version of Cauliflower pizza crust pop up more than a few times. In my case, it had been showing up left and right, and jeez did it have me quite curious. Me and Aar have been doing a lot more healthy eating lately and I thought the idea of cauliflower being a full-on substitute for bread definitely sounded like a healthy option. So I went through my bookmarks, did some reading up on ingredients and specific preparation methods, and said: 'Hey...lets party!' Aaron, being a huge fan of cauliflower in general, was more than game.
In my research I found that all the recipes were basically very similar takes on the same premise...and what a fab premise it is!...Replacing the idea of pizza crust/bread with something that's healthy & tasty, and can be flattened & molded, and it can bake up crispy enough to act as a crust. When you finely grate raw cauliflower, mix it with grated cheese and egg, it will bake up like flatbread. Fantastic! I read a ton of reviews and comments on a number of blogs and most peeps were totally satisfied with the outcome. You just have to keep in mind that there is no flour at all...so you can't go in expecting a spot on replica of traditional pizza crust. Though what you can expect is a super duper delicious and creative substitute for that over indulgent bread you may have been avoiding.
First let me say that we were so thrilled with the outcome that I know for certain that we'll be making this A LOT...and I look forward to all of the fab variations we'll concoct. There are many recipes out there...some of them like this one , where the crust is more of a tasty breadstick that you can dip in sauce...so without the toppings it stays much more crispy. But we were looking for a more straight up pizza experience. We loved the look and sound of this particular recipe and decided to use it as a starting point for ours. Knowing confidently what I like and don't like, I'm a big time tweaker of recipes when I need to be. As far as sauce goes, you can use your favorite jarred variety or I highly recommend our recipe for a simple tomato sauce...it takes all of two minutes!
Ok, here come the details:
Makes 4 individual pizzas
The Cauliflower Crust:
2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
2 cups grated cauliflower
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup low fat ricotta
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
*Simple Tomato Sauce:
1 cup chopped tomatoes ( I use Pomi brand and LOVE it)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
dash of balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
dash of salt & pepper
dash of sugar (optional)
half of a large zucchini thinly sliced
half of an onion thinly sliced
fresh chopped basil
.....or whatever toppings you like!
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spray with non-stick spray.
First, really just look at this. This is going to make pizza crust! Too cool!
Ok, wash your cauliflower head well, and dry it well.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees...and know that your crust will be entering the oven twice...first with no toppings, so that it gets crispy and firms up a bit on it's own...and then you'll pop it out, add all of your toppings, and send it back in so that the whole assembled magical pie bakes together.
Ok, that said...next, using a cheese grater, grate 2 cups of raw cauliflower into a big bowl. Now, let me first say that this next option is totally optional, in fact, we did not read about it until after we finished ours...and we were thrilled with our outcome...so again, totally optional. Here's the thing...cauliflower is pretty moist, so when it bakes up it sorta steams in the oven and therefore it might not get as crispy as possible. So a lot of people recommended that you first dry your shredded cauliflower with cheese cloth...pretty much wring out all of the moisture before combining it with the other ingredients. Sounds like a great idea and we will try it next time. But like I said, we were thrilled with our outcome, and the crust gets pretty firm and crispy on it's first trip into the oven when it's not yet loaded with toppings.
In a large bowl, combine your grated (raw) cauliflower, basil, garlic, parmesan, onion powder, salt & pepper, mozzarella, and eggs. You can use your hands here!
Divide into 4 equal amounts and press evenly onto a greased parchment paper lined cookie sheet (we sprayed our parchment with olive oil). We pressed ours into rectangles. Try your best to make them all an even thickness. Now, pop them in the oven and set your timer for about 15 minutes. Check them around 13 to see if they are browning. We ended up leaving ours in for about 17 mins. They looked nice and crisp and brown along the edges when we took them out. During this 17 or so minutes you'll be preparing the deeelish toppings!
So, while they are in the oven, let's make that delicious basil ricotta! In a medium bowl, combine your ricotta, basil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Mix well and set aside. I dare you to not take a taste of it! ;) I grabbed a grape tomato, dipped it in...and then pretty much fell over with delight! And then I repeated that same process so that Aaron could do some delightful falling over as well!
*Ok, and now if you opted to make your own simple tomato sauce, which takes like 2 mins, grab a small sauce pan. Set to medium heat, Add your olive oil. Now add your garlic, and cook till fragrant, about a minute...don't let it get brown. Now add your crushed red pepper flakes and stir around a bit. Add your tomatoes, herbs, and balsamic vinegar. Stir. Add your salt, pepper and sugar. Remove from heat and set aside.
Now, let's top those pizza crusts!
They held their shape wonderfully! They kinda had the look of crispy omelettes I guess. Not so much actual pizza crust...but a delicious looking and smelling base for the yummy toppings! Which is exactly what we were hoping for here! A healthy, low calorie, low carb, super tasty, and nearly guilt free version of that glorious thing called PIZZA!
Spread about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce on each pizza. Then layer on the thin sliced zucchini and onions, followed by two blops...yes blops...pretty sure that is the technical term...of our amazingly delish basil ricotta mixture. Press the blops down a bit to spread them. Sprinkle with a bit of grated parmesan cheese and return to the oven for about 8-10 mins. We want our ricotta to be warm and melted a bit. Top with a smidge more of the fresh basil!
Ummm...look at this!
They were so so deelish! We really just kept looking over at each other after each bite, like wowzer! This was once just a head of cauliflower! We also agreed that we wouldn't leave out anything here. Every layer worked perfectly with the next. We absolutely loved the onions! Again, since the toppings were thick and the crust thin, we couldn't really pick the pizzas up to eat them that way. But we were more than happy to go knife and fork style...heck, it seemed like it gave us more time to savor the pizza. And when eaten with a fork it gets you thinking about comparisons to other dishes. We both thought this was more delicious than lasagna or cannelloni. Sure, it is called a pizza...looks like a pizza...has the flavor of pizza...but it in the taste department it delivers MORE than many pizzas we've eaten!
So if you are looking to try something new, something healthy, low carb, low cal...grab a head of cauliflower on the next shopping trip!
We'd love to hear your thoughts, and please report back if you give this recipe a try!
We'll be trying another variation of this recipe again VERY soon!
ps. This reheats fabulously. Aaron, simply popped one in the toaster oven for like 6 minutes and it was perfect...probably even better than the first time around. The textures and flavors had time to marry, and the re-toasting crisped it up really well.
xo, Jenny...and Aaron