Artichoke and Arugula Pizza with Chimichurri

This pizza was inspired by an office pizza party (back in the pre-Covid days when we could still have parties!). We had ordered a bunch of pizzas with different kinds of meat, and a couple of vegetarian options, including a “Pesto Vegetarian”.  I remember really liking the Butter Chicken pizza, but when that was finished, I tried the Pesto Vegetarian, and then found myself taking another slice, and then a third slice…!  I’m not usually one for vegetarian pizzas, but this one was amazing!  I looked at the menu again and made a note of the ingredients: a base of tomato and pesto sauces, topped with spinach, artichokes, onions, tomatoes and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. None of these toppings seemed extraordinary, but I figured it must be the combination of everything, along with the pesto, which, with basil, garlic and cheese, definitely added additional flavours.

I’ve made my version of this pizza with a thin crust, because that’s what I prefer.  I didn’t have spinach, so I used arugula instead.  I also added mushrooms and bocconcini.  I had intended for pesto to be the star ingredient, however, I wasn’t able to find pesto made of 100% olive oil (I discovered that most store-bought pesto use mainly sunflower or canola oil).  I contemplated making pesto from scratch, but then I got the idea of substituting with chimichurri instead, which is sort of similar to pesto.  Chimichurri is delicious with meat (check out Lamb Loin Chops with Chimichurri), but I’ve also enjoyed it as a salad dressing, so I figured it couldn’t be anything less than superb on pizza!  Like pesto, chimichurri adds a garlicky saltiness, and the olive oil gives richness.  I don’t usually eat pizza crust, but I didn’t waste anything this time.  I was practically dipping the crunchy crust in the chimichurri, and it was seriously good!

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ARTICHOKE AND ARUGULA PIZZA WITH CHIMICHURRI (Makes 1 – 12″ pizza)

Ingredients:

Thin Crust Pizza Dough:

200 grams bread flour plus extra for dusting
4 grams fresh yeast
120 ml water
10 ml olive oil
3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Pizza Toppings:

1/2 cup tomato or pizza sauce
1/2 cup chimichurri, divided (recipe here)
1 cup shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup canned artichokes, sliced
1 small tomato, sliced
4 medium white mushrooms, sliced
30-40 grams (about 6 to 8) mini bocconcini
1-1/2 cups arugula

Directions:

1. Place the 200g bread flour, water, olive oil and salt into a large, wide mixing bowl. Crumble in the fresh yeast. Mix by hand to combine all the ingredients. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (You can also turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, but I just prefer to knead in the bowl – less cleaning up!).

2. Form the dough into a ball, lightly dust the bottom of the mixing bowl with flour, place the dough back inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

3. Punch down the dough, form into a ball, slightly flatten it, and wrap it in plastic wrap and place overnight or at least several hours in the refrigerator (the longer rest time allows the gluten to better develop and will make it easier to roll out the dough). If you choose not to rest the dough in the fridge, just continue on to the next step.

4. Preheat oven to 475F (246C). Lightly grease or place parchment paper on a baking sheet or pizza pan and sprinkle with cornmeal.

5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough in an oblong or circular shape. Don’t worry about getting it to the desired thickness just yet. Gently lift the rolled out dough and transfer to the prepared baking sheet/pizza pan. Using your hands, gently stretch out the dough until it is about 1/4″ thick (the dough is enough to make a 12″ (30 cm) circular or 9″ x 12″ (23 x 30 cm) rectangular thin crust).

6. Pre-bake the crust for 5 minutes.

7. Spread tomato/pizza sauce on the pre-baked crust, leaving about a half inch (1.25 cm) border all around. Then drizzle 1/3 cup of the chimichurri all over. Place all the toppings except for the arugula.

8. Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

9. While the pizza is baking, place arugula in a bowl and mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the chimichurri.

10. When the pizza is done, remove from the oven and place the arugula on top.

11. Drizzle the remaining chimichurri over the pizza before serving.

Note: After the proofing, the dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or between parchment paper, and then place in a tightly sealed freezer bag.  Thaw in refrigerator overnight before using.

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