Sunday, March 6, 2016

Caramelized fennel, pear and blue cheese pizza with a walnut, garlic and parmesan spread

One of my most popular recipes here on the blog is my pizza dough and it makes me happy that so many people are enjoying it and making it for their family and friends. That’s what food blogging is all about for me. Sharing a recipe, releasing it out into this vast world of the internet without any expectations, and seeing people discovering it, using it and making it part of their cooking repertoire.

I make pizza fairly regularly and I always use the same recipe. It has never disappointed me and I have never felt the urge to dabble with another one. I hate ready-made pizza dough or pre-baked pizza bases so whenever we crave pizza, I pull out my stand mixer and make a batch. As I did yet again the other day.

We are usually purists when it comes to pizza, smearing the dough with tomato sauce (I swear by my recipe) and topping it with salami (soutzouki when I’m in Greece is never absent from my pizza or peinirli), different types of ham and cheeses, and various seasonal vegetables from time to time.

I rarely deviate from this, but when I do, I try to find ways in which to make it fun and different.

In this case, I smeared the dough with a walnut, garlic and parmesan spread which is highly addictive, I thinly sliced a fennel bulb and caramelized it in date syrup and olive oil and scattered it on top, added some crisp slices of fresh pear and crumbled some rich, creamy and tangy blue cheese over the top.

When it came out of the oven, I crumbled some more blue cheese to add a different texture and flavor, I ground some fresh black pepper, scattered a handful of fresh rocket leaves over the top and drizzled with a little olive oil for extra lusciousness.

The dough is all that it should be; perfectly bubbly, thin and crunchy with large holes and a soft, fluffy and chewy interior, while the toppings provide all sorts of flavors and textures. Sweet, umami, crispy, salty, nutty, fresh, creamy, caramelized, earthy, peppery. A marvelous pizza, definitely worth trying. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Caramelized fennel, pear and blue cheese pizza with a walnut, garlic and parmesan spread

I love Roquefort cheese and that’s what I used here, but any sort of blue cheese would work.

A pizza stone makes all the difference with home-baked pizza because you get a beautifully charred and crusty pizza. I always use one, but if you don’t have it, a baking sheet will do.

I used a mandolin to slice the fennel and pears because it’s easier and faster than using a knife, but a well sharpened knife will also do the trick.

More kinds of pizza here.

Yield: 4 large pizzas

Pizza dough (recipe here)

for the caramelized fennel
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced 3mm thick
1 tsp date syrup (or Greek petimezi/grape molasses)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the walnut and garlic spread
60 g walnut halves
35 g parmesan (or grana padano)
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red-wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, 3-4 turns of the pepper mill
Salt (if needed)

2 large pears, sliced 5mm thick
160 g blue cheese (I used Roquefort)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150 g fresh rocket leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Flour or fine semolina, for sprinkling on top of the pizza stone or baking sheet

Special equipment: pizza stone or baking sheet, small food processor

Μake and roll out the pizza dough following the recipe and instructions in this post.

for the caramelized fennel
Toss the sliced fennel with the olive oil in a bowl.
In a wide frying pan (preferably non-stick), add the fennel and sprinkle with some salt. Place the pan over a high heat and sauté the fennel, stirring continuously, for about 3 minutes or until it softens. Add the date syrup (or petimezi) and mix. Turn heat down to low and cook, stirring often, until the fennel has taken on a golden brown color and has caramelized.

for the walnut and garlic spread
In a small food processor, add the walnuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and black pepper and process until you have a somewhat chunky spread. Give it a taste and add salt if needed. The parmesan is quite salty so you may not need to add salt at all.

The walnut spread can be kept in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for 4-5 days.

Preheat your oven to 225ºC, making sure to put your pizza stone on the lower rack of the oven to preheat as well. If you’re using a baking sheet, place it on the middle rack.

If you have a pizza peel, it is best that you roll out the pizza onto that so it will be easier to transfer the pizza in the oven. If not, I suggest you roll out the pizza on a cutting board or other portable surface, so that it will be easier to transfer the pizza to the oven. In any case, make sure to flour well the surface so your dough doesn’t stick to it.

Add 3-4 tsp of the walnut spread (or enough to cover the dough in a thin layer) on your rolled out pizza dough and spread it around evenly leaving some space around the rim. Scatter evenly ¼ of the caramelized fennel over the top and add a few slices of pear in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and crumble some blue cheese on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil (about ¾ tsp).

Once the oven has come up to temperature, sprinkle with flour or fine semolina your preheated pizza stone or baking sheet and transfer your pizza onto it.
Bake the pizza for about 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the dough is crunchy and bubbly.

While the first one is baking, prepare the next pizza. Do the same until you have made and baked all four pizzas.

Remove the pizza from the oven and onto a cutting board. Crumble a little more blue cheese on top and grind some black pepper over the top. Add a handful of rocket leaves and drizzle with a little more olive oil (about ¾ tsp). Cut into slices and serve immediately.


  1. Looks wonderful, Magda! I will have to try the walnut spread sans garlic... perhaps shallots?

    1. Hi David, shallot wold be good. Just add as much as 1 garlic clove, no more, otherwise it will be too strong.