Growing up, my mom never made us eat Brussels sprouts. Back then, I knew all of my friends hated them: they were too green, they stank, they tasted bad. I bragged about the fact that I didn’t have to suffer them (although we did eat lots of broccoli), but secretly, I was kind of attracted to them. I loved their petite shape, their bright color, their little leaves that you peeled like petals, and the beautiful gradation from green to yellow their insides revealed. I always thought, they’re so cute, they must taste good, right? But then again, if everybody says they’re bad, why should I risk a taste?
So I spent over 30 years without eating Brussels sprouts. Shameful, isn’t it? It’s not that I didn’t see them once in a while at the market; they just remained these little green balls of mystery to me. But my curiosity and the hunch that they certainly were tasty always remained. Last year, I explored luscious Brussels sprout dishes on Heidi Swanson’s blog and my intuition turned into a craving (Swanson makes any veggie look like a star). Still, those recipes remained in my to-make list. In January of this year, I saw these cute mini-cabbages sprouting (ahem) everywhere. They were featured on a number of trends list, becoming the “It” veggie in New York City, and touted as the latest anticancer food. It seemed as though they had become unavoidable.
On an impulse, I bought a stem of Brussels sprouts last week and figured I would find a way to make up for the fact I had left them out of my life for so long. Because I feel like Italian food can make you love anything, I chose to make a pizza topped with creamy mozzarella di bufala, salty pancetta and nutty Brussels sprouts petals, inspired by one on the menu at Motorino in New York City. I used my beloved Roman-style pizza crust that always turns out so well when cooked on a pizza stone.
Let me tell you, I was in heaven – this may very well be the best pizza I’ve made at home. It’s so simple it feels like cheating. As I told E: it tasted better than dessert!
So the long wait did not disappoint: I loved my first Brussels sprouts. If you have any sprout doubts, have a slice of this heavenly pizza; I guarantee it’ll change your mind. Of course, what doesn’t taste good swimming in melting mozzarella di bufala and dotted with crispy pancetta? Next time, I’ll roast them (with chorizo). And then, I want to make soup. And then… the list is long! In 2012, the mighty sprout is everyone’s favorite veggie, and it has become mine too.
Do you like Brussels sprouts? What is your favorite way to serve them?
Serves 2 (or 4, if you manage to be reasonable)
¼ cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
1 small white onion, sliced thinly (about 1/3 cup)
1 ball mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella)
3.5 oz diced pancetta
4 large brussel sprouts
Position a rack in top third of the oven, place a pizza stone on it and preheat oven to 500°F. Preheat for 45 to 60 minutes.
Pour the olive oil in a small bowl. Peel then smash the garlic clove with the side of a knife, then put in the olive oil to infuse at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
Prepare the Brussels sprouts: cut off the foot of each sprout. Remove the first layer of leaves, which will be tough and possibly damaged. Peel the remaining leaves, collecting them in a bowl. When the leaves start becoming tough to separate and they seem to want to stick to the core, you’ve peeled enough, get on with the next sprout (keep those remaining, wrinkly leaves for your next soup).
In a medium pan set over high heat, fry the diced pancetta for a couple of minutes just until it browns a bit. Spoon the pancetta on a paper towel and reserve.
Roll out your pizza crust and set over a piece of parchment paper. Brush dough generously with some of the garlic-infused olive oil. Grate some parmigiano-reggiano all over the dough up to the very edges, then add the thinly sliced onion. Tear the mozzarella di bufala ball and dot it across the pizza. Distribute the Brussels sprout petals, then the fried pancetta. Grind some black pepper, sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel (or coarse sea salt), then drizzle with more garlic-infused olive oil.
Carefully slide the pizza (with the parchment paper) onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the crust is browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. The edges of the Brussels sprout petals will blacken and wilt a bit – but that’s what makes the pizza so delicious.
Slice and enjoy at once.
Inspired by Motorino’s Brussels Sprout and Pancetta Pizza.