I really love making homemade pizza, but it’s not easy to time the rising of the crust to dinner time. I’ve read recipes that figure in 1 – 2 hours of rising but who has time for that? I have to credit my husband for coming up with this easy and gluten free solution, spread polenta into a thin layer, let it set, and top with pizza toppings. Easy and almost anyone can eat it! You can get creative with the toppings, I love white pizzas, but feel free to add sauce. Omnivores can top it with crumbled cooked sausage, piggeroni from the Piggery, or perhaps bacon. I kept this simple with roasted peppers from our high tunnels. We’ve had an awesome crop of sweet bell peppers this year, and you can roast any yellow, orange, or red pepper you get in your CSA share.
I haven’t roasted peppers in a long time (it feels like this was a bigger trend in the 90s? along with sundried tomatoes?), but the flavor and texture really is worth the extra step. If roasting and removing the pepper skins doesn’t appeal to you, just sauté them in olive oil before adding them to the pizza. Roasting the peppers brings out their sweetness and gives them a silky texture. To time this recipe just right, cook the polenta before you tackle the peppers. There are a few key (and simple) factors to turning polenta into a pizza. The first is cooking the polenta very thick. I like to use local Farmer Ground Flour’s Polenta, but use your favorite if you have one. Cook it on low for about 20 minutes until it’s very thick and can be spread onto a pizza pan or into a cast iron skillet.
Now let the crust sit until it’s firm (it will still be a little wiggly). While the crust is setting turn a burner on medium and put the peppers right onto the flame. Use tongs to rotate the peppers until the skins are completely black. Be patient, the more charred the easier the skin comes off. (If you prefer you can do this in an oven, but where’s the fun in that?). When they’re completely charred, place them into a paper bag to steam.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, about 10 – 15 minutes later, remove them from the bag and peel off the skins. The skins should come off fairly easily. You can also rinse them under running water – although some people think this compromises the flavor. I peeled them as best I could and then gave them a quick rinse.
Now we’re ready to top the pizza! To save time on a weeknight, you could make the crust and roast the peppers a few days in advance. Coarsely grate the mozzarella, and finely grate the parmesan. Fresh mozzarella can also be cut into slices, but I like to coarsely shred it. It spreads a lot when cooking, so remember a little goes a long way! Cut the peppers however you prefer – I was going for thick sweet slabs of pepper on top.
To help the toppings stick to the polenta, spread about half of the mozzarella over the polenta before the toppings. Cover the toppings with the remaining mozzarella and then the parmesan. Let the whole thing cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. The crust firms up nicely the next day as leftovers.
Roasted Pepper Polenta Pizza
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
2 bell peppers (any color will work, but green won’t be as sweet)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated
1/2 finely grated parmesan, finely grated
butter or olive oil for the pan
Make the polenta. Bring the water and a big pinch of salt to a boil. Slowly stir in the polenta, and reduce heat to low. Cook on low for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently until polenta is very thick. Spread into a well oiled or buttered pizza pan or cast iron skillet. Let cool until somewhat firm.
Roast the peppers. Place peppers directly over flame on stovetop, turning occasionally with tongs. Char completely and place in a paper bag. Let steam inside the bag for ten or fifteen minutes. Remove from bag and peel skin off. Rinse if desired. Cut peppers into thick slices.
Assemble pizza. Preheat oven to 425°F. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the polenta. Add peppers, and then top with remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle parmesan over the top of the whole pizza. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until cheese is golden. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.