When I was growing up in St. Louis I had a friend whose mother used to make the most wonderful, home-made pizza. I remember looking forward to going to their house and helping to line big sheet pans with dough and topping them with fresh tomato sauce and cheese, eating the hot, chewy pizza and, best of all, getting to take some home for breakfast the next morning.
I started making my own pizza about twenty years ago when S and I were first cooking together. At that time, I used a cookbook called simply Pizza by the prolific cookbook author and Build a Better Burger cooking contest judge James McNair.
I experimented with many of the recipes in the book, and have gone on to add many more pizza cookbooks to my bookshelf, but S still claims that his favorite pizza of all time is McNair’s Stuffed Pizza, made with a cornmeal crust.
S often complains that I don’t make this particular pizza often enough so this year for his birthday one of the presents I gave him was a “coupon” for a stuffed pizza. He handed it over on Sunday and I got to work.
Stuffed pizza has three main components: crust, filling, and topping. The crust is a simple pizza dough made with the addition of cornmeal (I substitute cornmeal for about 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour in a traditional pizza dough recipe).
The filling is made with spinach (I often use frozen but this week I had fresh organic spinach from the Farmer’s Market) sauteed with onions and garlic, and then mixed with grated mozarella cheese.
The topping is made with sauteed tomatoes, garlic and basil.
Assembly is easy: I roll out about half of the dough and use it to line a springform baking pan. I then pile the spinach and cheese filling mixture into the pan, roll out the rest of the dough and place it over the filling in the pan. I trim the dough so that it just fits into the pan, and gently pinch the upper and lower crusts together to make a good seal. After cutting a few slits in the top crust to let steam escape, I bake the pizza for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees.
Once the top crust has begun to turn a nice golden brown, I spread the tomato topping on it and sprinkle the whole thing liberally with grated parmesan cheese. The pizza goes back into the oven for another 15 minutes to finish baking. I recommend letting the finished pizza cool a bit before trying to slice it.