Cherry Balsamic Pizza with Sausage and homemade Alfredo Sauce
Pizza is one of my all-time favorite meals. Growing up, we had an amazing pizza restaurant next to my parents store that did a half price pizza night on Mondays, so almost every Monday night we had a giant pizza for dinner. We made our own pizzas a few times, but I really didn’t start trying to make my own until I moved to Montana for college, and I didn’t get into a regular practice of it until the last few years once I started living in Alberton full-time. Now it is one of my favorite meals to make, and this version might be my best one yet!
I have been experimenting with all kinds of flavors of pizza, and this is easily one of the best yet. Creamy and flavorful alfredo sauce, juicy cherries, spicy sausage, and a little zip of vinaigrette come together for an amazing flavor combination that is perfect any time of the year! I prefer to make my own dough and sauce, and the recipes I use here are super simple and easy to make. On the other hand, there is absolutely no shame in buying pre-made dough and alfredo sauce from the store. This pizza will be delicious either way!
When making any pizza, there are a few easy tricks I have found over the years that will make your pizza exceptionally good:
· Corn meal and salt on the bottom of the crust really step your pizza up from amateur to pro. The combo brings out a little extra flavor in the dough and also helps keep the pizza from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
· Thinly sliced onion. Slicing the onion extremely thin is KEY! In my opinion, onion is such an important flavor for any pizza. It just adds body to any dough/sauce combination. Unfortunately, when it is cut into larger chunks, it is too much flavor in a single bite and will take away from the other flavors of the pizza. When I cut onion for pizza, I cut the onion in half and lay the flat side down. Then, I cut into long, thin slices, and pull all of the layers apart, spacing them about 1” apart across the entire pizza. Every time I make pizza for guests they ask what that extra flavor is, and it is always the onion.
· Not piling on ingredients. I learned this lesson from experience time and time again. It is SO tempting to load a pizza with tons of ingredients, but those ingredients will often cancel each other out and you are basically left with a lackluster deep-dish pizza that is impossible to hold on to. When I make a pizza, I start with a layer of sauce, a very light layer of cheese (“glue”), and a layer of evenly spaced thin onion. This is your base. Then, I usually only use two or three more ingredients and I space them evenly across the pizza, trying not to pile them on top of each other. The cheese on top will hold everything in place, and the flavors will balance with each other perfectly!
· Having everything ready to go. Make sure that before you are handling the dough, you have everything prepped and ready. I make bowls of every ingredient and have them all set aside so that it is easy to grab and go when making the pizzas. When I have guests over, this makes it super easy for people to make whatever flavor pizza they want, or for me to make the pizzas while talking to people so that they are fresh and hot for us to eat right when they come out of the oven!
I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as we do! I am so excited to keep sharing these pizza recipes with you all – let me know what you think!
Cherry Balsamic Pizza with Sausage and homemade Alfredo Sauce
Makes 2 large or 3-4 small pizzas
First Prep: 15 minutes
Second Prep: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (About one packet)
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup warm water
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups Parmesan Cheese or blend
*I use a 4-cheese blend of parmesan, asiago, fontina, and provolone
Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/8 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/8 cup black cherry juice (from sliced cherries, see instructions)
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ Onion, sliced into long and VERY thin slices
2 cups black cherries, halved (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1 lb ground sausage meat, cooked
You will want to start a few hours ahead of time. This is a pretty stable dough, so while the optimal rise time is 2-3 hours, you could definitely make this in the morning before work or school and come back 8 hours later to make the pizza as long as it is left in a cooler part of your house (I normally let dough rise next to my woodstove, so if I am letting this rise for a long time, I keep it in my much cooler back room).
-Mix 1 1/3 cup warm water, teaspoon of sugar, and yeast and set aside for five-ten minutes, until yeast is activated with a thick foam layer on top.
-In a large bowl, combine salt and flour.
-Once yeast has activated, add yeast mixture, olive oil, and extra ¼ cup warm water to the flour. Mix/knead until well combined and dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add a handful or two of flour to reach this consistency.
-Oil a bowl with olive oil or cooking spray and place dough into bottom of the bowl. Roll the dough around or spray more cooking oil on top of the dough so that it is completely covered in oil. This will prevent the dough from creating a thick crust on top. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 2-3 hours in a warm place (or longer in a cool place).
-Melt butter in a sauce pan or deep frying pan on medium-low heat.
-Add heavy cream and mix well. Keep this on medium-low heat and stir occasionally for about five minutes (make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan when stirring)
-Add garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix well, keep on medium-low heat, and stir occasionally for another five minutes.
-Add in cheese and stir until melted and well incorporated.
-Keep stirring frequently until mixture is bubbling. Turn off of heat and set aside. Keep stirring occasionally so that skin doesn’t develop.
Cherries and Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:
This process changes a little bit if you are using fresh or frozen cherries. Either way, the idea is that you are going to get the cherries to room temperature, cut them into large, pitless chunks, crush them slightly to juice them, and save the juices and cherries separately. 2 cups of cherries should render about 1/8 cup of cherry juice, give or take a little bit. Just mix the juice with an equal amount of balsamic vinaigrette and voila! *This is also really good mixed with oil on a summer salad.
Some notes on making pizza:
When it comes to making pizza, I like to have everything ready to go before I touch the dough so that the actual pizza making process goes quickly and smoothly. I will set aside bowls of all of the ingredients that are easy to grab and go so that I can make pizza quickly, putting one pizza in the oven and having the next one ready to go by the time that I am pulling it out of the oven. For this pizza, that means making the alfredo sauce and the cherry balsamic vinaigrette, chopping onions (extremely thin) and cherries (as described), cooking up the sausage meat, and shredding the cheese.
Assembling the pizza:
-Preheat oven to 425F.
-Get pans ready: I cook these on a baking sheet and this dough will roll out to two large pizzas or 3-4 smaller pizzas. This recipe is written for two large pizzas on 15”x 20” baking sheets.
-Line the baking sheets with parchment paper or cooking spray.
-Lightly dust the baking sheet with corn meal and salt.
-Roll out half of the dough until it is as thin as possible, about 1/8” thick. I find that the best way to work the dough is to roll it out on one side, flip it over and roll it out more on the other and go back and fourth until desired thickness. This is very bready dough, so I find it is best as a thin crust pizza.
-Drizzle olive oil on top of the rolled out dough and spread evenly across entire surface. This will be the bottom of your pizza.
-Pick up dough and place on cookie sheet, oil-side down on the corn meal and salt. The top of the dough will be dry. You may have to move and stretch the dough around for best fit on your baking sheet.
-Spread an even layer of alfredo sauce across entire pizza, leaving a small edge exposed around the outside of the pizza.
-Sprinkle a light layer of shredded mozzarella across the top of the alfredo sauce. No need for full coverage, just a sprinkle will do at this point.
-Start with an evenly spaced layer of onion slivers. I place them about 1” apart across the whole pizza, not overlapping. Making sure that the onion is thinly sliced is KEY for a perfect pizza – it adds flavor without overpowering the other, dare I say, more important ingredients.
-Evenly space half of the cherries and sausage across the entire pizza, being careful not to pile on the ingredients. A giant pile of ingredients will not hold together well for eating with the thin crust and better spacing makes for a better balance of flavors.
-Drizzle the cherry balsamic vinaigrette across the top of the pizza. This flavor is amazing, so don’t be shy!
-Top with a thick layer of cheese, covering the entire thing. You will use about 3 cups of shredded cheese per pizza when making two pizzas with this recipe, 2 cups per pizza when making three pizzas, etc.
-Bake Pizza at 425F for 15 minutes on the middle rack of your oven until top is bubbling and cheese has browned in spots.
-Repeat steps and prepare next pizza while first is cooking.
-Remove from oven, cut up, and enjoy!