A Cheesemonger’s Pizza: Taleggio

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Classic pizza recipes are never boring, especially when the finest ingredients are used. For this week’s pizza, I chose to make a traditional pizza dish that never fails to satisfy myself and guests. For every pizza, balancing a cheese with toppings is of course the key to success. For this pizza I really wanted to use Taleggio, a wash rinded cow’s milk cheese from Italy. Taleggio has a distinct tangy acidity to it up front, with creamy, nutty notes in the finish. Because it is also such a great melter, taleggio is a perfect pizza cheese.

It is hard to argue with centuries of successful pairings, which is why fire roasted Italian artichokes—with the stem—and fire roasted tomatoes were the obvious choice of toppings to mix with my taleggio. Of course, a little greenery always livens up a pizza, which is why I added spinach to the mix.

To make this pizza, I first prepared my lighter, “summer” dough (see last week’s blog for recipe). With my pizza stone preheating at 550°F, I went about preparing my ingredients: cutting the artichokes into bite size pieces, portioning the sticky, stinky taleggio while still cold (read: always portion softer cheeses when still cold), and sautéing the spinach in oil with garlic for just a moment to soften it up a bit.

Next I transferred my stretched out dough onto my piping hot pizza stone and drizzled a bit of Carm EVOO from Portugal on the dough. This particular oil is mild and buttery and easily one of the best value oils available right now. Then I spread the toppings out, spinach, artichokes and tomatoes all go on before the cheese. This allows the cheese to heat up first and thus melt all around the toppings.

I like my crust a bit crunchy, so I let the pizza bake for about 13 minutes at the highest setting my oven can manage (550°F). Cooking times are of course flexible depending on your tastes. I enjoyed this pizza best with a nutty brown ale to compliment the taleggio, but this recipe is so well balanced that the beverage pairings abound; try a strong white wine to emphasize the artichokes or a milder red to compliment the tomatoes.

Stay with me next week as I celebrate the wonders of “Franken-zas”, made using your left over dough and whatever you have in the fridge. After all, one of the most appealing characteristics about pizza recipes is their absolute flexibility.