Mastering the White Pizza
There is a great little pizza place down the street from us here in Denver. All their pies are excellent, but in my opinion their white pizza is their best. They do it right by keeping the toppings limited and the sauce in the right proportions.
If you’ve never had a white pizza before, it has a cream base instead of a tomato base which creates some interesting flavors, but comes with some serious hazards. For starters, one of the nice things of a tomato base is that the acid in the tomato sauce cuts through the richness of the cheese and other pizza toppings. With a cream base, you’re adding to that richness instead of cutting through it.
Also, cream has a tendency to burn in the oven and make a big smoky mess so you have to be careful when you’re making a cream sauce pizza.
BUT, all of those hazards are easily avoidable and it’s definitely worth the risk.
If you are a fan of homemade pizza, spend some time making this sauce the next time you are in pizza mode and try it out. I think you’ll love it.
White Pizza Sauce
Yield: 1 1/2 cups sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 large shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream, warm
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1) Mince shallots and garlic very fine. In a large skillet or saucepan, add butter and shallot and cook over low heat until shallots are transparent, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
2) Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add flour and stir to distribute flour. Turn heat up to medium-low and cook for a minute or two just to cook out flour taste.
3) Slowly stir in warmed cream in a slow drizzle. Stir or whisk constantly so lumps don't form.
4) Bring cream mixture to a very slight simmer and cook until it thickens slightly. If you move a spatula through the sauce it should leave a nice streak.
5) When sauce is the consistency of a gravy, season with fresh thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Let sauce cool to room temperature before using or you can make in advance and chill. Don't worry if the sauce solidifies if you chill it. You can still spread it on the pizza and it will turn back into a sauce in the oven as the pizza cooks.
There isn’t anything particularly difficult about this sauce, but it’s really important to make sure you have a good balance of flavors in it. Because the pizza is on the rich side, I like to make sure the sauce has a lot of shallot and garlic which help balance that richness.
You can make this sauce in a large skillet or a saucepan. Whatever you have will work. Start by cooking the minced shallots and butter in the pan over low heat. You don’t want to brown the shallots really, but just soften them a bit. Also, if you get your pan too hot the butter will brown which we don’t want for this recipe.
Have patience and let the shallots cook low and slow until they are translucent.
Then add in the garlic and cook for a few more seconds. Then add about a tablespoon of flour that will help thicken the sauce. You don’t need a bunch. Be careful not to over-do the flour or your sauce won’t thicken correctly.
Now for the fun part. Once the flour has cooked into the shallot and butter for a minute or two start slowly stirring in the cream. It’s easiest to do this if the cream is warm or at least room temperature, but I’ve done it with cold cream in a pinch as well.
Drizzle slowly and stir or whisk constantly so lumps don’t form!
Once all the cream in stirred in, let the sauce simmer for a few minutes until it thickens. It should be the consistency of a light gravy and if you drag your spatula through it you should be able to make a smiley face.
When your sauce is happy, season it with a pinch of salt, pepper, and fresh thyme!
Making a pizza
Before you sauce your pizza, let the sauce cool to at least room temperature. You could also make it in advance and it will keep fine for a few days in the fridge. If it solidifies, don’t freak out. It’ll turn back into a sauce in the oven.
You can use any pizza dough under the sun for a white pizza. I made a quick batch of my standard pizza dough to try out with this sauce.
My pizza stone bit the dust so I just used my cast iron skillet to bake these guys. It works great.
Roll out the dough you are using and then spread a thin sauce layer onto the dough.
This is very important. If you use too much sauce, it’ll be too rich and also will bubble over the pizza and burn. I would guess you’ll need about 1/4-1/3 cup of sauce per pie.
Top the pizza with anything you like! Cheese is a must and I like fresh tomatoes (even winter ones work decently). The acidity in the tomatoes helps out with the richness.
Season the pie with salt and pepper.
Depending on your dough and cooking device, your cooking time may vary, but your pie will probably need to bake for 12-ish minutes at 450-500 degrees F.
As soon as mine came out I added a big handful of fresh chopped basil.
This is such a different flavor profile from the pizza you are used to. I actually think it’s the perfect pizza for winter since it’s a bit more hearty and creamy. Betsy and I are in love with this guy.
One thing I did notice though is that cold white pizza tends to be not as good as leftover red sauce pizza. The cream sauce just kind of congeals and it isn’t excellent. You can reheat a piece in the oven for a few minutes though and it comes back to life in no time.