bee-sting pizza insalata
it's a pizza ... with a salad on top.
The Roberta’s bee-sting pizza is absolutely iconic — it’s a salty, cheesy, sweet, spicy piece of New York City’s food history. George and I got married at New York City Hall on August 10, 2012, then took the subway over to Brooklyn for bee-stings and champagne for our wedding day lunch.
I’ve shared my method for turning store-bought pizza dough into an absolute delicacy before, but if you’ve never tried it, the trick is to let the dough come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 hours, if you’ve got the time. When pizza dough is at room temperature (versus fresh from the refrigerator), it continues to “proof” — aka rise — which leavens the dough and gives it a more tender, chewy bite on the inside, while allowing it to get crispy on the outside.
Have you ever tried to use store-bought pizza dough but it just kept springing back and wouldn’t stretch out? This gets rid of that issue.
The Roberta’s version is perfect, but of course I’ve put my own spin on it.
I love making pizzas in a 12-inch cast iron skillet (because cast iron conducts heat so well and gets so hot, like a pizza stone!), but if you don’t have one, you can use a 9x13-inch baking dish or even a baking sheet. I prefer a pan that will allow the dough to be in contact with a pan edge all the way around — the contact helps make the crunchiest crust. This method makes a deep dish, almost focaccia in nature, crust.
The Roberta’s version uses chili oil for the spicy element — we’re using slices of fresh Serrano pepper instead. The way the spicy bite contrasts with the sweetness from the honey — HEAVEN in a bite of pizza.
My other change is that we’re dumping a zippy, lemony arugula salad right on top. Pizza insalata is my all-time favorite — it’s normally a simple white pie topped with a salad. But a salad on top of a meaty, spicy, sweet pizza like this?! Even better. It provides the perfect fresh, acidic contrast. It is addictive! But if you don’t like the idea of salad on your pizza, just serve it on the side!
You’re going to become obsessed with this pizza cooking method, so here are a few other pizza ideas:
Mushroom: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, 1 pound of sautéed mushrooms, Parm on top
A more traditional pizza insalata: Grate 1 garlic clove and the zest of 1 lemon over the pizza dough. Top it with mozzarella and Parm. Bake until crispy. Then top with the arugula salad listed below with a few chopped cherry tomatoes and some thinly sliced red onion tossed in there too.
Cacio e pepe: Grate 1 garlic clove over the pizza dough. Sprinkle the dough with mozzarella, Parmesan, and Pecorino Romano. Grate lots of black pepper over top.
Veggie lovers: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, 8 ounces thinly sliced raw mushrooms, 1/2 thinly sliced red bell pepper, 1/2 can of drained and chopped artichokes. Olives if you like ‘em.
TJ’s Elote pizza: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, and a bag of the elote corn from Trader Joe’s. Cook the corn per package instructions and sprinkle that over the mozzarella.
Wondering where to find a ball of fresh pizza dough? I love the fresh pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Even my local Safeway carries a pretty good one. Another option: if you have a great pizza shop near you, call them and ask if they’ll sell you a 1 pound dough ball.
bee-sting pizza insalata
Serves 2 to 3
Cook time: 1 hour active (but if you have an additional 1 1/2 hours to let the dough rise before you start cooking, I’d recommend it!)
12-inch cast iron skillet (or 9x13-inch baking dish or a half baking sheet)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 (16 ounce — aka 1 pound) fresh pizza dough ball
1 (14 ounce) can diced or whole tomatoes, drained
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced (spice wimps, omit this)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
4 ounces sliced soppressata
1 1/2 cups arugula
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
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