These three pizzas are truly a celebration of local bounty.

Not only are the sauces and toppings made from the freshest local ingredients, the dough is, as well. I get mine from OTTO Pizza, which has locations in Newburyport and Lynnfield, and Flatbread Company, which can be found in Amesbury, Salem, Georgetown and Rockport. They each offer both traditional and gluten-free doughs.

I would never delude myself into thinking I could prepare a pizza dough from scratch that could hold a candle to these pizzerias. They will share their wholesome ingredient lists with you, pre-stretch the dough or coach you on how to do it yourself. Bonus: It is inexpensive.

Virtually everyone I have ever known loves pizza, but very few prepare it at home. Making pizza without any processed, mass-produced ingredients allows you to reduce sodium, sugar and calorie levels.

Each pizza calls for a unique and healthy base. Or try preparing a pie with a combination of all three: vegan broccoli-kale pesto, caramelized onions with fresh thyme and an uncooked herbed tomato sauce known as checca.

My recommendations for crispy, flavorful, healthy pizza include:

Always cook at a very high temperature (550 degrees).

Use seasonal, garden-fresh produce. Cut into small, uniform pieces to ensure even and rapid cooking, with no precooking necessary.

Consider using a lot less cheese than a traditional pizzeria would. For a large, 16-ounce pizza, you need only 2-4 ounces of cheese. Scatter it about as an afterthought; a thick base layer of cheese traps in moisture and yields a soggy crust.

Never use packaged shredded cheese of any kind. It is usually coated with cellulose (wood pulp) and other industrial desiccants, which ruin both taste and texture.

Less is also more on the toppings. Do not load your pizza with layer upon layer. Fresh, ripe, pure ingredients will shine through, even in small quantities.

Always oil your pizza pan. If using a sheet pan, preheat it. I recommend investing in a pizza pan or pizza stone, as they yield a better crust.

I first shared these farm-fresh pizza recipes during a cooking and nutrition class I taught for Nourishing the North Shore earlier this month, one of a series offered for both children and adults throughout the summer at the Newburyport Senior Community Center.

Classes are hands-on and feature freshly harvested organic vegetables, greens and herbs from the organization’s farm and gardens in West Newbury. Check out our next offering, creative corn recipes, on Thursday, Aug. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. To sign up, visit www.nourishingthenorthshore.org.

CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH TOMATO AND ARUGULA SALAD

This pizza is my interpretation of one of my favorites, a creation by chef Todd English that I have indulged in countless times at the original Figs in Charlestown. The hot, sweet and sticky caramelized onions and tomatoes are offset by the chilled, peppery arugula and acidic lemon juice. For more intense flavor, swap the shredded mozzarella for crumbled goat or Gorgonzola cheese.

Servings: 4-6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1 large prepared pizza dough (16 ounces)

For the caramelized onions:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

11/2 pounds Spanish or Vidalia onions, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup water

For the salad:

6 cups arugula, rinsed and patted dry

1 cup cherry tomatoes, seeded and quartered

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

For the topping:

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, thickly sliced

3 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

Make the caramelized onions by melting the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cover, allowing the onions to sweat for 5 minutes. Uncover, pour in the water, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft and brown. Set aside to cool completely.

Start the salad by combining the arugula, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Toss and refrigerate.

Heat the oven to 550 degrees. Place a 13-inch-by-18-inch sheet pan, pizza stone or large pizza pan in the oven while it’s heating. Remove once the oven has reached 550 degrees, and brush with olive oil.

Place the dough on a generously floured surface, and stretch to roughly the size of the sheet pan, forming a crust along its borders. Transfer dough to the pan, and top with 1 cup caramelized onions, thyme, tomatoes and mozzarella. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crust is deeply golden and toppings are bubbling.

Transfer to a large cutting board. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Top with arugula salad, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut into squares or wedges, and serve.

 

RATATOUILLE PIZZA

This pizza is bursting with flavor. The high baking temperature not only produces a crispy crust, it cooks the vegetables through in a short amount of time while enhancing their natural sweetness. Dicing your veggies finely and uniformly eliminates the laborious step of precooking them. There is no need to precook the sauce either, another time-saver. If you choose to prepare this pizza with a gluten-free crust, cut quantities slightly and cook for 8-10 minutes. Make it vegan by eliminating the cheeses and hitting it with some freshly minced garlic and a drizzle of balsamic glaze just before serving.

Servings: 4-6

1/2 cup red onion

1/2 cup zucchini

1/2 cup eggplant

1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded

1/4 cup orange bell pepper, seeded

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1 teaspoon cornmeal (optional)

1 large fresh pizza dough (16 ounces)

11/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, very finely grated

2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the checca sauce:

1 pound fresh tomatoes, seeded, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

For the garnish:

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Place all the checca sauce ingredients in a small food processor. Pulse 5-6 times for a chunky sauce, or purée until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

Dice all the vegetables to a uniform size (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inches). Gently squeeze out excess moisture with a clean kitchen towel. Place diced veggies and the tomatoes separately in individual ramekins, and set aside.

Heat the oven to 550 degrees. Place a 13-inch-by-18-inch sheet pan, pizza stone or large pizza pan in the oven while it’s heating. Remove once the oven has reached 550 degrees, and brush with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal.

Stretch the dough to roughly the size of the sheet pan, and place on the pan.

Spread 3/4 to 1 cup checca sauce over the pizza in an even layer. Scatter with the vegetables and tomatoes. Top with the cheeses, and sprinkle with the oregano, salt and pepper.

Bake the pizza for approximately 10-13 minutes, until crust is golden and toppings are bubbling. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Top with fresh basil and oregano, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cut into squares, and serve.

GLUTEN-FREE GREENHEAD PIZZA

This may be the only greenhead you will ever love. This gluten-free, meatless pizza with vegan pesto was the hands-down favorite of the Nourishing the North Shore class. Made with rice flour, millet and potato, the gluten-free crust is healthy and delicious. But if you choose to use traditional dough, heat your sheet pan or pizza stone first, increase topping quantities by approximately 1/2 cup each, and cook for 2-5 minutes longer. You will have extra pesto (which freezes nicely), so you’ll have plenty on hand for your next pizza night.

Servings: 2-4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1 prepared gluten-free pizza dough

1/2-3/4 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup zucchini, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced

3 ounces fresh local goat cheese, such as Dancing Goats Dairy’s Everything Bagel or Tuscan Herb

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

For the vegan broccoli-kale pesto:

1/3 cup pine nuts (walnuts, cashews, pistachios or almonds may be substituted)

2 cups broccoli florets

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 cup baby kale or spinach

2 large cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 550 degrees.

Brush a sheet pan or pizza pan with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Place the dough on the pan, brush top with remaining olive oil and set aside.

Place all the broccoli florets in a steamer basket over a small amount of boiling water in a large pot. Cover, and steam for 2 minutes. Drain, plunge into a bowl of ice water (this step stops the cooking process and seals in the bright green color), and drain again.

To make the pesto, toast the pine nuts in a toaster oven for 2-3 minutes, until light golden brown (watch closely, as they burn easily). Place the nuts, 2 cups steamed broccoli, basil, kale, garlic, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes in a food processor, purée until broken down and well-combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil until well-blended. Add cold water to thin pesto.

Spread the pizza dough with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pesto. Top with an even layer of zucchini, and sprinkle on the remaining steamed broccoli and the scallions. Top with the goat cheese, dried oregano and red pepper flakes.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Cut into wedges using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. 

Allison Lehane lives in Newbury, where she is a home cook who is passionate about locally sourced ingredients. Her recipes have been inspired by her world travels through her former career as an international home fashion buyer for TJX Corp. Contact her at highroad198@icloud.com.

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