It is official. We’ve appropriated Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough as our own. I don’t think we’ll stray far from our favorite crust recipe, which produces a thin, crisp, slightly chewy crust. Every time.

Finding our fail-safe has been a beautiful thing in our house, which sees more than its fair share of pizza. When you have a pitch-perfect dough recipe in your back pocket, you can create almost any kind of pizza, experimenting with new ingredients and new combinations to your heart’s content.

A week or so ago, he won a cribbage tournament. With that win he elected to deviate from our traditional thin-crust pie, and instead make a stuffed, stuffed pizza.

In my younger years I, like Dan, stood firm in the thought that more ooey-gooey cheese and toppings was better. There was, simply put, no other way to eat pizza, and a special treat was the fresh spinach pesto deep-dish pizza at Edwardo’s. Heinous garlic breath and green-speckled teeth, totally worth it.

Now in my second age of pies, I gravitate toward cracker thin crusts, light cheese, light toppings, light or no sauce. Aside from his affinity to thin crust, Dan and I are pizza polar opposites. But as I already mentioned, this was his win, and stuffed pizza it would be. Fair is fair.

Unlike his vibrating excitement, my enthusiasm was less than obvious, so he asked for thoughts on the filling ingredients. The correct answer was of course spinach, pesto and cheese.

With each cut of tender, flaky crust the fillings gave way, leaving trails of oozing cheese and spinach. The aroma and full flavors took me right back to the wooden booths and checked tablecloths of Edwardo’s. A taste I once loved, and still do. I haven’t reverted to my previous (cheesy) way of thinking just yet, but punctuating our normal pizza routine with stuffed versions now and then is fine by me.

A good tip: Our crust ended up a bit thicker than anticipated, so I mixed up a dish of extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and crushed red chilli flakes to dip them in. A superb addition!

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Stuffed Spinach Pesto Pizza [makes 1 large pizza, serving 4 to 6]

Printable recipe

Note: To freeze leftover dough, place the balls into individual zipper-top bags and then into a larger freezer bag — will keep for months (and months). The night before cooking, remove dough from the freezer and allow it to thaw gently in the refrigerator. Twenty to 30 minutes before preparation the next day, place dough on the counter, open to the air, to fully come to temperature before rolling.

For the Dough:

6 c + a heaping 1/4 c strong white bread (or AP) flour

1 1/2 c fine ground semolina flour, or more strong white (or AP) flour

1 T salt

1 – 1/4 oz packet, or 2 1/2 t active dried yeast

1 T sugar

just over 2 c lukewarm water, 110 to 115° F

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For the Filling:

2 bunches fresh spinach, washed well and finely chopped

1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

1/8 t salt

1/8 t freshly cracked black pepper

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 t dried basil

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 T pesto

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For the Topping:

extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

1 T pesto

1/4 c chopped fresh tomato

3 to 4 T freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino, to your taste

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix flours and salt, then make a well in the center. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, stir together yeast, sugar and lukewarm water; let sit 5 minutes. Pour the liquid mixture into the well. On the lowest speed, slowly mix the flour and water. When all the flour is mixed in, continue kneading with the mixer about 8 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough; alternatively, knead with flour-dusted hands, about 10 minutes.

Flour the top of the dough, cover it with plastic wrap and let rest at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll. After the resting period, divide the dough into 6 equal-sized pieces. Roll 4 into balls to be frozen for later (see note above). With the remaining dough, cut so you have 1 piece slightly larger than the other, then roll each into a ball.

Preheat oven to 475° F. If you have a ceramic baking stone, place it in the middle of the oven to heat.

Roll the larger ball of dough into a 12″ circle (the bottom crust), and the smaller into a 10″ circle (the top crust). Place the 12″ bottom round onto a 12″ perforated pizza pan, or a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or flat metal sheet if using the ceramic stone.

To make the filling, mix everything in a large bowl until fully combined. Mound the filling mixture onto the center of the 12″ round and smooth gently, leaving a 2″ rim around the edge. Place the 10″ round over top of the filling, crimping the edges of both dough rounds together. Place the pizza on its perforated pan into the oven or slide it carefully onto the ceramic stone, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until dough is golden.

Remove pizza from the oven and let rest a minute or two before slicing to allow the cheese and fillings to set up and cool slightly. Serve with a dish of extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and crushed red chilli flakes to dip crusts into, if desired.

Adapted from Jamie’s Italy and a recipe posted in the Chicago Sun-Times

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