If you ask me what one food I would bring to a desert island my answer without a second of hesitation would be cheese. Come to think of it, I reckon it would be most people’s answer; cheese is the most delicious and versatile food ever invented, it makes absolutely everything better.
When I was asked to develop some recipes for Grana Padano I was beyond thrilled for a number of reasons. First of all, I knew it would be easy as the possibilities are endless. Secondly, I could let my creativity fly. And finally, I couldn’t wait to eat all the wonderful Grana Padano cheese!
I’ve always been a fan of Grana Padano, using it as a hard cheese of choice in a wide range of recipes. It’s authentically Italian, with a long history and heritage spanning almost 1000 years. As a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, it comes with guaranteed quality (in fact, it’s the world’s best-selling PDO product!). With that in mind, I decided to create a delicious recipe to start a meal – mini pizzas or pizzetas. I’ve always liked pizza bianca and really wanted to explore other pizza flavours beyond the basics. Having tried pizza bianca at a few Italian restaurants, I knew it was something I wanted to bring into our home.
For my recipe, I used a ‘RISERVA’ Grana Padano vintage that was aged for over 20 months. It is rich and full of flavour, which made it a great choice for pizza, ensuring that the flavour wasn’t lost in the dough and other toppings. In contrast to the mild tasting aubergine and courgette, paired with the fragrant, distinctive, crumbly Riserva provides the perfect balance and brilliant anchor flavour for this recipe. The Grana Padano provides a perfect balance to the softer flavours of ricotta and mozzarella, with the perfect amount of punch to bring the recipe alive.
- • 500 g flour
- • 2 tsp salt
- • 1 packet/7 g active dry yeast
- • ½ tbsp sugar
- • 2 tbs olive oil
- • 325 ml lukewarm water
- • 1 courgette, medium
- • 1 aubergine, small
- • salt
- • 150 g Riserva Grana Padano, grated
- • 250 g ricotta
- • 80 ml milk
- • 125 g fresh mozzarella
- • 8-10 fresh basil leaves
- • a handful of rocket
- • 2 tbsp shaved Riserva Grana Padano
- In a bowl mix sugar, yeast, olive oil and lukewarm water and let the yeast work its magic for about 5 minutes.
- Sift flour and salt together and empty the mixture in the food processor or a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse it until the dough comes together.
- Remove the dough from the food processor into a large bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise somewhere warm for 2 hours. (You can easily make it by hand if you don’t own the machines but they make this task a snap.)
- Once the dough is doubled in size remove the bowl on a flour-dusted surface and knead it a bit. Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls.
- Slice courgette and aubergine into ¼ inch pieces, then salt them and grill them on a dry, hot griddle for 5 minutes on each side. If the aubergine slices are still not fully cooked finish them off in a microwave set on high for 1 minute. Set aside.
- Mix grated Grana Padano, ricotta and milk in a small bowl.
- Preheat your oven to 500F/300C or as high as it could go. If using pizza stone make sure it is preheating in the oven as well.
- Stretch out your pizza dough until it is quite thin in the middle and slightly thicker around the edges and place it on a parchment paper that's been oiled or sprinkled with semolina or corn flour.
- Spread 1 tbsp of Grana Padano cheese mixture on each pizzetta, top with a few grilled courgette and aubergine slices, 1-2 small basil leaves, dab with small mozzarella pieces.
- Transfer the pizza on parchment paper on to the pizza stone. You can fit 2 -3 small pizzetas on your pizza stone.
- Bake in it the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Don't wait longer than that or pizzetta will turn crunchy instead of soft and pliable.
- Repeat with the remaining pizzettas.
- Arrange a few rocket leaves and shaved Grana Padano on cooked pizzettas.
- One pizzeta serves 2 as a starter.
After a couple of attempts and experimenting with all the ingredients, I really believe this is a winning dish and the perfect go-to starter, particularly when you have guests as it’s great to share. If you don’t want to mess around with making pizza dough, you can always purchase it ready-made, or use puff pastry to enjoy a quick and luxurious snack or starter with friends and family.