Tis the season for muffin tops, tight pants and our on-going battle of the bulge. The last three months of the year make me cringe. My love affair with food is always one sided with me in the negative. I crave pizza! What healthy concoction can I whip up that will satisfy the taste buds as well as keep our line of latitude in check? It will need to be palatable enough to entertain my vegetarian foodies (minus the meat of course). And since it’s the holidays, it’s got to be a sufficient amount to feed a small army of friends. Instead of dough, use portobello mushroom as the base. No tomato sauce, no problem. Substitute sauce for roasted garlic and tomatoes. The taste of canned tomato sauce pales in comparison to the aroma and flavors of fresh roasted garlic and tomatoes. What’s left to complete the pizza are more toppings (meat or vegetables), a sprinkle of cheese along with basil and parsley.
To remove or not remove portobello gills? If the recipe is for stuffed mushrooms, gills are removed to make ample room for stuffing. More often, gills are removed because the liquid emitted, when cooked, will stain the other ingredients. For instance, lovely white goat cheese will look like it’s been dragged through mud. Others say the gills taste a little bitter, but I actually like gills. The presence of gills can make a nice reservoir for whatever flavorful baste you’re using.
makes 12 individual mini pizzas
|12||portobella mushrooms (remove stems)|
|6||ripe plum tomatoes (diced into small bite size pieces – they’ll shrink more when roasted)|
|2||small heads of garlic (leave cloves in it’s shell and slice root ends off – see picture above)|
|1||medium red onion (diced or slice long 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch wide)|
|1||medium red bell pepper (diced or sliced same size as red onions)|
|½||spicy Italian sausage (I used 2 sausages that came in a pack of 3)|
|½||cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano|
|½||cup shredded Mozzarella|
|½||cup fresh basil leaves (thinly sliced or hand torn)|
|½||cup fresh parsley (thinly sliced or hand torn)|
|1||tsp. dried chili flakes (optional)|
|1||tsp. kosher salt|
|1||tsp. fresh black pepper|
|¼||cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or saute and coat vegetables with)|
1. plum tomatoes and garlic
Preheat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C). On a large baking pan (I used a Calphalon 12×17 baking pan), drizzle just enough olive oil to lightly coast tomatoes and garlic. Add a pinch of salt. Toss lightly. Bake for 35 minutes. Garlic cloves should be easy to remove by pressing on the uncut end with a spoon. Cloves should be soft and pliable (spreadable). Set roasted tomatoes and garlic aside to cool.
2. portobello mushrooms
Majority of portobellos come pretty clean. If dirt is present, use a damp paper towel or kitchen towel to lightly wipe them clean. Next, brush each mushroom with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the insides with salt. (Optional: I also added a sprinkle of dried chili flakes because I like a little more heat.) Place the mushrooms on top of a baking rack which should be resting inside a baking pan. Mushrooms have a lot of moisture. Placing them on top of a baking rack will help collect liquid during the roasting process. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Pour out excess liquid inside the mushroom caps. I like to reserve the liquid to add for sauces. This will enrich the flavor of the sauce. Return the mushrooms to baking rack and set aside.
3. Italian sausage
First, remove the sausage from its casing. You can easily squeeze out the sausage like toothpaste. On medium high heat, in a medium pan with “no” oil, add the sausage. Use your cooking utensil to break up the clumps of meat. Cook for about 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Tilt pan about 20 degrees to separate the oil from the sausage. While pan is tilted, oil will run down the pan. Push the sausage bits to the opposite end of the pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. Set sausage aside. Discard remaining oil in pan. There will be oil left coating the pan. Good! Leave it in there to cook the peppers and onions in. This will add great flavor.
4. bell peppers and onions
On medium high heat, add bell peppers and onions to the same pan you cooked the sausage in. Cook for 2-3 minutes. If you prefer more tender peppers and onions, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside. (Note: I prefer my peppers and onions al dente, but you can roast the peppers and onions with the garlic and tomatoes.)
5. final steps
Turn oven broiler on high. Assemble each pizza by placing ingredients into each portobello. Next put Mozzarella cheese on top of each pizza. Put pizzas under the broiler for about 3-4 or until cheese has melted. Put grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Finish with sprinkle of basil and parsley. You’re done. Time to eat! Buon Appetito!