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Pizza with Pancetta, Eggs & Sage

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This recipe was adapted (very slightly) from a recipe by Katie Bottrell, Assistant Tasting Room Manager, at the Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles, CA. It was actually included in a case of their wine. Mark Bello at his Pizza a Casa in New York also has a similar recipe for Pancetta, Egg and Fried Sage Pizza, In either case, the recipe is simple, well balanced and works extremely well as part of a brunch or breakfast menu.

Ingredients

1 round of pizza dough, here is a link to our recipe

1/4 pound of very thinly sliced pancetta, you can substitute prosciutto or partially cooked bacon,

1/4 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or a mixture of both. You can substitute, Grana Padano, or Ricotta Salata.

You can also add a few torn slices of fresh mozzarella (may need to dry it on a paper towel first) or whatever cheese you prefer.

2 or 3 fresh eggs (they number can vary with the size of the pizza, or number of slices), cracked into separate ramekins or small bowls

6 or so fried sage leaves per pizza (link to our recipe). You can also substitute fresh basil

garlic and red pepper infused olive oil (optional, if using you will need 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced, as well as a pinch or 2 of dry red pepper flakes, to taste)

extra-virgin olive oil

white truffle oil, optional

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Place a pizza stone in the bottom third of the oven and preheat at the highest setting (500º F to 550º F) for 45 to 60 minutes.  (You can also use a baking sheet and preheat it for about 30 minutes.)

While the oven is preheating, prepare the infused olive oil, if you want to use it. Gently heat about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, but not colored, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch the garlic to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the heat, add a pinch or 2 of red pepper flakes (to taste), cover and let it sit for about 1 hour to blend the flavors. You also can make this in advance (sitting for several or more hours will intensify the flavor) and you can refrigerate in a clean glass jar for several days.

Next stretch the dough into a flat round 10” to 12” disk or whatever shape. The dough should be thin in the middle, with a slightly higher edge. Melissa Clark, food columnist for the New York Times and cookbook author, has a good video that takes you through the process of shaping the dough, as well as cooking the pizza.   Dust a pizza peel or the bottom of a baking sheet with flour and place the flattened dough on the pizza peel or baking sheet.

Brush the flattened dough with the infused olive oil, or plain olive oil,  leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Tear the pancetta into strips and arrange evenly on the pizza.  Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano, or other cheese on top all the way to the inside edge of the border. It is always a good idea to avoid adding too much of any topping to a pizza.  Balance is the key  here. Drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil on top.

Slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone (it is a good idea to gently shake the peel first to make sure the pizza is not sticking). After about 3 minutes (time will vary, see note below), remove the pizza with the peel and close the oven door.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper, to taste, and carefully pour the eggs, one at a time, onto the pizza.  Gently return the pizza to the oven.  Check the pizza after 2 or 3 minutes (again see note on timing below).  When the eggs are cooked (whites set, but yolks still soft, or however you like your eggs), remove the pizza from the oven.  Add the fried sage leaves, a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil, or white truffle oil, perhaps some freshly grated black pepper and a bit more cheese.  Serve with your favorite wine and enjoy.  Niner Wine Estates suggests paring this pizza with their Super Pasos.  The Niner Wine Estates Super Pasos is a Tuscan style Sangiovese blend which includes Barbera, Merlot and Petit Sirah and is aged in new oak barrels.  

I served their 2008 Super Pasos and it paired extremely well.

You can, as always, modify this recipe or technique in virtually any way you like.  It works well with a wide range of toppings, including fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta and other types of cheese, artichokes, caramelized onions, arugula dressed with oil added after the pizza is done, wilted kale or spinach with garlic, or whatever you like.  

One great combination is Jim Lahey’s “Bird’s Nest Pie”.  He uses shaved asparagus spears, Parmigiano-Reggiano, St Nectaire cheese (you can buy it online at igourmet.com) and quail eggs (or the smallest eggs you can find).  It does look like a birds nest and tastes great. 

You can find the “Bird’s Nest Pie” and other really great recipes for pizza in his new book “My Pizza, the easy no-knead way to make spectacular pizza at home”.

Note: The timing for this pizza (actually any pizza) will vary with the type of oven you use, its actual temperature and the way you like to cook your pizza and, in this case, your eggs. Depending on the oven, I generally cook the eggs several minutes less than the pizza. You may, however, want to experiment a bit at first with your own oven.

The best way to tell if a pizza is done the right way for you is to simply look at it.  Use the cooking times in any recipe as a general guideline. But check the pizza part way through the process and watch carefully to make sure it does not burn. When it is golden, crisp, with a bit of charred, (or however you like it) and the cheese is melted, it is done.

The timing in the recipe above was for an electric convection oven that reaches an actual temperature of over 550ºF.  When I use a conventional electric oven preheated at 500º F it takes a total time of about 7 to 10 minutes and the eggs are added for the last 3 to 4 minutes. Gas ovens generally cook the pizza a minute or 2 faster.

In Jim Lahey’s “Bird’s Nest Pie” recipe he places the pizza stone near the top of the oven (location varies with gas and electric ovens), preheats the oven, partially on broil (again varies with gas and electric ovens) and then broils the pizza for about 2 1/2 minutes, adds the eggs, and broils for about another 1 minute (the timing is a bit longer if using an electric oven). This technique produces an outstanding pizza with great crust and a nice char.

You can also fry or poach the eggs separately and add them after the pizza is cooked.  The American Brasserie in Baltimore prepares their flatbread with pesto, potatoes, corn and asparagus in the oven.

They then add fried eggs, some parmesan and arugula to the finished pizza.

Experiment with your own variations on this technique for pizza with eggs and enjoy.