Romanesco Pizza with Cashew Cream, Salsa Verde and Pine Nuts
This superfood recipe from UK-based chef, Waitrose Weekend columnist and Sunday Times best-selling author Elly Curshen pairs a herby Mediterranean salsa verde and roasted romanesco with a homemade cashew cream for a unique pizza that also happens to be vegan.
The cashew cream is the cornerstone of this pie: smooth, velvety and packed with flavor. Elly has also incorporated a few special toppings to really draw out the contrasting tastes and textures.
First, smoked garlic cloves. Smoked garlic is a specialty ingredient that you can find in an organic grocery or farm shop. Don’t have the time or the tools to smoke your garlic? Roasting it will lend a mellow sweetness that works well in this recipe.
Next, nutritional yeast, a common ingredient in vegan recipes. Often called “nooch” by those in the know, these yellow flakes are processed under high heat, which means the yeast is no longer alive and won’t rise. It’s salty and cheesy-tasting, despite containing no animal products.
Finally, a pinch of smoked sea salt. Smoked sea salt — we often use Maldon — is gently smoked over hardwood and lends a distinctive wood-fired note to the dish, but if you can’t find it, regular sea salt will work just fine.
All of these ingredients together create a balanced background chorus of smoky, nutty and umami flavors for the romanesco that goes on just before the bake. A drizzle of Mediterranean salsa verde at the end serves to brighten and elevate all of that richness.
When it comes to making this herby green sauce, focus on ingredient quality. It’s obvious that you’d want fresh herbs, quality sherry vinegar and great olive oil, but quality is important when it comes to the jarred ingredients, too. Elly chose non-pareil capers (from the French, “has no equal”) for their small size and delicate texture.
A post-bake sprinkle of pul biber, aka Aleppo pepper, gives a fiery-sweet finish (a 1:1 ratio of sweet paprika and cayenne pepper can act as a stand-in).
These sauces and ingredients can (and should) be added to your rotation. Salty, smoky, briny, nutty and cheesy, they’ve got a lot to offer. And when combined with cauliflower, homemade dough, and high heat, you’ve got, as Elly says, “a super nutty, super green vegan pizza that’s unusual and utterly delicious.”
Note: This recipe makes enough cashew cream and salsa verde for 4 pizzas. Any leftover sauce can be stored in a sealed, refrigerated container for up to 3 days.
Elly Curshen is the founder of Bristol’s Pear Café, a Sunday Times bestselling author of “Green” and “Elly Pear’s Fast Days and Feast Days,” food columnist, food panel judge, cookery tutor and self-proclaimed “authority on all things delicious.” Find her on Instagram @ellypear.
30 minutes total
Makes four 12-inch pizzas
4 x 250-gram pizza dough balls
For the cashew cream
1 cup (100 grams) cashew nuts (unroasted and unsalted)
2 tablespoons (26 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
2 banana (or regular) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 smoked (or regular) garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons (22 grams) nutritional yeast flakes
large pinch smoked sea salt
⅓ cup (75 milliliters) cold water
For the Mediterranean salsa verde
zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon small nonpareil capers, drained
1 tablespoon (14 grams) sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) Dijon mustard
large pinch flaky sea salt
large handful each of basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup (100 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as necessary
For the topping
one head romanesco (or regular cauliflower), cut into small florets
4 tablespoons (52 grams) olive oil
4 tablespoons (36 grams) pine nuts
pinch pul biber (Aleppo pepper) or chile flakes, to taste
This recipe would suit a variety of pizza styles, but we think sourdough, neo-Neapolitan, or classic pizza dough would be a great fit. Make sure to prepare your dough ahead of time to ensure it rises at room temperature before firing up your oven.
Fire up your Ooni pizza oven. Aim for 750-950°F (400-500°C) on the baking stone inside. Use the infrared thermometer to quickly and accurately check the temperature.
To make the cashew cream, put the cashew nuts in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse in a sieve.
Warm a small saucepan over low heat, then add the olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the shallots and smoked garlic. Sauté over low heat for at least 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Tip the drained nuts, shallots, smoked garlic, nutritional yeast flakes and a big pinch of smoked salt into a blender or food processor. Add ⅓ cup (75 milliliters) cold water and blend until smooth, adding more water as needed to thin to the consistency of a thick double cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To make the salsa verde, tip all ingredients into a blender and pulse until well chopped and combined. Add more oil as necessary, until the salsa drops slowly off a spoon. Toss the romanesco florets with olive oil and season with sea salt.
Place your dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Push the air from the center out toward the crust, then use your knuckles to stretch out the base to 12 inches. Lay the stretched dough over your lightly dusted pizza peel, then spread a few spoonfuls of cashew cream over the surface. Arrange the florets evenly on top, leaving the crust area clear. Sprinkle with pine nuts and pul biber, then drizzle with olive oil.
Slide the pizza off the peel and into your oven. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the peel every 20 or so seconds to ensure the pizza is evenly cooked.
Once cooked, cut into slices, then use a teaspoon to drizzle the salsa verde over the top. Serve immediately. Repeat using the remaining dough balls.