Pecorino with Lamb and Leek Pizza

Pecorino with Lamb and Leek Pizza

Don’t tell the kids, but it appears I have a thing for lamb.  Every now and then I have a craving for the delicously rich flavor of lamb, and this pizza from Food & Wine magazine certainly satisfied my need.  Thankfully, ground lamb is becoming readily available at better grocery stores!

I did have a little adventure in shopping for my ingredients.  I shopped our local Byerly’s Market, where they have an incredible selection of cheeses from all over the world.  So much so that I spent a good amount of time hunched over a cooler trying to find the truffled pecorino as listed in the ingredients.  Finally, the cheese specialist came over to ask if I had any questions.  I stifled the urge to ask when the grocery stores started having cheese specialists, and instead inquired about pecorino.  She told me that she’d never had anyone ask for plain pecorino, as it was usually Pecorino Romano.  I agreed, and considered substituting something else as, in my experience, the Pecorino Romano was usually pretty sharp and salty.  I didn’t think I wanted that for a pizza.  She pointed me instead to a brand called Cubeddu, imported from Italy by a company in Denmark, Wisconsin.  She explained that it was a creamier, less salty Pecorino Romano, and so I decided to give it a try.  Wow!  This is fantastic, and I urge you to bring some home if you happen to find it in your market.  It was a great complement to the earthy flavor of the lamb and sauteed leeks, and I highly recommend it.

The recipe calls for a Pinot Noir to enjoy with this pizza, and I think that would be an excellent choice as well.  We’ve always enjoyed Pinot Noir with deep, rich flavors such as lamb and mushrooms, and here it would be great.  We didn’t happen to have one on hand (the cellar is getting low!), so instead we enjoyed a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, and that was pretty darned good as well.

This is just a wonderful gathering of flavors, and we enjoyed it greatly.  You may want to do the same.

(Lesson for the day:  Pecorino is from the Italian word “Pecora”, meaning sheep.  Now you know!) 

Ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 1/2 pounds pizza dough, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 large leeks, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound ground lamb
  • 32 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 pound truffled pecorino cheese, thinly sliced

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 500°. Heat a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, heat a large inverted baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven for 5 minutes.)

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece of dough to a 7-inch round. Oil 3 large baking sheets and place the dough rounds on the sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Add the lamb, season with salt and pepper and cook until no pink remains, about 5 minutes.

Generously flour a pizza peel. Place a dough round on the peel and brush with olive oil. Top with some of the leeks, lamb, tomatoes and pecorino cheese. Slide the dough round onto the hot stone or baking sheet and bake for about 4 minutes, until bubbling and crisp. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and serve.

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