So often, the simplest things in life are the best–and that especially holds true when talking about pizza. When I think back to the best pizzas I’ve ever experienced, it’s so much more about the quality of just a few pristine ingredients than piling a lot of stuff on. And when I’ve eaten pizza in Italy, this lighter hand with toppings is fully on display–even a simple combination of fresh tomatoes and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil can be transportive, especially on a perfectly charred, blistering crust. This spinach ricotta pizza was inspired by one that’s in my favorite cookbook for pizzas, Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California. After experimenting through the years, I’ve made a few updates that for me, equal perfection. Watch the recipe below, then scroll on for the step-by-step recipe for making my spinach ricotta pizza with garlicky olive oil.
First, let’s talk crust.
In my opinion, that’s the most important part of any great pizza. This recipe begins with my signature easy homemade pizza dough, and then I decide if I’m going to bake or grill my pizza. For this recipe, I decided to bake it in the oven since I know that’s the option that works best for most people. But if you’re interested in learning our grilling method, don’t worry: it’s coming soon.
Since you’ll be sliding your topped pizza dough right from your peel onto a preheated pizza stone in the oven, you’ll want to be liberal with flour on the board. Sticking is the enemy, so add enough flour so it can easily slide right off. Once you’ve stretched the dough, which I explain here, it’s time to add your toppings.
Time for toppings.
First: garlic confit. Two words that will change your life. It’s a game-changing condiment that you can always keep on hand to top pizzas, sandwiches, toasts, and blend into salad dressings, and it really couldn’t be easier. You add several peeled garlic cloves to a shallow baking dish, cover with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and a few fresh herbs. Bake low and slow until the garlic is soft and caramelized sweet. Done!
This garlicky olive oil goes all over the top of your pizza dough, along with several of the soft, sweet garlic cloves, forming the “sauce”–there are no tomatoes in this pizza, and I promise you won’t miss them.
The rest of the toppings are all about simplicity. You add handfuls of fresh spinach on top of your garlicky base, and it cooks right down in the oven (trust me: use more than you think you’ll need!) Then a blend of fresh whole milk ricotta and fresh mozzarella add a slightly sweet creaminess that melts over the top of it all.
Garnish with a few fresh basil leaves, another drizzle of olive oil (’cause, why not?) and some crushed red pepper flakes. That bit of heat is so good on this pizza. The result is herbacious, garlicky, and spicy and comes together as so much more than the sum of its parts.
Since by this point, I’m literally drooling as I revisit these images, let me describe the experience of eating this pizza. The charred, blistering pizza crust crackles as you sink your teeth into your first bite, then gives way to a chewiness that is exactly what pizza should be. The spinach is cooked down and sweet without feeling at all heavy, and the richness of the cheese oozes over everything. If you haven’t gotten the full mental image yet, just picture what heaven tastes like, and you’ve basically got it.
Baked spinach ricotta pizza with a crispy crust and creamy cheese topping and shower of basil leaves on top? It’s the pizza topping combination you didn’t know you needed in your life, but you’ll be so glad it’s finally here.
If you make it, be sure to leave a comment and a rating, and tag me on Instagram so I can see your version. Scroll on for the recipe…
10 (+ 1 hour for garlic confit) minutes
- 1 ball pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
- extra-virgin olive oil
- cloves from one head of garlic
- 2 tablespoons sage or rosemary leaves
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta, store-bought or homemade
- 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced or torn
- garnish: fresh basil leaves, crushed red pepper flakes, flaky salt, extra-virgin olive oil
- First, remove your pizza dough from the fridge. You want it to set out at room temperature for at least an hour (longer is fine too.) Preheat the oven to 350 for the garlic confit (if you've already prepped your garlic confit in advance, you can go ahead and turn up the oven to 500 degrees for your pizza.)
- Add a pizza stone to the middle rack of the oven so it can get really hot while you prep everything else.
- Make the garlic confit: In a small, shallow baking dish, place the peeled garlic cloves, then add enough olive oil to just cover. Add sage or rosemary leaves, then a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour, then remove.
- Crank oven up to 500 degrees. Sprinkle your pizza peel with flour, then place your ball of pizza dough on top and sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking. Use your hands to stretch into a thin circle -- watch me do it here.
- Use a big spoon to scoop out several garlic clove and a light drizzle of the garlicky oil evenly over the top of the dough. Add the fresh spinach leaves--it'll feel like a lot, but it cooks down in the oven.
- Add spoonfuls of ricotta evenly over the spinach, then mozzarella. Drizzle a little more of your garlic oil over the top, then open up the oven and swiftly slide the pizza from the peel straight onto your stone. Close the oven as quickly as possible so you don't lose heat.
- Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until crust is charred and bubbly. Use your peel to lift it off the stone, then garnish with fresh basil leaves, crushed red pepper flakes, a pinch of flaky salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Slice and eat!
**You can make garlic confit a month in advance--just keep it in the fridge covered with oil and tightly sealed in a lidded jar.