Why It Works
- The broccoli rabe topping is charred quickly in a skillet, right in the outdoor pizza oven as it heats up for baking the pies.
- Par-blanching the rabe helps to keep it from drying out when charred in the pizza oven.
- Umami-rich Parmesan, Pecorino, and anchovies balance the sweet acidity of the simple tomato sauce and the bitterness of rabe, without the need for mozzarella.
- Using a dough specially formulated for high-temperature outdoor pizza ovens produces perfectly baked pies with a crisp bottom and tender crust.
I’ve owned and built a couple of backyard pizza ovens, and while I loved them both, they took ages to heat up before I could bake in them, which meant that I only did so when I had half a day or more carved out for pizza-making. Switching over to a tabletop outdoor pizza oven has been a game-changer for my pizza-party calendar: It’s ready to rock in about 30 minutes, which means I fire it up all the time, and all I need to do isplan ahead so I have dough balls ready to go in the fridge.
One thing I sought to do with these composed pizza recipes for outdoor ovens was look for ways to use the high heat of the oven for things other than just baking the pizza. For this recipe, as well as the burst cherry tomato, shallot, and herb one, my goal was to use the oven for some of the pre-bake topping prep while it heated up for firing pies. In this case, I wanted to get serious char on some broccoli rabe, a process that adds complex flavor to bitter greens like rabe, while also helping to temper some of their bitterness.
But because pizzas baked in these super-hot ovens tend to cook in a matter of minutes, toppings have a limited window within which to cook. When I tried putting uncooked rabe on the pie, it remained mostly raw when it came out; even blanched, wilted rabe only charred lightly.
In order to get the right amount of char on my broccoli rabe, I first blanch it in salted water to lightly wilt it, before chopping it into bite-sized pieces. I then toss the rabe with olive oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet, and let it char while the oven heats up, which takes just a few minutes.
To complement the smoky bitterness of the charred rabe, I pair it with a blend of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, a healthy number of anchovy fillets, and a simple tomato sauce. No creamy, melty mozzarella here—this pie is all about its savory punch. Of course, if some of your pizza-eating companions aren’t anchovy lovers, you can leave the salty fish out on a couple of pies; that’s their loss.
- 1 recipe pizza dough for an outdoor pizza oven
- 1 (28-ounce; 795g) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, juices reserved
- 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 pound (450g; about 2 small bunches) broccoli rabe (a.k.a. rapini), ends trimmed
- 1/4 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 16 anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise (see note)
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to rest in proofing containers, covered, at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before baking. Dough temperature should reach 60˚F (15.5°C) before stretching and baking; exact timing will depend upon ambient temperature.
Using a countertop or immersion blender, process tomatoes until a coarse but evenly blended sauce forms, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; if needed, add reserved tomato liquid to yield 2 cups (475ml) sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together Parmesan and Pecorino until well combined; set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli rabe to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickest parts of stalks are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well, squeezing rabe to get rid of excess moisture. Allow to cool slightly, then cut stalks crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces.
Heat pizza oven to 800°F (425°C). While oven heats, in a 10-inch stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel skillet, combine rabe, 1/4 cup (60ml) oil, and red pepper flakes. Set skillet in oven and cook, stirring frequently, until rabe is lightly but evenly charred, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
When ready to bake, coat one dough ball generously on both sides with flour and place on well-floured surface, seam side down. Gently press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1-inch higher than the rest. Stretch dough into a 10- or 12-inch circle (final dimension depends upon the size of your oven) about 1/4-inch thick by draping over knuckles and gently stretching. Transfer to floured wooden or perforated metal pizza peel.
Working quickly, spread an even layer of tomato sauce over pizza, leaving outer 1/2-inch rim untopped. Spread anchovies evenly over sauce, followed by cheese mixture. Scatter rabe evenly over pizza and drizzle with oil.
Transfer pizza to oven and bake, rotating pie regularly with a metal peel for even cooking, until rim is lightly charred and bottom is crisp, 90 to 180 seconds total. Retrieve pizza with a metal peel and transfer to a cutting board. Slice, and serve immediately.
Repeat steps 6 through 8 for remaining pizzas.
Both salt- and oil-packed anchovies will work for this recipe. Read more about how to fillet and prepare salt-packed anchovies here. If you don’t like anchovies, this pie is still delicious without them.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Tomato sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.