Kale, Italian Sausage, and Roasted Onion Pizza

I’ve been totally slacking in the blogging department! We just returned from a mini trip to San Francisco, where Jeff is interviewing for a few software engineering jobs. I was hoping to get some writing done on the trip, but unsurprisingly that never materialized. Traveling to San Francisco is always an interesting experience. I moved to Seattle when I was 19, so I never really got to explore San Francisco as a grown up. My memories are of seeing Phantom of the Opera at the Orphium Theater, visiting the Exlporitorium, and shopping for skintight polo shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch in the Westfield Mall. Being in San Francisco now is like being reunited with an old friend after many years. Many things have changed–for better and for worse–but the core is intact.

Somehow, I don’t remember the city being so dirty. But this is after eight years of living in one of the cleanest cities in America. I think Seattle has spoiled me for life in this department.  I can walk for blocks in downtown Seattle without seeing a single candy bar wrapper on the ground. You can’t walk for more than five feet without happening upon trash, and much, much worse. However, we had some pretty amazing meals in San Francisco–Lebanese, French, Spanish, Korean, and much more. We even got to try Traci Des Jardins’ Jardiniere which was fabulous. If you end up going, definitely make reservations on a Monday night when they have a $45 prix fixe meal with three courses and wine pairing.

Anyways, that’s the reason I have been MIA, and I will definitely be catching up on my blog reading soon! Before we left, I wanted to share a recipe for kale, Italian sausage, and roasted onion pizza. I love incorporating unconventional veggies like butternut squash and winter greens into pizzas. It’s a great way to eat pizza without feeling completely guilty afterward.

You can certainly use a pre-made dough for this recipe. But if you have a little extra time on your hands, I recommend King Arthur Flour’s Quick Beer Pizza Dough. The beer in the dough gives the pizza a nice kick, and the rise time is much lower than other pizza doughs.

I first happened upon this oven-roasted onion technique in Alice Water’s recipe for broccoli rabe pizza. I’ve been hopelessly addicted ever since. They taste more than roasted, but not quite caramelized…I like to think of them as “melted.”  Salty and slightly sweet morsels that almost just dissolve in your mouth. The onions are roasted in the oven with a little salt, olive oil, and thyme if you wish. You only need to stir the onions a few times during cook time, so it is very hands-off. This technique comes in handy when making pizzas because it frees you up to concentrate on other ingredients…like blanching the kale and browning the sausage!
I’ve been on a celery kick lately, ever since I made that homemade celery salt. The celery flavor just seems to take dishes to the next level without overpowering. Celery seed isn’t that commonly used in most kitchens, but I highly recommend you give it a try in this recipe. It really compliments the sausage along with the fennel seed.

When it comes to pizza, I think a pizza stone is totally essential. Pizza stones are available at many different price points, so there is one out there for every budget. I love my Emile Henry pizza stone because it can go in the oven or on the grill. Be sure to put the stone on the lowest rack in the oven for optimal crispiness!

This pizza is perfect for a cold night dinner. I ended up bringing my pizza to a party and cutting it up into square pieces so it looked more like flat bread. I highly recommend finishing the pizza off with a squeeze of lemon right before you eat it.

Kale, Italian Sausage, and Roasted Onion Pizza
Yield: One 12-inch pizza

  • Pizza dough of your choice (I used a half batch of this recipe)
  • 1/2 pound kale, washed thoroughly and stemmed
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, coarsely crushed with a mortar and pestle or the back of a heavy pan
  • About 1 tablespoon of red wine, stock, or even water to deglaze the pan
  • A couple sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 1 lemon (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place onions in a small oven-proof pan and add enough olive oil to coat, along with a generous pinch of kosher salt. Add thyme sprigs to pan if using and stir well. Place pan in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning. The onions are ready when they are tender and golden. Remove the thyme stems if using.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Add kale to the rapidly boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain or lift kale out of the water using a slotted spoon or spider and immediately place in ice bath to stop the cooking. Once the kale is completely cool, remove from the ice bath, squeeze out the water using your hands, and chop  into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  3. Bring a heavy-bottomed pot or pan to medium heat on the stove top. Add sausage to pan and break it up into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon. Add celery seed and fennel seed and continue to brown the meat, stirring constantly until the sausage is almost fully cooked. There will likely be some bits of meat and stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. If there is, add a tablespoon or so of red wine, stock, or water to help loosen up those delicious bits. Add the blanched kale to the sausage mixture and cook for 1 minute, stirring until incorporated. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°F and place your pizza stone on the lowest rack if using. Roll out your pizza dough on a floured surface until you make a 10-12 inch circle. If your dough doesn’t seem to want to roll out, leave it alone for a few minutes so the gluten can settle and try again. I like to place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper to help maneuver it from the pizza peel to the pizza stone.
  5. Cook the dough in the oven with no toppings for 5 minutes. Don’t worry if air bubbles form–just deflate them before you put the toppings on. Pre-baking the dough will help prevent the cheese and toppings from getting overcooked. Remove dough from the oven and sprinkle on half of the cheese. Add the kale and sausage mixture. Add the rest of the cheese and top with the roasted onions. Brush a thin layer of olive oil on the crust.  Return the pizza to the oven and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the crust is crispy and the cheese is just melted. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon on each slice.