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Spring Fling Pizza - Dinner in Venice

Spring Fling Pizza

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Spring Fling Pizza by DinnerinVenice

The arrival of spring always inspires me to check out the neighborhood’s farmers’ markets and even community gardens in the quest for culinary ideas. After my FreshDirect-fueled winter hibernation, I crave flavors and colors beyond the boundaries of the chain grocery stores.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I find anything new, or that I haven’t cooked in a long time, I simply stick it into a pizza or a calzone – at least the first time. The reason is very practical: my kids will eat positively anything if it’s deep-fried, or in the form of a pizza topping.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on what my husband has deemed a “weed-spree”: no, that’s not what you think – I’m just referring to edible plants and herbs that sprout literally everywhere, on the side of the street and in your backyard; but while they are highly prized in Italian and French cuisine, here in the US most people never take advantage of them.

Borage-Collage-by-DinnerInVeniceGrowing up in Italy, I tried countless recipes with edible weeds. My mom made salads and frittatas with dandelion greens (the scourge of any lawn perfectionist!). One of our housekeepers, Pierina, would bring us baskets of  “bruscandoli“, hop shoots (yes – from beer hops) that literally invaded the street sides near her house in the suburbs of Venice: they tasted better than young asparagus and made fantastic risottos! My nonna, in Tuscany, would take me stinging nettle-hunting… armed with contractor’s gloves and “jungle boots”: her nettle soup and gnocchi were worth all the trouble. Finally, during a vacation in the Cinque Terre we discovered borage, which tastes like young cucumbers and the locals combine with ricotta in their traditional ravioli filling. Here in New York, most people consider it as a pest and will go to any lengths to get rid of it, bringing on the chemical warfare . They usually lose the battle, because borage and dandelions are among the most invasive plants. That’s why I recommend that, if you can’t kill it – you should eat it! (just make sure it’s not treated with any dangerous pesticides).

Spring Fling Pizza by DinnerInvenice 2

Spring Fling Pizza

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 hour

serves seres 4


  • 1 lb pizza dough (home-made or store-bought)
  • ¼ lb haricot verts
  • ¼ lb romano beans (wide, flat string beans)
  • ½ head red radicchio
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup (unpacked) borage leaves
  • 6 oz whole milk ricotta
  • 6 oz Italian Stracchino, OR cottage cheese
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


If using store-bought dough, take it out of the refrigerator (not freezer) and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

Prepare the haricots (I snip off the ends and eliminate the “thread”, unless you buy them already cleaned); clean the romano beans. Steam both together for about 15 minutes. Drain and cut into pieces.

Cut the radicchio into thin stripes. Slice the onion thinly.

Heat the oil in a skillet, add the whole garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute; add the haricots, the romano beans and the radicchio, and little salt, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring. Discard the garlic and allow to cool. In the meantime, blanch the borage for 3 minutes in salted boiling water, remove with a slotten spoon and gently pat dry with paper towel.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the cheese until smooth, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Combine with the haricots, romano beans and radicchio.

Dust the dough with flour, and also flour a work surface. Start by pressing out the dough using your fingers, and once it’s thinner and more malleable roll it out on a sheet of parchment with a floured rolling pin, to a thickness of about 3 mm. Distribute the dough in a parchment-lined baking pan (you can use a square “half-sheet pan” or experiment with other shapes. Build up the edges (the “crust”) with your fingers. Cook the "pizza crust" in your pre-heated oven at 400 F for 10 minutes without any topping, then take it out, spread the ricotta/vegetable mix on top, and decorate with the red onion rings and the borage leaves. Brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with pepper, and bake for an additional 15 or 20 minutes or until golden. If the topping starts to brown too much, cover it with aluminium foil. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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  1. Such a nice and healthy recipe (even though I’m really with your kids on anything fried!)…inspecting my lawn right now for possible dinner options:)

  2. Sina @ the kosher spoon says:

    I love how you shaped the pizza. I didn’t even know dandelions were weed. I’ve added them to salad.

  3. What a perfect symphony of colors – and flavors! I also tried those borage ravioli during a stay in the Cinqui Terre, they tasted fantastic. I’m going to start looking for borage in my neighborhood.

  4. That is beautifully designed. wow!

  5. That pizza is stunning! Finding these fresh ingredients might be a little more challenging…

  6. There is a tradtional weed that grows here in the South called “Polk Salad.” Very similar to dandelion green, it is cooked up in an omlette. It has a very short window of growth and seems to disappear after the first week of Spring. An old friend once told me that it was an italian who brought this traditon to the New World, when Property owners looked to Europe (instead of Slaves), and promised farmers cheap land they could buyand cultivate, thus luring them to the South. Many Italians, French (farmers), settled into the Southern States. For many years, Artichokes were grown in the riverbeads of Louisiana for example.
    Its unfortunate, that all that is left now are a few traditions that many don’t know much about. It’s to bad…… but that means more for me!
    Your Pizza looks lovely, btw, and such a wholesome reminder of Spring.

  7. Sorry, wasn’t wearing my glasses this morning… see lots of errors. hehehe. I am still having my cafe’ too!!
    Buona Giornata!

  8. Beautiful, and exactly the kind of ingredients I love: veggie, light, colorful and flavorful

  9. So pretty! love the pizza shape!

  10. Likely the most elegant pastry meal I have ever seen.

  11. What an interesting recipe, I would have totally eaten weeds if I knew they were edible, so cool.

  12. I love this write-up about all your edible weed experiences. I saw stinging nettle pesto on a menu this week and wondered how they make that edible??

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