Spring Fling Pizza

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.


Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta


Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and Jewish communities around the world have developed special culinary customs to give due honor to the holiday.

Meals are characterized by dairy dishes, as the Bible itself compares the Torah to milk and honey (“honey and milk shall be under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Some commentators add that, before the revelation at Sinai, the Jews were allowed to eat meat that was slaughtered normally, but after the Torah was given on Shavuot, they became obligated to follow the rules of kasherut . Until the end of that first festival,  they had no alternative but to indulge in dairy foods! Mystics also like to mention that  the numerical equivalent of halav ( Hebrew for milk) is forty – the number of days Moses waited on Mount Sinai.

Another tradition is eating foods that are rolled, to remind us of the shape of the Torah scrolls that are read in synagogue. Among Ashkenazi jews, the most popular Shavuot food incorporating both customs is cheese blintzes.  However in Italy, it’s all about pasta, creamy ricotta and aged parmigiano cheese! Buon appetito….

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta


  • Fresh Pasta
  • 2 pounds of spinach (or a bag of chopped, frozen spinach)
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese (regular, do not use fat-free!)
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 teaspoons grated Parmigiano cheese (grated, not shredded)
  • 1 whole egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained (optional)


Make fresh pasta (I like the recipe here http://www.lacucinaitalianamagazine.com/recipe/pasta_fresca ) and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic.

Put two pounds of spinach in a pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 whole cloves of garlic. Salt and sprinkle with very little water.

Cook covered for about 5 minutes, then uncovered until soft and until most water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Once the spinach has cooled off, drain it through a colander (you can line it with cheesecloth if the holes are too wide), squeezing most of the liquid out.

Chop the spinach and mix it with the ricotta cheese, the egg, salt, spices and parmigiano.

If you like, you can also add raisins and pine nuts. Set aside.

Roll the pasta out into a thin sheet and cut a rectangle of at least 10’ x 20” or wider.

Lay the pasta sheet over a cheesecloth or a sheet of parchment.

Spread the spinach/ricotta mixture over the pasta and roll up tightly.

Wrap the roll in the cheesecloth and tie it with twine at both ends, like an oversized piece of candy.

Boil it for 35 minutes in a large pot of salted water, drain and slice.

Arrange in one layer in a baking tray, dress with sage butter (butter melted with sage leaves till golden brown) or a tomato sauce, and extra grated parmigiano. If you added pine nuts and raisins to the filling, sage butter is preferable.

***EASY ALTERNATIVE: if you don’t have time to make the pasta from scratch you can cook dried Barilla or De Cecco lasagna (the regular tipe, NOT the “No-boil”) sheets in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, making sure they don’t break. After draining, lay the lasagna sheets on paper towel, stuff with filling and roll up. Put in a baking pan with either marinara sauce or sage butter on the bottom and on top. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and bake at 400 F for 40 minutes (no convection or they will dry out).

Slice after baking with a sharp knife.