March 21, 2011
One of our favorite blogs, For the Love of Cooking, recently featured Turkey Italian Sausage and Mushroom Pizza Braid. I liked the idea presented there, so I decided to make my own version. I'm glad I did, because I've now found a really fast, easy and wonderful go-to recipe.
This recipe is somewhat unusual for me, in that instead of making much from scratch, the core ingredients - pizza dough and pizza sauce - are pre-prepared supermarket items. In general, I'm not real fond of that approach to cooking - it tends to result in a lot of fast but flavorless stuff based on cans of soup and the like - but here it works great. Of course, it helps that I was able to back up the prefab ingredients with excellent fresh stuff, including sausage, pepperoni and cheeses from Graziano Bros. Grocery.
These really were fantastically good. In fact, they looked so great that by the time I sliced one of the braids into servings, Juli and I were in such a hurry to try them that I forgot to take a picture of one of the servings on a plate. That's too bad, as showing a sliced cross-section would be a great way to show how mouthwatering these things really are. I suppose that's as good a reason as any to make these again, though.
Pepperoni, Sausage and Mushroom Pizza Braids
yield = 4 -5 servings
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/4 pound pepperoni
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil + 1/4 cup
1 onion, grated
6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced thin
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 cans refrigerated thin pizza crust
1 1/3 cup canned pizza sauce (we used Dei Fratelli)
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded
2 tablespoons + two teaspoons freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Cook sausage in a small skillet, breaking it into small pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
While the sausage cooks, line a microwave-safe plate with two layers of paper towels. Spread pepperoni slices over the paper towels, cover with another paper towel and microwave for 60 seconds. Repeat until all the pepperoni slices are cooked.
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and mushroom and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and the mushrooms have released all their liquid.
Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add pepper and salt, stir to mix, and remove from heat.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon corn meal on each baking sheet.
Spread one pizza crust on a baking sheet in a rectangle. Spoon 2/3 cup of pizza sauce along the middle third of the dough. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut even slits on both sides of the sauce. Sprinkle 2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese atop the sauce, then top with 1/2 of the onion and mushroom mixture and 1/2 of the pepperoni slices, 1/2 of the cooked sausage. Spread another 2 ounces of mozzarella atop these toppings, then sprinkle with one tablespoon grated romano cheese.
Starting at one end, fold alternating strips from the sides of the dough over the filling at an angle.
Brush the top of the pizza braid with olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and one teaspoon romano cheese. Bake until nicely browned, about 30-35 minutes, then remove from the oven to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Slice and serve. Repeat with the other prepared baking sheet and the remainder of the ingredients.