Romanesco Pizza with Cashew Cream, Salsa Verde and Pine Nuts
This superfood recipe from best-selling UK-based chef, Waitrose Weekend Columnist and Sunday Times bestselling author Elly Curshen pairs a herby Mediterranean salsa verde and roasted Romanesco cauliflower with a creamy homemade cashew cream for a unique pizza, which just happens to be vegan.
The cashew cream is the cornerstone—smooth, velvety and packed with flavour. Elly’s also added a few specialty items.
First, smoked garlic cloves. Smoked garlic is a specialty ingredient that you can find in an organic food or farm shop. Don’t have the time or the tools to smoke your garlic? Roasting it will lend a mellow, sweetness that works well in this recipe.
Next is nutritional yeast, a common ingredient in vegan recipes. Often called “nooch” by those in the know, these yellow flakes are processed under high heat, which means the yeast is no longer living so they won’t rise. It’s salty and cheesy, despite containing no animal products.
Finally, a pinch of smoked sea salt. Smoked sea salt–we often use Maldon–is gently smoked over hardwood and lends a distinctive wood-fired note. But regular sea salt will work just fine.
All of these ingredients working together equals a balance of smoky, nutty and umami flavours working as a background for the Romanesco cauliflower that goes on before the bake. A drizzle of bright Mediterranean salsa verde takes the pizza from all richness to balanced flavour boost.
When it comes to making this herby green sauce, focus on ingredient quality. It’s obvious you’d want fresh herbs, quality sherry vinegar and great olive oil. But, quality is important when it comes to the jarred items as well. Elly chose non-pareil capers (from the French, has no equal) for their size (under 7mm) and texture (delicate).
A post-bake sprinkle of pul biber, aka Aleppo pepper, gives a fiery-sweet finish (a 1:1 ratio of sweet paprika and Cayenne pepper can act as a stand in).
These sauces and ingredients can (and should) be added to your rotation. Salty, smoky, briny, nutty and cheesy, they’ve got a lot to offer. And when combined with cauliflower, homemade dough, and high heat, you’ve got, as Elly says, “a super nutty, super green vegan pizza. Unusual and utterly delicious.”
Notes: This recipe makes enough cashew cream and salsa verde for 4 pizzas. Anything leftover can be stored in a sealed, refrigerated container for up to 3 days.
Elly Curshen is the founder of Bristol’s Pear Café, a Sunday Times bestselling author of Green and Elly Pear’s Fast Days and Feast Days, food columnist, food panel judge, cookery tutor and “authority on all things delicious”. Find her on Instagram @ellypear.
30 minutes total
Makes up to four 12-inch pizzas
1 to 4 250-gram pizza dough balls, depending on serving size
For the cashew cream
100 grams cashew nuts (unroasted and unsalted)
26 grams extra-virgin olive oil
2 banana (or regular) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 smoked (or regular) garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
22 grams nutritional yeast flakes
A big pinch smoked sea salt
For the Mediterranean salsa verde
Zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon small nonpareil capers, drained
14 grams sherry vinegar
15 grams Dijon mustard
Large pinch flaky sea salt
Large handful each of basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
100 grams extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as necessary
For the topping (adjust as necessary depending on number of pizzas)
Florets of 1 Romanesco cauliflower (or regular cauliflower), cut small
52 grams olive oil
36 grams pine nuts
Pinch pul biber (aka aleppo) or chili flakes (to taste)
This recipe would suit a variety of pizza styles, but we think sourdough, neo-Neapolitan, or classic pizza dough would be a great fit. Make sure to prepare your dough ahead of time to ensure it rises at room temperature before firing up your oven.
Fire up your Ooni pizza oven. Aim for 400°C to 500°C on the stone baking board inside. Use the infrared thermometer to quickly and accurately check the temperature.
To make the cashew cream, put the cashew nuts in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse in a sieve.
Warm a small saucepan over low heat then add the olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the shallots and smoked garlic. Sauté over a low heat for at least 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Tip the drained nuts, shallots, smoked garlic, nutritional yeast flakes and a big pinch of smoked salt into a blender or food processor. Add ⅓ cup (75 ml) cold water and blend until smooth, adding more water as needed, to thin to the consistency of a thick double cream. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To make the salsa verde, tip all ingredients into a blender and pulse until well chopped and combined. Add more oil, as necessary, until the salsa is a dropping consistency. Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil and season with sea salt.
Place your dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Push the air from the centre out to the crust and use your knuckles to stretch out the base to 12 inches. Lay the stretched dough over your lightly dusted pizza peel then spread a few spoonfuls of cashew cream over the surface. Arrange the florets evenly on top, leaving the crust area clear. Sprinkle with pine nuts and pul biber, then drizzle with olive oil.
Slide the pizza off the peel and into your oven. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the peel every 20 or so seconds to ensure the pizza is evenly cooked.
Once cooked, cut into 9 slices then use a teaspoon to drizzle over the salsa verde. Serve immediately. Repeat for remaining dough balls.