Pancetta Polenta Pizza – Meat in a Minor Key

Meat around our house usually appears in the form of a steak, slab or roast. So when my wife proposed making this Mark Bittman pizza recipe that claims to serve 4 but only calls for a scant 4 ounces of meat, I was more than a little skeptical. In the end, the pancetta added a great depth and wonderful pork flavor to the already rich and crispy pizza. It was a big hit.

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush a layer of olive oil on a baking sheet.

Combine milk with 2 1/2 cups water and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just about to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and add cornmeal, whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until the polenta thickens and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan like thick oatmeal.

Stir 1 tablespoon oil into the cooked polenta, then pour it out onto the oiled baking sheet. Spread the polenta out until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cool. When it’s no longer hot, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour to firm up.

Once the polenta is chilled, bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. While the polenta crust is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and pancetta is nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove onion, garlic, and pancetta out of pan and set aside. Add spinach to skillet and saute until it releases its water and pan becomes dry. Add the pancetta mixture back into the pan, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the polenta crust from the oven, sprinkle with gorgonzola, then spread pancetta-spinach mixture evenly atop cheese. Top with basil and tomato slices, then drizzle with another tablespoon olive oil. Put pizza back in oven for 2 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and pancetta and veggies are warmed through. Cut into slices and serve.