Leftover Bolognese Pizza
University is supposed to be when you learn to tackle difficult problems, meet exciting people and have adventures. I started every other weekend on the Virgin West Coast from Manchester to London, reading ‘Heat’ and eating a brie wrap from O’Brien’s in Piccadilly. I had to visit the boyfriend I’d stumbled across at 17 and sort of ended up with. He reminded me to come. He couldn’t come up, of course. Too busy. He and I would spend the weekend walking around the shops, I’d study at the desk in the Volkswagen garage where he worked and, sometimes, I’d even go to my family.
My ex didn’t like how my parents and I ate. We’d go to a fab local, family Italian for pizza instead. I’d watch the pizza chef shape the dough, somehow never managing to get his fingers stuck or pull holes in the dough. It was there that his faddy eating gave me a gift: I learnt about Bolognese pizza.
I don’t know if this recipe is authentically Italian; I know it’s a perfect home for your leftover Bolognese. If you can be bothered to cook the mushrooms then do, it’s heaven. I’d imagine that, using the right ingredients, this pizza is easily adaptable to a vegan diet.
The restaurant has long since closed, along with the Sicilian café where I learnt to adore arancini, how to empty a slop bucket and the rules of scopa. Thankfully I’ve not seen that ex in 16 years, almost to the day, now I come to think of it. Some things haven’t changed. I spend every other weekend packing up and driving to my parent’s house, so my children can be with their dad. I’m still packing up and tidying up and buggering off for a weekend. But when I can, a pizza feast with every buggering daft leftover, plenty of wine and beer, daft kids and best friends clears out my fridge and warms my heart.
Leftover Bolognese Pizza
The time this takes is anything from overnight - 20 minutes - if you want to make your own dough, you're looking at around 8 -24 hours. Pre-made base? 20 minutes. The choice is yours.
- 2 tablespoons leftover bolognese this can be a traditional, vegan, anything
- 50 grams Parmesan/Italian hard cheese
- 50 grams mushrooms
- oil to cook mushrooms
- 1 sprig each thyme and rosemary (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic
- white wine a splash (optional)
- Optional Chilli flakes
- 1 bought base OR
- 540 grams plain flour + more for dusting
- 5 grams yeast if you're using those little sachets and will otherwise bin the 2 grams, just use it all
- 10 grams salt
- 250 ml milk (full fat, preferably)
- 150 ml water
- polenta or more flour, for dusting baking sheets
- Baking tray/pizza stone if you have one (I don't)
- Cheese grater
If making pizza dough
- Large mixing bowl
- Clean tea towel
If cooking mushrooms
- Frying pan
- Measuring jug
If making pizza dough from scratch, the day/8 hours before ...
- Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Pour in the milk and water. Combine.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter. Shape the dough into a round.
- Clean the mixing bowl with a dough scraper and pour in a little oil. Return the dough to the bowl and turn around in the oil a couple of times so that the dough is covered. Take your clean tea towel and cover.
- You can either leave the dough to rise in your fridge for up to 24 hours or for about 6 hours; if the dough reaches double size more quickly than you like, just gently deflate it ("knock it back") and return to the bowl.
Cooking the mushrooms (these can be cooked ahead and left to one side)
- Slice the mushrooms and turn the pan to about medium. Pour in a few tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Stir every couple of minutes to evaporate all water. Season well.
- When the mushrooms are nearing done, crush/finely slice the garlic
- Optional: add in the whole springs of rosemary and thyme and stir around. After a couple of minutes, add in the garlic and stir - don't allow the garlic to burn
- Optional: if you have some white wine open or in the freezer, add it now and allow to cook off
Rolling out fresh pizza dough
- When you're ready to eat, turn your oven to full blast. If you like, leave baking sheets in the oven to get nice and hot, which helps to make a crispier base. If making these with little ones/you're new to pizza, don't worry so much (as the burns up my wrists tell ...)
- Grate the cheese, find the mushrooms and oil
- Lightly dust your counter with flour. Using a large knife or dough scraper, cut the pizza dough into 4 pieces. Shape each quarter into a ball and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.
- Roll out one base at a time (this topping is enough for one pizza only). I allow the dough to fall over the side of the counter as gravity help to stretch the gluten structures
- Dust a baking sheet with polenta or flour (polenta helps to get a crispier base but isn't essential).
- Place the dough on the tray, not minding about holes here and there. If you like, stretch the dough into corners of the tray
- Spread the bolognese around the dough, using your hands if the dough rips (if your bolognese is v dry, it might -don't worry). Add the mushrooms, dust with cheese. Take the olive oil, use your thumb as a light stopper and drizzle oil over the top - if your sauce is quite dry, be generous with the oil
- Bake for between 7 & 10 minutes, depending on your pizza base and oven Add chilli flakes if you like (I do)