I can imagine eating this Lemon Ricotta Pizza at a trendy modern Italian restaurant with high ceilings and fun drink ware. As a sheet pan pizza, it's simple and relatable. Yet as a Calabrian Chili Recipe, it's new and surprising. When you take a bite, you experience each element, first separately, and then together.
The first flavor I taste is lemon zest. Then I notice the crunch, then the heat. As I chew, all of these elements become one. It's spicy, but not enough to make you reach for your drink, and just spicy enough to leave you craving more. And since most of the spicy chili oil is served on the side, each person can adjust the heat to match their palate.
Elements of This Lemon Ricotta Pizza
The Ricotta Mixture
A rule of thumb when cooking, most of the time, is to season each element of the dish. There are some exceptions to this rule, but pizza is not one of them.
Since ricotta is one of the main ingredients in this sheet pan pizza, and is also a fairly mild creamy ingredient, it is absolutely imperative that it is well-seasoned and delicious.
Adding lemon juice and zest, along with nutmeg, black pepper, herbs, and parmesan cheese helps to create a more flavorful cheese mixture that could stand alone as a dip or spread if it had to.
That Sheet Pan Pizza Crust
The crust is the second most important part of the pizza-eating experience, and even store-bought dough can be made into a delicious crunchy vessel if cooked properly. I like to use a fairly high temperature- 450F, which helps the bottom of the pizza coated in olive oil to crisp nicely.
You need both the high temperature and the olive oil to create this crunch when using a sheet pan to make pizza. Think of it as frying the bottom side of the dough.
Instead of the usual dusting of crushed red pepper flakes, Calabrian chili pepper oil gives this pizza its spice. Make the oil by combining jarred Calabrian chili peppers, or "Italian Bomba Sauce", with lemon and olive oil. The spice is perfect, and the color is truly gorgeous.
A Calabrian Chili Pepper Recipe
I wrote about Calabrian chili peppers in a recent post, which provided 8 Ways to use Calabrian Chili Peppers in Everyday Cooking. You can add this Lemon Ricotta Pizza to the list!
I highly recommend Trader Joe's "Italian Bomba Sauce." Bomba is simply an Italian style sauce made from fermented vegetables, in this case, Calabrian chili peppers that are then packed in olive oil. Fermentation gives the peppers, and therefore your whole pizza, deeper flavor.
- Stretch the dough rather than rolling it. You'll be more successful with getting it as big as you want it, plus it will stay nice and tender rather than getting tough in the center.
- Cut the pizza with scissors. I mean, you can use a pizza cutter too, but if you don't have one, kitchen shears work incredibly well, if not better than a pizza cutter. Cutting pizza with scissors is so oddly satisfying too. Try it!
- Cut the pizza in all different directions for some square, some triangle, and some middle pieces. The haphazardness of it is endearing and is sure to please everyone's tastes.
The best sheet pans ever are these USA Pans half sheet pans. They are worth their weight in gold, and only cost $20 on Amazon. I just bought them for myself after using them at my dad's house recently. They don't warp in the oven or even on the grill, and they get super hot.
For the Pizza
- 1 pizza dough, either store bought or homemade
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- olive oil
For the Lemon Ricotta Topping
- 8oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- ¼c grated parmesan cheese
- ¼c parsley, finely chopped
- The zest of 1 lemon
- The juice of ¾ of the same lemon
- ¼tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tb olive oil
- Salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
For the Calabrian Chili Oil
- 2 Tb Italian Bomba Sauce/Chopped Calabrian chili peppers packed in oil (see note)
- The juice of ¼ of the lemon used to make the lemon ricotta
- ¼c olive oil
- Grease the dough with a light coating of olive oil and place it in a large bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let it rise at room temperature for several hours.
- Make your lemon ricotta mixture by placing the ricotta, parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg, salt/pepper/cayenne, and olive oil in a medium sized bowl. Stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the Calabrian chili oil by combining the Calabrian chilis and lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well combined. Cover and set aside until ready to use. You may need to re-whisk this right before using.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 450F, and lightly grease the bottom and sides of a sheet pan with olive oil. Gently press and stretch the dough until it fills the area of the sheet pan. Stretching works well, just be careful not to tear the dough.
- Spread ricotta mixture all over the pizza, then top with a drizzle of your Calabrian chili oil. Bake for 20 minutes. When the pizza is done, it will be crispy on the bottom and cooked through. Top with fresh basil leaves.
- Transfer pizza from sheet pan onto a large cutting board, slice the pizza, and serve with more Calabrian chili oil.
- Italian Bomba Sauce is ideal, and Trader Joe's actually makes a really good one. If you don't live near a TJs, look for chopped Calabrian chili peppers in oil near the other jarred peppers in your grocery store. You can also check your local Italian deli or market, or order them online.