Taleggio and Arugula Pizza

Savory Recipes, Spring • 20 May 2008

I recently made a swoon-worthy pizza using one of my personal favorite cheeses, Taleggio. In the midst of cutting chunks of the gooey beauty, I ran headfirst into a quandary: is Taleggio a cheese of the stinky variety or is it subtle enough to inch its way into an alternative, quieter category?

Many debate Taleggio’s stink-factor, but one thing remains indubitable: it is a semi-soft, washed-rind baby, hailing from the Valteleggio region of Italy. Taleggio is a pleasantly nutty cheese, creamy and buttery. However, Steven Jenkins, famed author of the “Cheese Primer” describes it as “beefy,” nomenclature generally reserved for stinky cheeses.

I’d personally like to welcome Taleggio into my friendly family of stinky-cheeses. It is more mild in flavor than some of its brothers and sisters, but on the nose, Taleggio gives off a yeasty, heady scent. It has an orange or salmon colored rind and the center is often gooey and always moist.

My Taleggio pizza really was a taste to behold- a simple construction brimming with welcoming flavor. A crackling crisp crust offset by warm, sensual cheese oozing in the dough’s craters; the sweet melted creaminess perfectly contrasts the peppery bite of wilted arugula and the earthy, perfumed truffle oil.

I didn’t want to doctor the pizza too much; I like taste to speak for itself. I wanted the pie to beckon eaters with its scent and reel them in with its bold, yet simple flavors. Taleggio is the perfect cheese for pizza- it melts well and when heated, yields an incredibly sweet smell, almost too much goodness to take when combined with the scent of truffle oil!

Taleggio and Arugula Pizza

1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
3/4 pound well-chilled Taleggio, rind discarded
1 garlic clove, minced and mashed into a paste
4 cups loosely packed baby arugula
Truffle oil for drizzling
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Put a large pizza stone in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 500°F. Allow 1 hour for pizza stone to heat.

2. Meanwhile, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, stretching corners with your hands to form a 14-inch circle. (Do not punch down dough; it will be easier to roll out as it warms.) Transfer to a large tray lined with sheet of parchment paper. Lightly prick dough all over with a fork, then slide dough (on parchment) from tray onto hot pizza stone. Bake until top is puffed and pale golden in patches, 6 to 10 minutes. (Prick any large bubbles with a fork and flatten.)

3. While crust bakes, shred cheese in a food processor fitted until you have about 1 1/2cups. If the cheese is extremely gooey, do not process.

4. Remove crust from oven and brush with garlic paste, careful to avoid the outer edges. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and brush the outer crust with olive oil and a light coating of kosher salt. Bake pizza on lower level until edge of crust is deep golden and cheese is bubbling and golden in patches, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Remove from oven, then scatter arugula over pizza. Drizzle with truffle oil and coarsely grind pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 pizza.

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