Love and Olive Oil

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza

Hello, you ugly pizza you. You delicious, oozing, herbaceous, licorice-scented, rich, salty, creamy, and butt ugly pizza.

But seriously, it’s not the pizza’s fault. Just because its combination of savory ingredients happen to all fall within the same color spectrum is not its fault. This isn’t a pizza margherita, with its contrasting bold hues and photogenic display.

The golden crust. The golden caramelized onion. The pale yellow fennel. They don’t do anything for this pizza’s looks. But they do wonderful things for its flavor and aroma.

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza

This pizza was inspired by a similar creation we had at one of our favorite local restaurants, City House (if you’re ever in Nashville, it is a must try!) Alas, it is no longer on the menu, so I took it upon myself to recreate it at home. And while I still haven’t managed to duplicate the almost pastry-like quality of their crust, we still agreed that this pizza is one we’ll definitely be making again. Ugly shmugly. Beauty is in the eye of my stomach, afterall, and it thinks this pizza is drop dead gorgeous.

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza

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2 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
7/8 cup (7 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
freshly shaved Parmesan cheese


Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil and the cold water and stir on low speed until the flour is all absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

Transfer the dough to floured work surface. Prepare a baking dish by lining it with lightly oiled parchment paper. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over the dough. Gently round each piece into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, lightly dip your hands in flour. Transfer the dough balls to the prepared dish, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days). At this point the dough can also be frozen; simply wrap each ball indvidually in plastic wrap and place inside a zippered freezer bag. Transfer to the refrigerator the day before you plan on baking them.

Remove dough from refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, 500 to 550 degrees F. If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and fennel and cook over medium heat until onions are soft and golden and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce, and continue to stretch/toss until the dough is approximately 7″ across and uniformly thin. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again.

Lay the stretched dough on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly brush with olive oil, and poke it a few times with a fork so it doesn’t bubble.

Brush crust with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread with grated mozzarella, and top with onion and fennel mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Gently slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Bake (two at a time) until the bottoms are lightly golden and the cheese is bubbly and just barely browned.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan. Repeat with remaining pizzas. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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  1. There’s an easy way to add color to this recipe – simply use red onions and chop up the fennel fronds (nice brigth green) and sprinke them on top. Very yummy!

  2. This pizza was amazingly delicious! I have never made caramelized fennel before and I think I am officially in love. This is my new favorite pizza combo. I featured this recipe in my latest weekly meal plan on my blog, thank you!

  3. I made this pizza and absolutely loved it! I have never used fennel but have always wanted to try it and am glad I did! Thank you so much! Everyone that tasted this pizza loved it :)

  4. i love so much onion in pizza or in flammenkuech !

  5. I don’t care how ugly you say this pizza looks…it looks and sounds delicious to me! Love the combination of ingredients!

  6. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder- my stomach would give this high marks. My tastebuds as well. :)

  7. I’ve got everything in my house to make this, I think it’s going to have to happen…soon!

  8. Looks delicious! I just found your blog…love it, and your photos are gorgeous!

  9. yum what a great way to use fennel, this looks delicious!

  10. I am so trying this this weekend! just wanted to stop by and say how much I love your blog. Almost every entry is starred in my reader! :)

  11. This looks lovely! I’m always experimenting with new pizza dough recipes and this one looks great. And caramelized fennel is such a great idea for a topping!

  12. My boyfriend is a huge pizza fan, but I must admit that I get bored with the same old pizza week after week. I try to rotate through a few different types of pizzas to mix things up. This looks so good, I’m going to give it a try and hopefully add it to the rotation.

  13. Gorgeous! It is a prefect combination of all things white.

  14. What a great twist to a pizza. I have never cooked with fennel, but this pizza is motivating me to want to try. Thanks for the great idea!

  15. I’ve never thought of this combination this sounds awesome!!!! OMG!

  16. Just found your site and I love it!! This pizza may be an ugly duckling, but it looks AWESOME! I love pizza just about any way you can make it, but I’m growing particularly fond of white pizza!

  17. Looks absolutely awesome :)

  18. I was cracking up when I got to the “butt ugly” pizza part! This is like a white pizza with a twist. I enjoy fennel but don’t have many ways to cook it. This would be a great one!

  19. Caramelized onions are my new favorite pizza topping. I’m sure I’ll love this pizza!

  20. I have a new found love for fennel. I have eaten it 3 times in the last 2 months and ahve come to enjoy it. This looks great!

  21. Oh, I just had pizza yesterday, but will try at home soon. This sounds and looks delicious.

  22. I’ll be in Nashville this weekend!! If City House has anything like this pizza, I’d better go there!

  23. I think it’s a pretty pizza, Lindsay! In fact, I’m making pizza tonight!

  24. I don’t know that monochrome necessarily means ugly. And let’s face it, any crust with that burnished gold around the edge promises such great flavor that it’s beautiful to anyone who loves food! I suppose if you really craved color, using red onions and sprinkling a bit of parsley over the top could add some interest.

  25. I love this kind of pizzas! I usually add 2-3 tbsp of sour cream to the shredded mozzarella, drizzle it with some olive oil and put this on the pizza which tastes fantastic!

  26. It looks like the crust recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. It is, in my humble opinion, the best pizza crust recipe ever!

  27. YUM! What a fantastic combination. And that pizza is kinda pretty :-)

  28. Oh I love pizza and this looks a humdinger. Will try as soon as I can get my act together.

  29. I’ve recently started attempting my own homemade pizzas but I have been having issues with the bottom of the crust burning. I have been using regular all purpose flour and not corn meal for dusting…does the corn meal not burn like the all purpose? I look forward to giving this one a try :)

  30. Looks delicious- love caramelized onions!

  31. Funny I just blogged about the exact the same idea some weeks ago :). Tastes so good.

  32. I love caramelized onions. This looks so yummy.

  33. I am a huge fennel fan. Ugly or not, who cares? It sounds great to me!

  34. Always looking for new ways to use fennel! This combo looks great!

  35. this looks divine. what a terrific combo using fennel with caramelized onions. I use the onions alot, but have never paired with fennel…can’t wait to try!

  36. Not a big fan of fennel, but i would love to sample this pizza!

  37. Gosh I just love City House and I’ve never had a pizza there I didn’t like. This looks UH-MAZING. Bookmarking now!

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