Smoked Mozzarella, Pancetta and Kale Pizza

By Ann Fulton

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Pizza night is always popular here.  The kids and my husband have a few long-standing favorites, so a new recipe has to be really good to earn a spot in the regular rotation! Recently, I received a delicious care package from Formaggio Cheese to use in a Cooking Planit recipe in conjunction with a contest involving readers’ favorite “cheese-centric” recipes. (Entries are now open and you can submit your favorite recipe HERE.  See additional details below.)

Whether topping a pizza or a platter of vine-ripened tomatoes and basil, many people love fresh mozzarella for its soft, creamy texture and milky flavor. Similar to other fresh cheeses, mozzarella is high in water content.  This is one reason I don’t always use it on pizza.  When heated, water can seep out and create a soggy crust.  So, for this recipe, I reached for Formaggio’s smoked mozzarella.  With its uniquely delicious flavor, the smoked mozzarella really made the pizza. It had occurred to me that, as creatures of habit, my kids might not love a pizza with smoked cheese.  We all agreed, however, that the flavor was amazing and this pizza would, in fact, be made again soon.

Formaggio’s hickory-smoked mozzarella is smoked naturally with hickory chips – twice.  (All of their products are naturally gluten-free as well.)  Compared to fresh mozzarella, the smoked variety lends a similar yet slightly firmer texture.  It can be easily shredded with a handheld grater and does not release liquid when heated.  The flavor is more pronounced than fresh mozzarella, yet not overpowering.  I think everyone in my family found a new love.

The Cooking Planit recipe wisely paired the smoky cheese with just two other toppings: pancetta and kale.  (Plus a little garlic which, I think, adds a delicious background note.) The combination was complimentary and, in its simplicity, allowed each distinct flavor to truly shine.  For those who may not be familiar with Cooking Planit, it’s an app that is designed to be a helper in the kitchen.  Starting with grocery planning, the app takes you through clear steps that deliver a wide variety of tested recipes in a timely fashion.  In my rendition of the recipe, below, I consolidate a few of the steps and offer an option or two based on what has worked for me when making pizza.  For those who appreciate the tips and options I typically offer within a recipe, Cooking Planit delivers its recipes in the same helpful manner.

Now it’s time to grab your recipe box. The Cooking Planit Formaggio Cheese Challenge runs from June 9th through June 19th. Click HERE to submit a recipe that you love–it just needs to include cheese!  Sharing your recipe will earn you a chance to have your dish prepared, photographed and added to the recipe collection. The top 3 winners will also receive a 10-piece Formaggio Cheese Basket & 5-piece cheese knife set. Good luck!

Smoked Mozzarella, Pancetta and Kale Pizza
Smoked cheese, earthy kale and salty pancetta make for an incredibly delicious and unique pizza. If you like a touch of heat, a pinch or two of crushed red pepper is a nice addition. Though it is fun to use homemade dough, frozen dough works well, too. There are some delicious pre-made crusts available, and the time they save can be helpful. Feel free to cut the recipe in half and make just one pizza, although any leftovers taste delicious the next day.

Yields two 10-12 inch round pizzas.
  • 2 (10-12 inch round) pizza prepared crusts or dough to start from scratch
  • 10 slices ((6-7 ounces) pancetta, sliced crosswise into strips
  • 1 large bunch (6-8 ounces) kale, bought stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces Formaggio smoked mozzarelle cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (I used 1/4 teaspoon of each)
  • Olive oil for drizzling (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Flour and cornmeal for dusting if making your own crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, and drain all but a tablespoon or two of grease from the pan.
  3. Return the pan to the heat, and sauté the garlic in the remaining grease for 30 seconds or until just fragrant. Add the kale and cook until just wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
  4. If not using a pre-cooked crust, form two pizza rounds by rolling out the dough on a lightly floured surface until they are 10 to 12-inches in diameter and about a 1/2 inch thick. You may wish to roll out the second one while the first is baking. Remember to place on the peel or sheet pan before you add toppings. (You may also follow the directions for the gluten-free crust; see linked recipe, above.) Once in the desired shape, place on parchment-lined baking sheets. If using a pizza stone, place the pizzas, one at a time, on a pizza peel–or on a cool, upside-down sheet pan–dusted with cornmeal. Use enough cornmeal so that dough does not stick to the surface.
  5. Drizzle the pizza dough or the prepared crusts with the olive oil. Scatter the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of each pizza, followed by the sautéed kale and crisp pancetta.
  6. Transfer the pizza to the oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly. If using precooked crusts, bake for approximately 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Once one pizza is out of the oven, proceed with the second pizza. Cut the pizzas into quarters or eighths. Transfer to plates and serve warm.
  • Bacon would work in place of pancetta, and spinach is a good substitute for the kale.
  • Tip: If not using a baking stone, I like to slide the pizza (that is on parchment paper on the baking sheet) onto a cooling rack immediately after removing from the oven. This prevents the steam from making the bottom of the crust damp or soggy.
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The Fountain Avenue Kitchen

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