Sometimes I have a craving for the finer bites a soiree has to offer. Sometimes I dream of red snapper ceviche. I often drool at the thought of smoked duck breast with maple glaze, or of beef tenderloin with horseradish mousse, or clams casino. Yes, those appetizers often dance around in my head as my stomach rumbles and mouth begins to water, but there is one thing that I always want to munch on… And that’s pizza.
I don’t think I have to spend much time convincing you that pizza is amazing. It is part of a weekly (sometimes semi-weekly) rotation in my house, and I doubt I am alone in that routine. However, I always get slightly bummed when I’m having guests over and, due to the nature of the event, ordering pizza seems like a bit of a cop out.
That exact scenario just occurred recently as I prepared for a nice, family get-together. I was craving pizza like you couldn’t believe, but was well aware that I was supposed to whip up an appetizer for everyone. I was already tired and had just paid all of my bills, so I didn’t feel like working all day in the kitchen or breaking the bank trying to create something spectacular. All I wanted to do was order a pizza, jazz it up a bit, slice it up, and set it out for everyone to enjoy. As I sneakily began to put my plan in motion, picking up the telephone and dialing the first few numbers boldly printed across a worn and faded menu, I wondered why I didn’t just make my own, jazzed up version of pizza at home. I hung up the phone before anyone answered. Old Village Pizzeria would have to wait ‘til next week; I was going to make a flatbread loaded up with all of my favorite toppings, instead.
Topped flatbread is pizza’s slightly more sophisticated cousin, and it’s the perfect appetizer for guests to enjoy. My flatbread was made with loads of provolone cheese, sautéed spinach, crispy pancetta, and a drizzle of roasted garlic aioli—extra garlicky, of course. Now, I will be honest with you and say this is not a hard appetizer to put together, but the easiest appetizers are always the ones that get eaten up the quickest and raved about for the entire event. Go figure. Having said that, make sure you make enough for everyone…and for leftovers! You’ll want to open the fridge to find slices of this loaded flatbread waiting for you the next time you get hungry.
I could eat this every day.
For the aioli:
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper
For the flatbread dough:
- 2 cups Bisquick
- ½ cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons butter
For the toppings:
- 1 package (12 slices) non-smoked provolone cheese, cut into large pieces (use more if you like your flatbread extra cheesy)
- 2 packages (8 oz) pancetta, diced
- 1 bag fresh baby spinach leaves
- ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Chop off the top of the garlic bulbs, just enough to expose the tops of the cloves.
- Wrap each bulb individually in aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
- As you wait, add your Bisquick and hot water to a medium-sized bowl and mix until a stiff dough forms. Then let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a surface that has been dusted with Bisquick or flour, and knead the dough for 2 minutes.}
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle, brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet, and cover with a barely-dampened paper towel until ready for the oven.
- After 45 minutes, take out the garlic. Let the bulbs cool, and then squeeze the roasted garlic paste from the skin of the garlic. Discard the skin.
- Add the garlic paste, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and well-blended.
- Transfer the aioli to a squeeze bottle for condiments. I rinsed out a nearly-empty sriracha bottle because I couldn’t find my squeeze bottle, and it worked perfectly.
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook pancetta until it becomes just slightly crispy.
- Keep pancetta and grease in the pan, and add spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until spinach wilts, about 3-5 minutes.
- When you are ready to cook your flatbread, heat the oven to 450 degrees, and put the flatbread in the oven for 5 minutes without any toppings.
- Remove the flatbread from the oven but leave the oven on. Add the provolone, spinach, and pancetta. Return to oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the crust has slightly browned.
- Drizzle with garlic aioli, slice with a pizza cutter, and serve.
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