Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe

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This Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe combines the rich sweetness of the caramelized onions and fennel mixed with the slight tartness of goat cheese spiked with black peppercorns and Chinese 5 spice.

Inspired by the flavors and smells of absinthe, this pizza is made to be paired with absinthe cocktails for a gourmet experience.

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Absinthe and Food Pairing

Vertical 40 degree shot of pizza with onion dip, drinks, absinthe, an orange, and cloth napkin in the background.

For Valentine’s Day, I had originally planned to create a simple cocktail and main dish pairing. But time caught up with me and I wasn’t able to get the posts up in time. Luckily everything is ready for March 5th (National Absinthe Day).

In my obsession with one of my new favorite drinks, the Sazerac, I started to become fascinated by absinthe and its potential for pairing with food.

Absinthe has a very high alcohol content and it is extremely botanical. A little goes a long way.  Wormwood, fennel, and star anise usually form the all-important base and then other botanicals are added in secondary infusions.

For example, St. George Absinthe Verte adds mint, tarragon, opal basil, lemon balm, hyssop, and stinging nettles.

Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe Flavor Notes

Closeup overhead shot of a Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe on a slate cutting board.
  • Fennel has a sweet anise flavor that adds a bright and fresh spring-like taste to foods. Caramelizing the fennel and onions make both taste richer and emphases the sweetness of absinthe.
  • Goat cheese is rich and creamy which pairs with the herbaceousness of absinthe. Its slight tartness helps cut through the richness of the caramelized onions and fennel. 
  • The Pecorino Romano cheese and peppercorns add some salty and spicy notes that pair well with the initial spicy black licorice flavor.
  • Chinese 5 Spice is a blend that contains many of the same spices that are used in the distilling process to make absinthe. I only added a little to the goat cheese but it’s enough to get a subtle hit of fennel and sweet anise flavor that works nicely with absinthe.

Skillet Pizza Recipe Crust

Closeup overhead shot of a Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe on a slate cutting board.

America’s Test Kitchen has an excellent and FAST pizza crust recipe thanks to using a food processor. You can watch their YouTube video if you would like a visual aid.

I’ve provided instructions on how to make the crust using a stand mixer too just in case you don’t have a food processor that can handle making the dough.

Food Processor Instructions

Overhead shot of a pizza surrounded by a cloth napkin, drink, absinthe bottle, and an orange.

Using a food processor is the fastest method for making this pizza crust. Make sure that you have a food processor that has enough wattage (600 minimum) to handle doughs. I burnt my mini out making this crust (I mean it was 32 years old).

  • Lightly grease a large plastic bowl and set aside.     
  • In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, yeast, and salt and pulse until combined.    
  • With the motor running, add the oil and then the water. Process until a rough ball of dough forms.          
  • Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then process for another 30 seconds.  
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds until the dough has formed a smooth round ball.         
  • Put the dough seam side down in the greased plastic bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours until it is double in size.
  • Or immediately place the covered unrisen dough in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 16, letting it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes the next day before shaping.        

Stand Mixer Instructions

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together.        
  • Attach the dough hook and on low speed, add the water and mix until a cohesive dough forms and there is no dry flour, about 2 minutes.        
  • Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and clears the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.   
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds until the dough has formed a smooth round ball.         
  • Put the dough seam side down in the greased plastic bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours until it is double in size.
  • Or immediately place the covered unrisen dough in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 16, letting it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes the next day before shaping.        

Skillet Pizza Recipe Assembly

Overhead shot of Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe surrounded by a cloth napkin, fennel fronds, an orange, drinks, and onion dip.

The most important thing to remember while assembling your pizza is to use a light hand with the toppings. If you use too much olive oil, goat cheese spread, caramelized onions & fennel, or balsamic vinegar, you risk getting a soggy crust.

  • Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a pastry brush to grease a 12-inch oven-safe skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. It will seem like a lot but you want the oil to fry the bottom of the pizza crust, making it nice and crispy.   
  • Transfer the pizza dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Cover the half you aren’t rolling out with lightly greased plastic wrap. Press and roll the other piece of dough out into an 11-inch circle, trying to keep the dough thickness even throughout.   
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet and reshape if necessary.
  • Use a pastry brush to lightly spread extra-virgin olive oil over the crust and sprinkle with kosher salt.           
  • Very lightly spread about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture over the crust. 
  • Top with caramelized onions and fennel.      
  • Add 8 to 9 teaspoon-sized dollops of the cheese mixture on top of the caramelized onions and fennel and spread them out slightly.      
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the pizza (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle the grated pecorino romano cheese on top.    
  • Sprinkle fennel fronds on top of everything. I like to reserve some of the fennel fronds to sprinkle over the pizza once it’s done baking.
Overhead shot of a pizza on a slate cutting board surrounded by a cloth napkin.

Baking

  • Put the skillet over high heat and cook until the edge of the dough is set, the pizza is slightly puffed, and the bottom of the crust looks spotty brown (3 minutes).    
  • Transfer to the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes until the edges are brown          
  • Remove the skillet and slide the pizza onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before slicing.
  • You can make the second pizza or freeze the crust for another day.

Freezing Pizza Dough

  • Take the ball of dough and cover it with a coating of olive oil all over.      
  • Put it into a freezer bag and seal, making sure to squeeze out all the air.     
  • Keep the dough in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use it, transfer the dough to the fridge overnight for 12 hours.
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

Caramelized Onion and Fennel Dip with Goat Cheese

Overhead shot of onion dip in a basket with Fritos.

The caramelized onions and fennel and the goat cheese mixture make enough for two to three pizzas, depending on how much you load each pizza.

If you want pizza and a side dish, you can combine the leftovers in a food processor and blend until you have a smooth cohesive dip. It’s pretty tasty, so I highly recommend making it!

All Together Now

Overhead shot of a pizza, onion dip and Fritos, drinks, absinthe bottle, and an orange surrounded by a clothe napkin.

As you can see in the picture, I’m wanting you to try the whole flavor experience. Here are all the recipes for everything you see in the picture. You’ll be able to click on the links once the posts go live:

Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe

This Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe combines the rich sweetness of the caramelized onions and fennel mixed with the slight tartness of goat cheese spiked with black peppercorns and Chinese 5 spice. Inspired by the flavors and smells of absinthe, this pizza is made for pairing with absinthe cocktails.
Servings 2 to 4
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Rising Time 2 hrs

Ingredients

Crust Ingredients (from America’s Test Kitchen’s Skillet Pizza)

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons bread flour
  • 1 and 1/8 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup ice water

Pizza Ingredients

  • 1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil enough to cover the bottom of the sauté pan
  • 3 large onions thinly sliced
  • 4 fennel bulbs cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved for later
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + to taste
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper grind whole peppercorns in a spice grinder
  • 1/8 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup pecorino romano cheese grated
  • Fennel fronds

Instructions

Crust Instructions

  • Lightly grease a large plastic bowl and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, yeast, and salt and pulse until combined.
  • With the motor running, add the oil and then the water. Process until a rough ball of dough forms.
  • Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then process for another 30 seconds.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds until the dough has formed a smooth round ball.
  • Transfer the dough seam side down in the greased plastic bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours until it is double in size (see notes for freezing the pizza dough for later). Or immediately place the covered unrisen dough in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 16, letting it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes the next day before shaping.

Pizza Instructions

  • While the pizza dough is rising, caramelize the onions and fennel*. Heat the olive oil (1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on your skillet’s size) in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions and fennel and stir to coat.
  • Keep stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add salt and continue to cook for 30 more minutes to an hour, stirring every couple of minutes. You want the onions and fennel to start sticking a little to the pan and getting brown but you’ll want to stir enough that they don’t burn.
  • If the onions and fennel are getting really dry or are close to burning you can add a little water to the pan or more olive oil (you can also use broth, wine, or bourbon).
  • Keep going until the onions and fennel are a rich brown color. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.*
  • In a food processor, pulse the goat cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, and Chinese five-spice blend until smooth and well blended. Set aside.
  • Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a pastry brush to grease a 12-inch oven-safe skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. It will seem like a lot but you want the oil to fry the bottom of the pizza crust, making it nice and crispy.
  • Transfer the pizza dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Cover the half you aren’t rolling out with lightly greased plastic wrap. Press and roll the other piece of dough out into an 11-inch circle, trying to keep the dough thickness even throughout.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet and reshape if necessary.
  • Use a pastry brush to lightly spread extra-virgin olive oil over crust and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  • Very lightly* spread some of the cheese mixture over the crust (about 2 to 3 tablespoons).
  • Top with caramelized onions and fennel.
  • Add 8 to 9 teaspoon-sized dollops of the cheese mixture on top of the caramelized onions and fennel and spread them out slightly.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the pizza (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle the grated pecorino romano cheese on top.
  • Sprinkle fennel fronds on top of everything.
  • Put the skillet over high heat and cook until the edge of the dough is set, the pizza is slightly puffed, and the bottom of the crust looks spotty brown (3 minutes).
  • Transfer to the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes until the edges are brown
  • Remove the skillet and slide the pizza onto a wire rack and let cool slightly.
  • Repeat steps 6-17 for the second pizza. Or freeze the dough to save for later (see notes).

Notes

*The caramelized onions and fennel can be made ahead of time if desired. Simply store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator. It makes enough for 3 pizzas. Or you can make one pizza and blend the caramelized onions and fennel with the goat cheese to make an onion dip.
*Don’t overload your pizza with very thick layers of the different toppings.
What if you don’t have a food processor?
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together.
  • Attach the dough hook and on low speed, add the olive oil and water. Mix until a cohesive dough forms and there is no dry flour, about 2 minutes.
  • Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and clears the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.
  • Continue on with step
Freezing Pizza Dough
  • Take the ball of dough and cover it with a coating of olive oil all over.
  • Put it into a freezer bag and seal, making sure to squeeze out all the air. Keep the dough in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When you are ready to use it, transfer the dough to the fridge overnight for 12 hours.
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Author: Megan Wells
Course: Main Dishes
Keyword: food and drink pairings, homemade crust, pizza

Ingredients and Tools

This Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe combines the rich sweetness of the caramelized onions and fennel mixed with the slight tartness of goat cheese spiked with black peppercorns and Chinese 5 spice. | Food and Drink Pairing | Homemade Crust | Vegetarian | #vegetarianpizza | www.megiswell.com
This Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe combines the rich sweetness of the caramelized onions and fennel mixed with the slight tartness of goat cheese spiked with black peppercorns and Chinese 5 spice. | Food and Drink Pairing | Homemade Crust | Vegetarian | #vegetarianpizza | www.megiswell.com
This Caramelized Fennel & Onion Skillet Pizza Recipe combines the rich sweetness of the caramelized onions and fennel mixed with the slight tartness of goat cheese spiked with black peppercorns and Chinese 5 spice. | Food and Drink Pairing | Homemade Crust | Vegetarian | #vegetarianpizza | www.megiswell.com

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