Home What's Cooking? Thinking Beyond the Pizza Box—Guest Post from Dawn LaRochelle

Thinking Beyond the Pizza Box—Guest Post from Dawn LaRochelle

Dawn LaRochelle is a “recovering” Harvard-trained Wall Street attorney–turned–Berkshires restaurateur and caterer.  She owns Perigee RestaurantApogee Catering, and Bete’Avon! Kosher Catering in South Lee, Massachusetts, and Wyld Thyme Catering & Restaurant in Chester, Massachusetts. Today she joins us for a guest post about one of our favorite topics: incredible—and healthy!—food.


Image via Vegetable Gohan


“You have a very rare and extremely contagious condition,” the doctor told his patient.  “We’re going to put you in an isolation unit, where you’ll be on a pizza diet.”

“Will pizza cure my condition?” asked the patient, impressed.

“No,” replied the doctor.  “But it’s the only thing we can slip under the door.”

All joking aside, while pizza isn’t usually what the doctor orders, by kneading pizza dough instead dialing for takeout, you can turn that pie into a nutrient-dense, well-balanced, and delicious meal.

A wholesome pizza begins with a wholesome crust—and a from-scratch, 100 percent whole-wheat crust is tough to top, and wonderful when topped! For those of you who have attempted to make a whole-wheat pizza crust, only to end up something as heavy as a brick and about as tasty, the key is to remember that whole-wheat flour has two components: white flour and bran/fiber (in rough numbers, 100 pounds of whole-wheat flour is comprised of 80 pounds of white flour and 20 pounds of bran). Because the bran portion hydrates much more slowly than the white-flour portion, when whole wheat dough is mixed in the “normal” manner (that is, when all the dough ingredients are put in a bowl and immediately mixed together), the dough becomes excessively tight and dry.

The solution is to make the dough in two parts: a soaker (simply, a portion of the whole-wheat flour and a portion of the water) and a preferment (yeasted mixture). After sitting for at least an hour at room temperature, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator, the soaker and preferment are mixed together and treated like any other pizza dough. Using just a small amount of melted butter in the dough imparts a wonderful richness to the finished crust (it will still be wonderful if extra-virgin olive oil is substituted), and honey provides a nice background flavor and stands up well to the assertiveness of the whole-wheat flour.

Think outside the pizza box when it comes to toppings, and you’ll open up a world of exciting and nutritious possibilities. Arugula and baby spinach  kick traditional pesto up a few notches and pack it with vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium. Roasting a colorful array of vegetables conserves flavor and nutrients. Fresh mozzarella has a glorious silky texture and delectably delicate taste—moreover, while almost identical to part-skim mozzarella in terms of calories and fat, it has fewer carbohydrates (part-skim mozzarella is often mixed with potato starch) and significantly less sodium (200 fewer milligrams, to be exact). Goat cheese provides creaminess and tang, is easy on the digestive system, and is lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat than its bovine counterpart; it is also rich in protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, phosphorous, and niacin. And is there anything that doesn’t taste better with fresh basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese?

While this recipe is fun to prepare and makes for great eating, if you’re pressed for time, feel free to substitute a premade whole-wheat store-bought crust. Pesto not to your liking? Fresh tomato slices are always a good option. Don’t care for zucchini and peppers? Grill up some asparagus and sweet potatoes instead. Bottom line: eating healthy should be fun and easy—not to mention delectable! Who said you can’t have your pie and eat it, too?


Whole-Wheat Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella, and Roasted Vegetables

By Dawn LaRochelle



  • Pizza Crust
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • Arugula Pesto
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 1/4 cups arugula leaves, well rinsed and towel dried
  • 2 1/2 packed cups fresh baby spinach leaves, well rinsed and towel dried
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • 2 whole zucchini, cut into diagonal slices
  • 2 whole yellow squash, cut into diagonal slices
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 whole yellow bell pepper
  • 1 whole red bell pepper
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese



  1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cup of the whole-wheat flour, the salt, and 1/2 cup of the water to create the soaker. Stir until well combined. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then set aside.
  2. Next, to make the preferment, mix together 3/4 cup of the whole-wheat flour, the yeast, and 1/4 cup water. Stir until combined. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Let the soaker and preferment sit for 1 hour (or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator; if refrigerated, remove and let rest for an hour before continuing).
  4. Place the preferment in the bottom of an electric mixing bowl, then add the soaker to the bowl in chunks. Add in the honey, olive oil, and the rest of the flour. Mix on low speed until combined, about 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and mix for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Place the dough ball in a bowl and let rise for an hour, until about double in size (or refrigerate overnight; then remove and let it rest at room temperature for 3 hours before continuing).
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to desired thickness and shape.


  1. With motor running of a food processor running, drop the garlic through the fed tube to mince.
  2. Add the pine nuts, arugula, spinach, and Parmesan, and pulse until the greens are finely chopped.
  3. With the motor still running, gradually add the oil to make a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer to a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. The pesto can be made up to 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.


  1. Brush the zucchini and yellow squash slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat until tender, with nice grill marks. Set aside.
  2. Place the whole peppers on the grill and allow to blacken. Remove from the grill and immediately place in a large Ziploc bag. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or so, then remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the blackened skin. Seed peppers, then slice into strips. Set aside.


  1. Place a rack toward the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Spread a generous layer of pesto all over the surface of the crust (refrigerate or freeze any leftover pesto for future use).
  3. Arrange the slices of mozzarella all over the pesto. Arrange the grilled zucchini, squash, and peppers in a pretty pattern on top of the mozzarella. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly; don’t allow the cheese brown too much.
  4. Remove from the oven and crumble the goat cheese on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Cut into slices and serve.


Yield: Approximately 8 slices


Contact Dawn LaRochelle at dawn@perigee-restaurant.com


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