Pizza Bianca is simply brushed with olive oil and topped with caramelized onions, fresh rosemary, and rich Gruyere cheese. The unique flavors combine to create a pizza that can be sliced super thin and served as an appetizer or served with a salad as the main event.
20-month-old June woke up one morning last week obsessed with Elmo. I’m not even sure how she knows Elmo, but suddenly that little red guy is everything. With all the Elmo talk and songs that come along with him, it’s feeling very kid-centric from 7am to 7pm around here. And since we’re in lockdown and our home is functioning as daycare, kindergarten, plus office for two full-time working adults, in the evenings it feels especially important to do something that is not kid-centric. Like eat a homemade pizza that none of the kids would touch.
Those foolish kids.
This pizza is such a favorite of ours that it felt like it needed its own post (though you may recognize it from the No-Knead Pizza Dough). It’s a Pizza Bianca that is subtly sweet from the caramelized onions, fragrant from a bit of fresh rosemary, and has the unique, rich, nutty flavor of Gruyere cheese on top. The Gruyere really makes it.
A version of this pizza may have been the first thing that Frank and I ever cooked together, back when we were living in Washington, D.C. circa 2006 (ish). We have likely never been as proud of our cooking skills as we were with the first bite of that pizza. It also took us about 3 hours to make it. This version will not take 3 hours.
Someday the kids will try a bite and realize what they’ve been missing all these years.
Here’s how to make Pizza Bianca with Caramelized Onions and Gruyere.
What is Pizza Bianca?
Pizza Bianca in Italian means “white pizza” and covers a whole category of pizzas that are made without sauce. The toppings can vary, but instead of the traditional red sauce, the surface of the pizza is brushed with olive oil. In a pizza like this you won’t miss the red sauce at all. The other flavors really shine.
Ingredients for Pizza Bianca
- Pizza Dough - Use your favorite pizza dough here. We’ve been loving the simplicity and chewy / airy texture of this No-Knead Pizza Dough. (That’s the dough that was photographed in this blog post, but it was refrigerated for several days before shown here.)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Instead of sauce, this pizza is brushed with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil before the toppings are added. The oil helps the crust to get a deep golden brown color and adds a subtle, fresh olive flavor.
- Caramelized Onions - See below for all the details on making caramelized onions. They are sweet and savory and make a super flavorful base for this pizza.
- Gruyere Cheese - The first time I had Gruyere cheese I was blown away by the rich, deep flavor of this Swiss-style cheese. It’s slightly crumbly and has a nutty, tangy flavor. It costs a bit more than mozzarella (which is more common on pizza), but seriously delivers on flavor.
- Fresh Rosemary - The savory flavor of fresh rosemary fits really well here. Be sure to remove the leaves from the stem and discard the stem (it’s too tough to chop along with the leaves). If you don’t want to buy rosemary just for this pizza, you can definitely skip it and still have a great dish.
How to Caramelize Onions
Caramelizing onions is the process of cooking them slowly to draw out their natural sugars and make them super tender and golden brown. The process is pretty simple, but it does take between 30 and 60 minutes (depending on the thickness of the onion slices and the natural moisture / sugar levels of the onions).
Onions can be caramelized and stored in the fridge for at least 5 days (and probably much longer), so it’s a great task to do ahead of time while you’re already in the kitchen cooking another meal, packing lunches, washing dishes, etc.
To caramelize onions:
- Slice the onions into slices that are about ⅓” thick. (No need to be super precise here, but if the slices are too thin they won't develop all the flavor that comes with the low, slow cooking process. If they are too thick, they'll take forever to cook. Try to strike a balance between those two.)
- Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter (use about 1 tablespoon of each per pound of onions).
- Add onions to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low.
- Season onions with salt and some sugar (about ½ teaspoon of each per pound of onions). (Note: Sugar is optional here, but can help to draw out the natural sugars in the onions and speed the caramelization process along.)
- Continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are very tender and deep golden brown, 30 to 50 minutes more. (Important: If the pan starts to look dry or the onions start to burn, add a splash of water. You may need to do this several times throughout the cooking process.)
That’s it! Store the onions in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
More Pizza and Flatbread Recipes
- Deep Dish Pizza - Homemade pizza makes always feels like a special meal, but this deep dish pizza might be a new favorite. This recipe makes two 8-inch deep dish pizzas that can be customized with any toppings you’d like.
- Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pizza - Mix up pizza night with this white pizza topped with garlic oil, shredded Brussels sprouts, crisp bacon, and creamy goat cheese.
- Half Sheet Pan or Pizza Stone - You can bake this pizza right on a sheet pan or slide it out onto a preheated pizza stone.
- Skillet - A heavy-bottomed skillet is ideal for caramelizing onions because it keeps the heat evenly distributed and prevents burning in spots. I love my Lodge Cast Iron.
Pizza Bianca with Caramelized Onions and Gruyere
- Sheet Pan or Pizza Stone
- Large Skillet
For the Onions:
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 1 lb Onions, sliced (yellow, white, or red onions will work)
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Sugar (optional)
For the Pizza
- 1 lb Pizza Dough (use your favorite dough, store-bought or homemade)
- 2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 5 oz Gruyere Cheese, grated
- 1 sprig Fresh Rosemary, leaves chopped
- If you are using fresh store-bought or homemade dough that has been refrigerated, set it out on a lightly floured surface and let it rest for 30 minutes before making your pizza. (The gluten in the dough will relax as it comes to room temperature and the pizza will be easier to work with.)
- Caramelize onions: Heat a large skillet with olive oil (portion for onions) and butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes to get them started cooking. Sprinkle onions with salt and sugar (if using). Once the onions have softened slightly, reduce the heat to low-medium and continue to cook onions, stirring often, until they are dark golden brown and super tender, 30 to 50 minutes. (Note: To prevent burning, add a splash of water to the pan if the onions start to dry out or look like they may burn.)
- Heat Oven: Preheat the oven to 500°F / 260°C. (If using a pizza stone, make sure the stone is in the oven as it heats.)
- Prepare pizza dough by stretching it out on a sheet pan or on the counter (if you are using a pizza stone / pizza peel).
- First Bake (5 minutes): Bake the pizza dough for 5 minutes without any toppings. This gives the crust a head start on getting a nice golden brown color and will help it to hold up to the toppings.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and brush the entire surface with olive oil (portion for the pizza). Top with onions, rosemary, and cheese.
- Second Bake (10 minutes): Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted, 10 to 14 minutes.
- Slice and serve.