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Hi!

Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the sagas found here!

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza

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Hello from Raleigh, NC! I made the drive late Friday night/early Saturday morning, cruising the interstates at 1am with the entire state of Florida, a good chunk of Georgia, a posse of fellow-South Carolinians, and some random stragglers from New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as we all fled from Hurricane Irma. 

A moment on that. My thoughts and prayers and worries and heart and all the wild hope I can possibly muster is with everyone who has already been affected, who is currently within the storm's wrath, and who lies in the path of this disaster. I also offer prayers and support to those, like me, who have family and friends in the affected regions. Along those same lines, my thoughts and prayers are similarly with those in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Utah, and Colorado who are dealing with the effects of the widespread and damaging wildfires and their thick and toxic smoke clouds. And just as prevalent, I think of and pray for those affected by the horrendous earthquake in Mexico and Guatemala on Thursday. Our natural world is off-balance.

There are so many more tragedies that have struck just in the past week that I could mention, both small and large. There is a lot of negativity in our world, a lot of bad things that happen every single day, and I believe that we need to recognize that truth. Hiding from it or pretending that it doesn't exist does no good, for you or for anyone else. But neither does fixating on it; sometimes it's so easy to take a dark mental path, to get caught up in the negativity and let it alter our thoughts and make them cold and dreary, to let the darkness chase us down a winding maze we can't find our way back from. And when you start focusing on only the bad and seeing only the ways that people can get hurt and can hurt each other, when you obsess about everything that could possibly go wrong, you miss out on the simple beauty of optimism. You miss out on the tender, breathtaking moments of positivity that also happen every single day. Each of us needs to discover a balance.

I am guilty of these things, both of avoiding the bad stuff and of becoming so wrapped up in it that I lose hold of the light. It's easy to do, and the thing about negativity and positivity is that they are both cyclical. Neither will remain with you forever, no matter how much we may chase one and run from the other. I can't tell you how much of either you can handle, what your personal balance is; you have to find that out for yourself. All I can say is this: just because you learn about and recognize the bad things that happen in life doesn't mean that you have to let them crush you. Finding a balance of negativity and positivity in your own life is not an excuse for or damnation to self-punishment; rather, it is a call to action, a mantle of responsibility. We are each responsible for not being ignorant of the problems our world and our fellow human beings face, responsible for acknowledging the trials and offering our support.

But we are also responsible for finding the light. We also have a duty to ourselves and to those around us to be vigilant in realizing the beauty and strength that surrounds us, to take a moment to pause and focus on the way the sunlight feels as it hits our skin, to notice the dappled pattern it makes on the ground as it winds its way through the leaves on the trees above us. To share words of comfort to someone struggling, to offer a bear-hug to someone who hurts. To stop descending into the darkness of worry and depression and instead make a pan of brownies as a method of self-care, to let the smell of them baking in the oven fill your senses and surround you with peace and comfort. To be bold enough to smile.

Balance.

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This is a heavier post. But pizza is full of positivity, and today I have a recipe for Roasted Garlic & Tomato Spicy Italian Sausage pizza for you. See the balance I was talking about? It's already coming into play! 

We're caught in that awkward period before fall *officially* starts, but Target has been stocking fall decor for weeks just to confuse us, and pumpkin spice is beginning its annual crusade on our senses. As far as food is concerned, I'm starting to crave things like rich soups and spiced breads, but some people get aggressive when you discuss such things while the temperature is still in the 80's. 

Thus, this pizza. Roasted garlic and tomato are flavors generally associated with heavier, heartier things you make in the colder months, like soups and thick sauces. But they play a brighter, sweeter role on this pizza, nodding to the approach of fall and winter without committing to it. And the addition of fresh basil acknowledges summer's lingering presence, both at the farmers' market and in the weather. Plus, this pizza is super quick and easy to make, giving us time to enjoy the last of the dog days of summer before we bust out our cozy sweaters and get our hygge on. 

xoxo Alexa

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Roasted Garlic & Tomato Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza


Makes: 2-3 large slices, or 12 small slices

Takes: 35 minutes

The Characters:

  • 1/2 ground hot Italian sausage (you can also use mild and add crushed red pepper)
  • 1 pizza crust dough
  • Jar of marinara or tomato sauce (I'd suggest fire-roasted or roasted garlic flavors, to add a little more pizazz)
  • 1 & 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (more or less as desired)
  • 3-5 pepperoni slices, sliced in quarters
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • A few fresh basil leaves
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

The Saga:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°. Place a pizza stone in the oven to warm up as the oven preheats. Note: If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a baking sheet. 
  2. On the stovetop, cook ground sausage in a skillet on medium heat until browned (around 10 minutes), using a spatula to break the meat apart as it cooks.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough into a flat, square shape. 
  4. Remove the pizza stone/baking sheet from the oven. Sprinkle a dash of flour over the surface, and then carefully transfer the dough over to the stone, keeping its square shape intact.
  5. Using a spoon, ladle tomato sauce over dough and spread around, leaving a 1/2 inch gap around the edges to serve as the crust.
  6. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese over the sauce (or as much cheese as is personally desired), reserving the other 1/4 cup.
  7. Cut your desired amount of pepperoni into quarters, and place them on top of the mozzarella.
  8. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange them on the pizza, cut-side down to prevent rolling.
  9. Mince garlic cloves, scattering them over the top of the pizza.
  10. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 cup of mozzarella, and then arrange a few whole, fresh basil leaves on top. 
  11. Sprinkle your pizza with some crushed red pepper flakes for a little extra spice and punch. *Optional*
  12. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and done.
  13. Remove your pizza from the oven and slice either into 2-3 large, rectangular slices or 12 small, square slices. Or slice into 32 mini-bites or 6 pizza pie triangles (pie-angles?!) or a dodecahedron for two (impossible, but if you somehow succeed you get brownie points and I want pictures of that pizza). However you slice it--enjoy!

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