I'll be honest: The appetizer is often the last thing I think about when planning a dinner party. But as someone who can never quite get dinner on the table when expected, I find an appetizer to be all-too-necessary for forestalling hunger pangs among my guests. This is where a simple yet elegant first course like this flatbread becomes extremely handy.
I am a sweet potato fiend. I love its earthy-sweet flavor and creamy texture, not to mention the fact that it bakes in a matter of minutes. The arugula on this flatbread adds a nice peppery contrast to the mellowness of the sweet potato.
This is also not an appetizer that will fill you up. For larger dinner parties, I like to cut it into tiny pieces that can be eaten in a bite or two. When the gathering is smaller, larger pieces can become a first course to the main meal.
This recipe continues to be one of my favorites that I've ever posted. I have to confess, though, that I rarely think to make it as an appetizer — it's just so good as a light weeknight dinner! It's also my go-to whenever I'm hosting a pizza night that includes a few vegetarian friends — I make one Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers, Sausage, and Monterey Jack Cheese for the omnivores and one of these for the vegetarians, and everyone is happy.
I have made zero changes to this recipe, though sometimes I skip the thyme when I don't have any fresh in the fridge. I've also increased the oven temperature from 450°F to 550°F, following my revelation that higher oven heat makes awesome pizza. I suspect that increasing the oven temperature will also help those of you having trouble with crunchy sweet potatoes — though you can also par-boil the sweet potato slices for a few seconds in boiling water or partially steam them for a minute in the microwave.
Serves 8 to 16 as an appetizer or 4 as a light dinner
1 pound pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
1 medium sweet potato (roughly 10 ounces)
1 cup ricotta
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, loosely packed
2 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 550°F. If you have a baking stone, set it in the oven now.
Use your hands to gently press the pizza dough into a large oval. If the dough starts to spring back, let it rest for a few minutes and then try again. I prefer to roll the dough on top of a piece of parchment paper to make it easier to shuttle the pizza into the oven.
Peel the sweet potato and slice it into thin 1/8" coins (or use a mandoline). Toss the coins with a little olive oil in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the thyme into the ricotta.
Spread the ricotta mixture across the top of the dough. Arrange the sweet potato coins in slightly overlapping layers on top. (Make sure the layers don't overlap too much or the sweet potatoes might not cook through where they touch.) Sprinkle the entire surface with a little salt.
Bake for 5 minutes directly on the baking stone or on a baking sheet. Rotate the flatbread, then bake for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the edges of the bread are deeply golden and the sweet potatoes are soft. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for one more minute.
As soon as you take the flatbread out of the oven, scatter the arugula over top. Let it stand for a few minutes before cutting so the arugula wilts a little. Slice and serve either warm or room temperature.