If you’ve been around long, you know that I don’t tend to use sauces on my pizzas. When I do, usually it’s my spicy San Marzano tomato sauce. Other than that, I’m all about just brushing the dough with olive oil and letting the toppings speak for themselves. So when I got a request for garlic fennel pizza sauce, I wasn’t sold on the idea at first.
I was wrong. With some tweaking, this stuff became so addictive that I seriously just wanted to eat it with a spoon. It turns out it works really well as a pasta sauce too! The flavor is strong but understated, if that makes sense, so I recommend using toppings that won’t overwhelm it. Think mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, squash, caramelized onions, or things like that. Avoid anchovies, green olives, capers, and other super powerful toppings that tend to overwhelm the pizza.
Notes on This Recipe:
Yield: 2 cups. Using about 1/4 cup per personal-sized pizza, this is enough for about 8 pizzas.
Consistency: the final product should be loose enough to spread easily, but not watery. Sauce that’s too wet can contribute to a soggy pizza.
Fennel bulb: I guess it’s A Thing right now to debate whether you can use the core of fennel bulbs. I like to cut out at least the very bottom core where it’s extra thick and fibrous. Beyond that, it’s totally up to you! I’ve tried it both ways, and don’t find that it makes much difference, so removing all of the core seems like a waste of fennel. But your pizza sauce, your choice.
Tomato: this isn’t a tomato-based sauce, because I wanted it to be versatile for pizzas that might not go well with tomato. If you want tomato, though, feel free to add it! Here are two ways to do this.
Option 1: saute some tomato paste from the beginning with the fennel and onion.
Option 2: chop or slice some fresh tomatoes, and add them immediately after deglazing with the wine. You may need to simmer the sauce for a bit longer to help the tomatoes break down. If you use fresh tomatoes, you probably won’t need to add any extra liquid to get the sauce to the right consistency.
Wine: use a wine you would be happy to drink, but don’t go overboard with a super fancy one!
If you’re avoiding alcohol: feel free to skip the wine! I love the way it tastes, but your sauce will still be delicious if you don’t use it. Instead, substitute an equal amount of a stock or broth of your choice.
Pizza pairing: this sauce goes perfectly with my honey garlic pizza or my potato leek pizza!
Other uses: if you have leftovers, this sauce works great with other things too! Toss it on some pasta, mix it with couscous or rice, or even use it as a spread on crostini or bruschetta.
Saute the main ingredients. You’ll start off by slicing the onion and fennel. The size of your slices doesn’t matter much, since they’ll all get blended in the end! But go for a consistent size between the two so they’ll cook at the same rate. In other words, don’t slice your onion super thinly and your fennel super thick!
The saute time depends on the thickness as well as the size of your pan and the heat, but expect it to take around 15 minutes for the garlic and fennel to get translucent and soft. From there, you’ll add the garlic and cook it just until it’s fragrant. It’s easy to burn garlic, so have your wine ready to pour in.
Deglaze and simmer. Once the garlic is fragrant but not burned, pour in the wine. The liquid will help encourage the yummy browned bits on the pan to come off, so use a wooden spoon to scrape them off the pan.
After deglazing the pan, cover it with a lid and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer the whole mixture for about 10 minutes. This softens the fennel and onions even more, and allows all the flavors to blend.
Finish the sauce. Add the goat cheese to the pan and stir everything until it melts. This should go pretty quickly! At this point, remove the pan from the heat. (If you keep simmering it once the goat cheese is melted, you might end up with broken chunks of goat cheese instead of a smooth sauce.) Stir in the lemon zest; the sauce will still be hot enough to release its flavors!
Once the sauce is cool enough to be safe and comply with manufacturer’s instructions on your blending device, blend it until smooth. You can use a blender, a food processor, or an immersion blender.
At this point, you’ll probably need to add liquid to help the sauce blend and achieve the right consistency. For the batch in these pictures, I used milk. You can also use stock or broth of your choice, or even water if absolutely necessary. I needed about ½ cup of milk, but go for the consistency you want instead of using a specific amount of liquid.
Your sauce is done! Just taste it in case you want to adjust the seasoning. You can add more salt if necessary, or lemon zest if you want it brighter. Then just spread it on your pizza base, top with your favorite ingredients, bake, and enjoy!
Take Your Garlic Fennel Pizza Sauce to the Next Level:
Use roasted garlic. The recipe calls for fresh garlic that you saute in the pan. Using roasted garlic, though, adds a whole new dimension of flavor. I love garlic, so I would personally toss in about five or six cloves of roasted garlic and still using the fresh garlic too. If you want to completely substitute roasted garlic, though, use about 10 cloves (roasted is milder than fresh!) instead of the fresh garlic.
Use garlic confit. Have I mentioned that garlic confit is one of my favorite things ever? Feel free to add a tablespoon of garlic confit to the recipe, either instead of or in addition to the fresh garlic.
Looking for something to do with this garlic fennel pizza sauce recipe? Try my honey garlic pizza or my potato leek pizza!
Garlic Fennel Pizza Sauce
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 large yellow onion
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- milk or stock as needed
- Saute the main ingredients. Slice the fennel and onion. Roughly chop the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the sliced fennel, sliced onion, and salt. Saute until translucent, stirring regularly, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.
- Deglaze and simmer. Deglaze the pan by pouring the white wine into it and scraping up any browned bits. Cover, turn to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Finish the sauce. Add the goat cheese and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Once the sauce has cooled enough, blend until smooth. If necessary, add milk or stock of your choice to reach the ideal sauce consistency (I used 1/2 cup of milk). Taste, add salt or lemon zest if necessary, and proceed with making your pizza!
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