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The Buonchristiani Lamb Fennel-Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Written By Brad English
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 Written Recipes

Lamb Fennel-Sausage and Mushroom Pizza paired with a wonderful BUONCHRISTIANI 2006 Artistico Syrah!

Buonchristiani 2006 Artistico Syrah

Not long after we started the website for Pizza Quest, we received an email from a pizza enthusiast named Jay Buonchristiani who happens to be one of 4 brothers who own a Napa Winery of the same name (  He grew up in Napa and has fond memories of cooking large meals and making wine in the garage with his father.  He continued to build on his love of food while working as a waiter in many of Napa’s premiere restaurants as he got older.  You can all guess the rest of “the dream” that he now lives!  After college he returned to Napa to embark on a successful wine career.  But, to make matters worse – at least for the rest of us not living “the dream” — Jay also has a wood burning oven on his property.  I should stop here.  We don’t like Jay very much do we? 

Of course I am kidding!  Without his love of food and wine, I wouldn’t be sharing this amazing pizza recipe!  This recipe comes after many large gatherings where they would cook and pair wines with their food often making 20-30 pizzas for their family and friends.

Jay sent me a couple bottles of his 2006 Artistico Syrah, that he pulled out of his library for me and was the original inspiration for this pizza recipe.  I also touched base with our cheese sponsor, Bel Gioioso Cheese, and they sent me some of their Fontina and Provolone Cheeses to use for these pizzas.  (Now who’s living the dream?!!  I sent two emails, and was sent some amazing wine and cheese.  I’m just saying!) 

I hope Jay likes what I’ve done here, because the next step in my dream is to visit and join him at one of his pizza marathons and I hope we can bring a camera crew along and get some more great recipe demos and a few great webisodes.

Fennel Sausage, Mushroom Pizza on Peter’s Neo-Neopolitan Dough

The pizzas were amazing!  I took the pizzas over to a BBQ later that day and re-warmed them and served them with the Syrah (I bought more than one bottle), and everyone loved the pizza and was really amazed at how well the wine and pizza went together.  It is truly magical when you bring ingredients together that create something more than the individual parts.  And, then, when you are lucky to be able to add the right wine, it’s almost as if you have created a whole new dish. 

*This will be a two-part recipe pictorial.  I tried something new that I thought would push my home baked pizza a little further that I want to post about in an upcoming week.  Stay tuned…

The BUONCHRISTIANI Lamb Fennel-Sausage and Mushroom Pizza Recipe:

Favorite Fresh Pizza Dough
Italian Fontina and Provolone cheese medium grated (3 oz per pizza total)
Teleme Cheese (or other soft creamy mild cheese like Brie) (about 1 oz per pizza)
Lamb Sausage (lamb, fennel, garlic, herbs, but without chilies)
Shitake and White button mushrooms (3 handfuls washed and sliced)
2 Garlic cloves
Tarragon (3 fresh sprigs)
Thyme (5 fresh sprigs)
Nutmeg (1/2 teaspoon)
White Pepper (to taste)
Sea Salt (to taste)
High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

From Jay Buonchristiani: A long time dream finally realized, my wife and I have imported an amazing Italian wood burning oven and plunked it right in our backyard.  Upon doing so, we’ve enjoyed having family and friends over to long dinners.  One particular purple toothed evening I was checking in on our 2006 Syrah and biting into a formage blanc and mushroom pizza.  Wow, what a combo, but I wanted to take it to the next level with some lamb sausage.  It worked so well with both our Syrah and Dolcetto that the family thought it was worth sharing.  I have notes on using your kitchen oven, but we are stoked on the dynamite quality from a live flame pizza oven, pumping out pizza in less than 2 minutes with incredible flavor and texture.  The fire even adds some smokiness which further complements the pairing with Syrah.  An idea to bring in this smoke component in your conventional oven would be to use smoked provolone.

Preheat the oven to highest setting and place a pizza stone or a piece of granite or marble in the oven on the center rack (note: a pizza stone or equivalent can be one of the best investments for your kitchen if you don’t already have one).

For the Lamb Sausage:
Your favorite local butcher should have some nice fresh lamb sausage.  Try and target a type simply made with fennel, herbs and garlic, but avoid anything hot and spicy.

*From Brad: My local Whole Foods didn’t have any Lamb Sausage, but the butcher offered to make some from ground lamb.  He used a basic Italian herbed spice mix.  I added my own fresh chopped garlic and toasted/crushed fennel seeds and chopped fresh fennel.

Heat up some olive oil on med-high and brown the sausage for about 5 minutes.  Pour in some red wine to de-glaze and partially cover to steam while allowing the wine to reduce, about 8-10 minutes more.  That’s it!  Don’t cook the lamb too long!  Cut the lamb into rough chunks (note, the center of the sausage should still be pink as the sausage will continue to cook on your pizza), drizzle with some olive oil, pinch of sea salt and white pepper to taste, add some tarragon leaves, set aside.

For the Mushrooms:
In the same pan (with the wine reduction remaining) add the mushrooms, garlic, remaining tarragon, nutmeg, and more olive oil to coat.  Sautée the mushies until slightly browned and tender (or to your liking).  Add sea salt and white pepper to taste, remove from heat and set aside.

Sliced Shitake and White Button Mushrooms

Sauteed until slightly browned

Pizza Time:
Pop open some Buoncristiani Syrah or Dolcetto (if it isn’t open already)!

*Brad: “It was!”


Stretch your dough out thin and make about 10 inch diameter pies.  Make sure you have plenty of extra flour underneath your paddle (or your cutting board) so your pizza can slide off easily onto the pizza stone.  Start by layering the 3 white cheeses (note: there is no tomato sauce on this pizza), then the sautéed mushrooms, and then scatter some lamb sausage chunks around (enough so that each slice will have some, but try not to use too much of any topping).  Use a touch more provolone or fontina over the top.

Slide the pizza onto the pre-heated stone (oven set at 500F), and cook until crispy and golden (about 8-10 minutes) [NOTE: if using a wood-fired oven the time is cut to about 2 minutes] Garnish with fresh thyme and some more olive oil, slice and enjoy.  Salute!

A perfect balance of flavors!






I thought of something else. As I mentioned in my recipe pictorial, I had to make the lamb sausage from ground lamb. It was very lean and I probably should have cooked it less in the pan – so it had room to finish in the oven on the pie. So, try to get a real lamb sausage, so there’s a little more fat and therefore moistness, or, be really careful, and only brown the ground lamb so it doesn’t dry out. It still tasted amazing, but the next time I try for “perfection”, as if that’s attainable, that’s one thing I’ll watch.

Good luck!



I just got home from Victoria Market (Melbourne, Aust), having bought some lamb sausage and mushrooms. I guess that I know what is for dinner tomorrow.
Thanks Brad.

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