Pizza is a favorite known around the world. Pizza often reflects the different tastes and flavors of the country in which it is prepared and differs from the pizza we know. Even in the United States, pizza styles and varieties vary from region to region. For instance, two American favorites are the Chicago style deep-dish pizza, which is known for a plump, thick crust topped with gobs of cheese, sausage, and pepperoni; and the New York-style pizza, which has a thin as a cracker crust and is topped with the traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Pizza also comes in various forms — pizza rolls, pizza pockets, stuffed crust pizza, grilled pizza, calzones, English muffin pizza, flat bread pizza, French bread pizza and even dessert pizza. Some of these are readily available in your supermarket or easily made at home.
Griffin, my youngest son, worked at a local pizzeria throughout his high school years. He started out as a dishwasher and worked his way up to an assistant manager. To this day his love of pizza has never waned; it is still his favorite requested any occasion food (he wanted it on the dinner menu for his wedding rehearsal dinner).
Pizza is often thought of as a diet buster with little nutritional value, but it can serve as a healthy meal. Look for whole wheat or multi-grain pizza dough at the grocery store. Then, search for vegetables and meats that appeal to you; seafood such as cooked shrimp or crabmeat are tasty choices that are often overlooked. Chicken, chicken/turkey sausage, lean beef and ham are also good options.
Fresh produce options are endless. Corn, mushrooms, red peppers, spinach, onions, broccoli and pineapple make all kinds of tasty combinations. Canned or frozen vegetables also work well. As for sauces, pizza and spaghetti sauce work well and pesto is a great alternative.
Mozzarella is normally the cheese of choice for topping a pizza, but a variety of other cheeses can be used. Just remember, some cheeses have strong distinctive tastes such as blue and feta cheeses and should be used sparingly rather than heaped on the top.
When making pizza, even a kitchen novice can test out ideas and get creative without running into too many culinary disasters. Homemade pizza is not difficult to make, especially if you buy the dough already prepared, which is what I do. Here are some ideas that may help get the ideas flowing.
Slice or chop three or four fresh tomatoes and place them evenly on the dough. Canned chopped tomatoes can be used instead of fresh tomatoes. Place thin slices of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes. Use scissors to cut thin strips of eight to 10 basil leaves. Sprinkle the basil strips on top of the mozzarella and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Top the dough with pesto sauce. Arrange prosciutto, fresh pineapple and rosemary on top. Sprinkle Pecorino Romano on the pizza after baking.
Spread spaghetti sauce onto the dough. Top it with cooked chicken strips, sliced artichoke hearts and frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed dry). Sprinkle with blue cheese.
Spoon pesto sauce onto the dough and spread it all around. Cut cooked shrimp in half and scatter around on top of the pesto. Add sliced red peppers, sliced mushrooms and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
Spread spaghetti or pizza sauce onto the dough. Top with cooked chicken strips, diced kalamata olives, sliced mushrooms and feta cheese.
Spread pesto onto the pizza dough. Drain frozen spinach and arrange on the dough. Then, cut cooked shrimp in half and place on top. Cut corn off a fresh cob and add it. Finish with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Begin with a thin layer of spaghetti sauce. Slice your favorite cooked chicken/turkey sausage into thin pieces and arrange over the top. Add caramelized sliced onions and steamed broccoli florets. Top with feta cheese.
Fruit is a nice addition to a pizza such as pineapple added to a meat pizza (called a Hawaiian pizza).
Microwaving pepperoni for 30 seconds eliminates the possibility that it will turn your pizza into a grease trap.
I usually pre-bake my crust about eight to ten minutes before adding the toppings. I don’t have a pizza stone, so I place my pizza dough on a large flat cast iron griddle that has been preheated in a very hot oven. This works for me and gives me a brown crispy crust.
Fanciful Fruit Pizza
1 roll (16.5 oz.) Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh or canned peach slices, drained and cut into thinner slices
1 cup halved or quartered fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup apple jelly
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-inch pizza pan or spray with cooking spray.
Break up the cookie dough in the pan; press dough evenly in the bottom of the pan to form a crust. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Spread the mixture over the cooled crust. Arrange the fruit over the cream cheese.
Stir the jelly until it is smooth; spoon, drizzle or brush over the fruit.
Refrigerate the pizza until chilled, at least 1 hour. Cut into wedges or squares.
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
1 can (13.8 oz.) Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust or homemade or supermarket made pizza dough
7 sticks (1 oz. each) string cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
24 slices pepperoni
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Grease a 12-inch pizza pan with shortening or cooking spray. Unroll the dough; place it in the pan. Starting at the center, press out the dough to the edge of the pan, pressing up and extending it over the sides by at least 1 inch.
Place a string cheese around the inside edge of the crust. Fold the extended edge of dough over the cheese; pinch firmly to seal.
Spoon the sauce evenly over the dough, and then top it with the pepperoni and cheese blend.
Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown and the cheese is melted. Cut into wedges.
For a crispier crust, pre-bake the crust about 8 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown, then add the toppings; bake the pizza 12 to 16 minutes.
2 cans (13.8 oz. each) Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust or homemade or supermarket made pizza dough
42 small pepperoni slices
1 jar (4.5 oz.) sliced mushrooms, well drained
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
8 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 jar (14 oz.) pizza sauce, heated
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan. Unroll 1 can of dough; placing it in the greased pan. Starting at the center, press out the dough to the edge of the pan.
Layer the pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and provolone cheese over the dough.
Unroll the remaining can of dough. Press out the dough on a work surface to form a 12-inch round. Fold the dough in half; place over the provolone cheese and unfold. Press the outside edges to seal. Cut several slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Cut the pizza into wedges.
Serve with warm pizza sauce.
Vary the calzone filling with your favorite pizza ingredients.