Pizza Toppings

If you are so bland of character, so insipid that you haven’t established what sort of toppings you prefer on your pizza, look no further. I am touchstone.

(Again, apologies for the phone-cam pics. My camera was tired.)

Let’s throw down some edicts, some basic pizza principals to get you well on your way to proper character definition, starting with toppings.

Edict Number One: Meat. This applies to so many things. On pizza, meat is ultimate. I use that term in the basic sense; meat is fundamental. Without meat, your pizza is just flatbread and a thin veil of denial between reason and dementia(vegetarianism). Remember, meat means anything that can, or could have, ostensibly smiled at you except in the case of mollusks, crustaceans and insects, for obvious reasons. But meat these things still are despite the lack of smiles.

Edict Number Two: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. It doesn’t have to be the best but it shouldn’t be the worst. You need olive oil in the dough, for brushing so that the dough browns in the cooking process, for coaxing and mingling topping flavours and for infusing garlic and fresh herbs.

Edict Number Three: Veggies Fresh. This edict is two-part. You must garnish your pizza once cooked with at least and probably no more than one fresh/uncooked veggie. Bitter leafy greens work well but choose wisely: don’t use bitter greens that require blanching, steaming or any form of cooking to soften or prime the flavour. Kale is out; baby arugala is my personal fave.

Edict Number Three, Part Two: Fresh Veggies. Use them as pre-oven toppings. I can’t think of any reason why any of your vegetable toppings would be anything shy of fresh unless you use sun-dried tomatos or olives. Olives by nature are not fresh but, they are permitted.

Edict Number Four: Sauce does not mean saucy; sauce does not mean tomato, necessarily. Bitch. Tomato sauce is overused on pizza both by the terrifying volume of the stuff that tends to be put on pizza and by the very fact that it is nearly impossible to find commercial (even if artisanal) pizza sans tomato fucking sauce. And when one does happen to stumble on ‘pizza’ without tomato sauce it’s invariably some bullshit vego Yukon gold abomination. Putting sliced potato on dough and calling it pizza is akin to putting potato chips between two slices of Wonderbread and calling it a sandwich. If you decide to use tomato sauce, use it sparingly by painting your stretched pizza dough with a thin layer only, please. Please. Herby and garlicky oils make great sauces too. Try chopping some fresh parsley, garlic and thyme quite finely and add them to some olive oil to steep for a few minutes.

Edict Number Five: Fresh HHHHerbs. From your herb garden else, the supermarket. Sage, Thyme, Basil, parsley, chives and potentially marjoram (though I haven’t tried it yet) are your onlies. Cilantro is right out of the question.

Edict Number Six: Cheese, no cheese. Cheese is great. Pizza without cheese can be great too. One thing is certain: pizza with too much cheese is Cro-Magnon. A light dusting of grated cheese is plenty.

Edict Number Seven: Thin Crust, Thin. Thin.

And One Reminder: Don’t Forget Tomatos. I mean, whether you use tomato sauce or not, a few slices of fresh tomato on a pizza makes for a fine experience. Beware of excessive moisture if you are to use lots of them.

Finally, some topping ideas:

Built from dough up: Olive Oil, pepper and sage, black forest ham, a slice of tomato, a touch of cheese and one half of a pitted black olive; or,

Olive oil, thyme and pepper, honey smoked ham, tomato slice, diced cremini mushrooms soaked in sun-dried tomato oil, sliver of sun-dried tomato, grated parmigiano cheese. (This one suits mini pizzas so that the ham can form a moisture barrier between the dough and the tomato and mushroom).

Use your imagination.

See my Puck Pizza Dough recipe to make an easy pizza dough from scratch free of heavy machinery.