Pizza doesn’t have to be a high-fat, high-calorie diet destroyer. With the right pizza toppings, pizza can actually be relatively healthy, with all four main food groups represented.
Vegetables are no strangers to pizza. Most “everything” pies include at least mushrooms, peppers, and onions. But there are plenty of other vegetables that add lots of flavor without adding lots of calories. And veggie pizzas can run the gamut from basic to gourmet. Visit us to get discount marco’s pizza coupon.
Take mushrooms, for instance. If you’re pressed for time and not too picky, you can use mushrooms straight from the can or jar. Pre-sliced button mushrooms from your grocery store are a better choice. And for something really special, saute wild mushrooms – shitakes, morels, or chanterelles – in butter and use them to create a savory pizza with a woody flavor that’s perfect for autumn. To really intensify the flavor, deglaze the pan with a little Madeira or Marsala wine.
Onions are almost as versatile as mushrooms. Raw red or white onions add a strong taste that stands up well to other bold flavors like kalamata olives or roasted red peppers. Caramelized onions add a sweetness that’s a great compliment to salty meats like pancetta or bacon.
To caramelize them, thinly slice a couple of big onions. You’ll be amazed at how much they cook down. Melt a little butter in a large saute pan and cook them over low heat. As they begin to soften, add a little chicken stock or wine and keep cooking them until they’re a warm, toasty brown. If they dry out, add some more stock and stir. If you want an even sweeter topping, you can sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on the onions as they cook.
The whole process can take 30 minutes or more. But the results are worth the effort.
Roasted garlic is another flavor-packed ingredient that’s worth the extra effort. To make it, cut the top off a head of garlic and place it in a terra cotta garlic roaster or on some aluminum foil. Drizzle the head with some good-quality olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees for an hour or so.
Squeeze the roasted garlic from the skins and spread it on the pizza crust. Then grate some fresh Parmegiano Reggiano or Grana Padona cheese over it. This is an excellent base for pizzas that don’t use tomato sauce.
Peppers can also be used raw or roasted. If you have a gas stove or grill, you can roast the peppers yourself. Just char them with the flame, then put them in a paper bag to steam. Peel off the charred skins, and chop or slice them. Or just buy a jar of roasted red peppers at the store.
Olives pack a lot of flavor in a small package. Canned black olives are relatively mild. But kalamatas and green olives like picholine really command attention. Use them judiciously.
When it comes to tomatoes, San Marzanos are the gold standard. Grown in the shadow of Vesuvius in the Italian region of Campania, they are worth the extra cost. If you can find canned San Marzanos from Italy, buy them. California-grown San Marzanos are also available in better grocery stores.
Make sure you drain them well before using. Or chop and seed fresh, ripe tomatoes. Romas and grape tomatoes are good choices. And sun-dried tomatoes have a wonderful, concentrated flavor.
Artichokes, both marinated and plain, are one of our favorite pizza toppings. A Greek pizza with artichokes, feta, olives, and tomatoes is a delicious alternative to the usual pepperoni. Add shrimp and plenty of fresh herbs like oregano and basil, if you like.
And don’t overlook greens. Arugula has a fresh, nutty flavor that’s delicious combined with goat’s cheese. Saute it before using, pile it on the pizza raw before it goes into the oven, or add it after it’s baked. In addition to being tasty and nutritious, the color is beautiful too.
Ditto spinach, which makes a wonderful white pizza. Use garlic and olive oil as the base sauce and then add mozzarella and ricotta, or fontina and Gruyere. Add enough greens, and you can skip the salad.
Even veggies like butternut squash and eggplant make excellent toppings for pizza. So next time your in the produce section of your grocery store, take a look around for inspiration.