6 Unusual Pizza Toppings You'll Love to Love (or Hate)
Where do you stand in the greatest pizza debate?
This article is part of “The Pizza Issue”, our month-long dive into everyone’s* favorite food. We’re sharing playful new recipes, talking pizza tools and toppings, and answering all your burning (but hopefully not burnt) pizza questions. Join our pizza party by checking out this link for an overview of all our latest stories and recipes—and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for behind the scenes, extra pizza content, and so much more!
Diehard pineapple fans out there might have noticed we’ve so far been silent on one thing so far during our pizza issue: Hawaiian!
For some, Hawaiian pizza is pure, nostalgic comfort food, for others —including Italian pizzaioli—it's absolute sacrilege. But we wouldn't be Kitchen Stories if we didn't have a solution for that, because in our humble opinions, it all comes down to using it in the right combination!
Taking inspiration from community recipes and our team alike, let’s discover how to match pineapple and other unusual, sometimes *extra* toppings skilfully on pizza.
We’ve seen so far that pizza is personal—so as always, share your favorite traditional or not toppings in the comment section!
My first encounter with pizza toppings besides your classic Margherita, Salami, or, say, Prosciutto e Funghi takes me back down memory lane.
There was an Italian restaurant my parents loved taking us to as kids (so good we ventured out to a neighbouring town for it). Pizza, strangely, appeared only on the kids menu, but every now and then, the whole table was treated to a special house creation as an appetizer. On those occasions, it was a pizza the restaurant had christened Zia Teresa (Aunt Teresa). It was a small, very crispy pizza topped with tomato sauce, salty gorgonzola, thin rings of onion, spicy pepperoni sausage and—apple slices.
The fruit proved too wild for my yet-to-mature palate, and it took me a few years and much persuasion to find my love for this flavor combination. But today, I often make it myself, although I like to replace the spicy salami with cured meat like pancetta or South Tyrolean ham.
For the lovers (and the haters?): Pineapple on pizza
Thinking back to this taste odyssey, I decided to take on another challenge. Like many Italians, for a long time, pineapple on pizza was where I drew the line. I have to admit, the "classic" Hawaiian pizza with canned pineapple, cooked ham and mild cheese, just isn’t my thing, but I’ve come up with my own version that I’m only too happy to push.
I’m a big fan of using the slightly tart sweetness of fruit on a pizza to counter similarly intense, salty and spicy notes, from say, a cured meat—in this case I chose ‘nduja, a spicy, spreadable sausage from the south of Italy. It's strong enough to cut through the sweetness of the pineapple and harmonizes well flavor-wise. Speaking of which: I like to use fresh pineapple, cut into smallish pieces, or pre-cut pieces from the freezer, which have more flavor, acidity, and a nicer color than the canned variety. And if you like it very spicy, like I do, drizzle some homemade chili oil over the finished pizza.
These approaches also work with many other fruits, for example grapes and Brie or pear and goat cheese, as I discovered through community recipes on Kitchen Stories.
Try your hand at pairing fruits with spicy and tangy ingredients, see what happens, and let us know how it tasted in the comments!
Love greens on a pizza? Pan-fry them first!
Though they aren’t a mainstay of many commercial pizzas—greens have a true place on pizzas, especially hardier greens! In Naples, for example, turnip greens or carrettiera are paired with salsiccia and smoked scamorza cheese. If you can’t get your hands on these, try slender broccolini or green asparagus. In order for these vegetables to cook on the pizza and develop their full flavor, however, you should blanch them briefly in salted water beforehand, or even better, sauté them in a hot pan with a little olive oil. If you want, you can take the opportunity to add a little garlic in! It never hurts!
Do the same with Tuscan kale, which we’re big fans of at Kitchen Stories as a pizza topping and elsewhere! Sautéed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and deglazed with a dash of white balsamic, pair it with gorgonzola and walnuts on pizza. After baking in the oven it takes on an intense aroma and crisps up wonderfully to add crunch.
Other leafy greens like Swiss chard, curly kale, or radicchio also do well on pizza if you sauté them briefly beforehand—this step is key as they otherwise remain undercooked or lose so much liquid that the pizza becomes soggy. Their slightly bitter flavor profiles pair go very well with tangy (blue) cheese and nuts.
White pizzas and sauces that go beyond tomato!
Pizza *without* tomato sauce regularly divides a crowd, because for many, pizza = pizza only when sweet, tangy tomatoes and melted cheese are true! That hasn't stopped Ruby from posting a recipe for a pizza that is "white," down to its cheesy cacio e pepe sauce and uses stringy cheeses, in large quantities, as a topping.
But, I’m going to go a step further and say: pizza can be incredibly delicious, even without mozzarella. Starting with a jar of Devan's garlicky, roasted mushrooms in my fridge, I wondered how best to put them to use on a pizza. The answer: On top of a bed of white base of fresh goat cheese mixed with green alliums like wild garlic, scallions or chives, with a little of that garlicky-mushroom oil on top. Then I rounded off the whole thing with hazelnuts and some freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan, sprinkled on top after baking.
Delicious pizza without cheese or tomatoes and completely vegan is also entirely possible. Try, for example, an eggplant purée a la Baba Ghanoush. Made a little smoother and more acidic, and add a handful of pine nuts. Then after baking, dress it up with pomegranate seeds and a few blobs of tahini. Or, try out this no-cheese, vegan pizza recipe from our community member Niloufar.
So "White" pizza: “Yes, please!" or “Hard pass”, what’s your take?
And if you want to have our unusual, very *extra* flavor combinations always at hand, save our infographic right now!
Did your favorite pizza topping combo not make the list? Tell us about your favorites—or even your most adventurous experiments with pizza toppings—in the comments!
And if you have a pizza recipe you’d love to see celebrated, use our recipe uploader to share it with our global cooking community here on Kitchen Stories!
Published on April 14, 2021