I like pizza as both an after-hours snack and a proper meal—though never for breakfast or lunch. Like most people, I like pizza my own way. There is no sense in having this dish without the toppings you prefer.
Nowadays, it is possible for people of the most diverse tastes and dieting habits to enjoy pizza. Whether you are a meat lover, vegetarian, or vegan, you can enjoy a hot dish of delicious pizza.
If you are like me, then you like your pizzas from high-quality pizzerias. But this is not the only way to have it. It is now easier than ever to prepare a gourmet pizza with the toppings you enjoy in your own kitchen. You may have given little thought to the extensive range of toppings you can put on your dish. This article will familiarize you with them.
Types of Pizza Toppings
The number of toppings you can put on your pizza is insuperable. There are simply too many to list in one article. However, there are three basic types of pizza toppings: meat, veggie, and vegan. It is also possible to list and briefly describe the most popular items and recipes in each of these categories. Here we go…
This is the one of the oldest pizza toppings. I would go so far as to call it a classic. What Americans call pepperoni Italians call salame or salamino piccante, or salsiccia picante. This particular kind of dried sausage originates in Southern Italy and is a delicacy all on its own. It is especially good on a pizza with cheese and red sauce.
And there is what American relatively identify as sausage. This can come in a variety of forms. Some people prefer sausage with a real meaty flavor. Others prefer mild, sweet, or spicy sausage. The best pizzerias offer options; and if you are preparing your own sausage pizza, then you can buy, slice, and sautee, the sausage you like most.
Another form of pork for your pizza. If you buy fresh bacon, it is best to fry it. There are two ways to do this. You can fry the bacon and add it as a topping after baking the dough. Or, you can fry the bacon and let it bake with the pizza. The former way is best, as it avoids the drying out of the bacon. You can also buy bacon crumbles or pancetta. Both of these should be baked with the dough.
This is always a safe bet, as it is impossible for chicken to taste bad (to a meat eater). If you have leftover chicken from a meal the evening before, you can cut it into slices and use it as a topping.
Beef as a topping comes in a variety of forms. There is always mini-meatballs or even regular meat balls that you can buy pre-prepared and pre-packaged. In some instances, they can go right on top of your pizza crust when it is straight out of the oven.
You can also use ground beef. When this is prepared in the correct manner, it is makes for an excellent pizza topping.
The ham and pineapple pizza has become a mainstay of pizzerias in America. But not everyone like this combination (I for one do not). Ham stands well on its own as a pizza topping. Or, you can leave out the pineapple and pair it with bacon, beef, or chicken.
If you intend to put veggies on your pizza, you should cook them first.
This is the classic condiment for people who love rich food but cannot stand the taste of meat. You don’t have to stick to one type of cheese. It is possible to put a blend of nice cheeses on top of your pizza.
You may not like mushrooms in other meals. However, you should try it on pizza. Mushrooms have a rich and earthy flavor, which goes pretty well with the taste of cheese and well-baked pizza crust. This is one of the reasons why it is such a popular veggie dish.
Greens on pizza is not for everyone. But they are perfect for those who eat veggies all the time. Spinach is an especially light and refreshing food. When added to cheese, sauce, and a nice crust, it makes for a delicious topping.
This vegetable is not for everyone, but some people cannot get enough of it. I am one of those people. I suspect it is the large amounts of iron in broccoli that make it taste so good. Anyway, it is a great topping for a committed vegetarian.
A few words should be said about the vegan movement. It has taken the world by storm! Ten years ago, only small groups of people considered eccentric by others were vegans. Now, nearly every major restaurant and bistro has a vegan menu or offers vegan dishes.
Vegan pizzas are distinguished by the extraordinary variety of their toppings. Like the vegetarian toppings listed above, vegan toppings should be cooked before being placed on the pizza. Otherwise, they will release water into the pizza and dry out.
Making vegan pizza work requires a little more effort. You cannot use cheese on the pizza so you will have to find a way to replace that taste and texture with another. Vegans have come up with all sorts of ways to make their pizzas interesting. Roasted, grilled, and sauteed vegetables are some of the more popular ways to enhance the taste of a vegan pizza.
1. Roasted tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are best. They have chewy texture and can be paired with artichoke hearts, red onion, roasted red peppers, and a dollop of vegan pesto.
2. Roasted artichokes
These are best purchased and used as a topping when they are in season. It is best to roast them by halves and then quarter them before roasting them in a pan.
3. Roasted garlic
You can arrange whole cloves of garlic across your pizza. It is better to chop them up into little pieces to get more bite. These go well with sauteed mushrooms, kale, and a blend of Gruyere and mozzarella cheese.
Here are a few grilled and sauteed recipes:
4. Sauteed mushrooms
You can season these with tamari and rice vinegar for an extra-savory flavor.
5. Sauteed kale
This is another favorite vegetable of mine. Again, I love the high concentrations of iron in this vegetable. These tender, garlicky greens go well with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions.
6. Grilled eggplant
One of the best toppings for a summer pizza meal, it goes well with grilled zucchini, roasted tomatoes, and plenty of fresh basil. You should chop it up before putting it on your pizza.
7. Grilled pineapple
This is another summer favorite. If you are grilling your pizza, you can add the pineapples in the final moments. This will give a sweet, smoky, and savory taste to the entire meal.
Extremely Light Toppings
The following ingredients are often combined with heavier toppings. However, they can be used as toppings all on their own. Here are some of them:
1. Caramelized onions
These sweet and jammy onions punch above their weight in taste. They are great with dollops of ricotta or a shower of parmesan cheese. A bit of chopped sage will enhance the flavor even further.
2. Pickled jalapenos
If you like your pizza spicy, you can add jalapenos as a condiment to your topping, or use them as a topping. If you have purchased fresh jalapenos, make sure you pat them dry before you use them.
Pizza with cheese and capers is a thing. Scatter a spoonful of capers across your cheese-topped pizza dough before you put it in the oven. Capers are tasty. They add unique salty, briny flavor to your dish.
A Brief History of Pizza Toppings
Most historians agree that pizza has its origins in the flatbread with toppings consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The latter ate a version of what we now call focaccia. The Italian city of Naples, which was founded as a Greek settlement around 600 BCE, was well-known for its throngs of working poor.
Such poverty gives rise to invention, especially in food. So, it is no surprise that Naples was the birthplace of modern pizza. Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Flatbreads with various toppings sold by street vendors or informal vendors met this need. Early pizzas had tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic for toppings.
Legend has it that the first modern pizza was created by a Neapolitan named Raffaele Esposito. He made the dish for King Umberto I and Queen Margherita during their visit to Naples in 1889.
The royal couple was bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for something new. They got it in the form of Esposito’s invention. The Margherita pizza still carries the name of the person who it was first made in honor of.
The fact that the queen of Italy ate—and by all accounts enjoyed—this first pizza should have set off a craze for the dish. But no such thing happened. In fact, pizza would remain little known outside of Italy until the late 1940s.
Italian immigrants settled in large American cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, and St. Louis throughout the 20th century. They brought an abundance of pizza recipes with them. The first pizzeria in the country opened on Spring Street in Manhattan in 1905. Called Lombardi’s. The restaurant remains in operation today.
The Italians who settled in New World did not make the dish popular with the larger American public. It took returning soldiers from Europe after WWII to do that. Returning GIs wanted the food that they had grown to love while serving in the battlefields of Italy.
Since that time, pizza has become a mainstay of the American diet. It has also become a major part of the food industry in America, which has helped globalize it. The variety of pizza toppings continues to grow. An expanding variety of tastes has led to significant inventions and innovations in pizza toppings.