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Dublin: 12°C Friday 14 May 2021

'Crack an egg on top': 7 creative pizza topping combos for a restaurant-style slice at home

Is there a better all-year-round meal than pizza? Here are some inspiring ideas to get the most out of it.

PIZZA IS AN all-year-round food, but it really comes into its own in summer. It can even be made on the BBQ. In fact, pizza is fantastic when cooked on the BBQ!

As we march into a heatwave it is the ideal food. You don’t need to sweat or stress about complicated doughs, leave that to the pizzaiolos (those fancy Italian chaps making Neapolitan pizzas in huge wood ovens). At home we can make a simple dough that is ready quickly, you can even let it prove overnight while you sleep so that you are ready to go the next day.

Nothing elaborate is required, just flour, dried yeast, olive oil, water and salt – which also makes pizza fantastically frugal. The dried yeast wakes up quickly but you can help speed that along by putting it in body temperature water. Test it by putting your finger in, if it feels hot it is too hot; if it feels cold, too cold. Just like Goldilocks and the bears’ porridge, when it feels just right it is!

Yeast flourishes at the same temperature as body temperature and when you add it to warm water like this it wakes up quickly, it just needs 15 minutes. You can follow my simple dough recipe here (and the breakfast bacon and egg pizzas are fab).

At home I like a thin base, but I don’t stress about it. You can use a rolling pin or after shaping it into ball you can flatten it out with the palm of your hand and then either pull it into a circle or use your knuckles to flatten it out (it feels quite therapeutic!).

Source: Shutterstock/wanchai

I like to make them small, no bigger than 6 inches in diameter, so that I can have more than one and enjoy different flavours. Even better, share them in slices.

What about toppings? What really works? Many years ago I was a pizza chef in a restaurant and so many times the Create Your Own pizza orders needed a little bit of a steer. Not everything goes together or should even be on the same plate. In Italy they tend to keep it simple: ham and mushroom; artichoke and spinach; ham and rocket. Italians would want us all to be traditional and they are mainly correct, but we can still veer a little and include the best of Irish on our plate.

When it comes to cooking, fast and hot gives the best result and replicates the intense heat of a real pizza oven. So put it in on the highest setting of your oven for 5 – 8 minutes (depending on how hot your oven goes).

Also it is important not to overload your pizza with sauce or toppings as this is the express route to a soggy base. Keep it sparse and keep it simple – then you will have room for more also. If using moisture-rich vegetables like courgette, cook them first so the water in them won’t make your pizza soggy. 

So let’s talk some topping combos:

Margherita pizza

A classic for a reason, this is a really good basic pizza and the start of many others. Make your own tomato sauce if you can by frying a finely chopped clove of garlic in some extra virgin olive oil for a minute before adding a tin of tomatoes, a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of nice vinegar (cider vinegar works well). Cook for 30 minutes and finish with a handful of fresh basil leaves. Done!

The cheese for this is traditionally fior di latte which is a cows milk mozzarella. That milky squelchiness works so well. Tear it with your hands or chop it into small dice.

Source: Shutterstock/Milos Batinic

To adapt, simply add mushrooms, or make a margherita and cover it with thin slices of pepperoni. Thinly sliced chorizo will do well here too. A little fresh thyme scattered over is a nice fragrant touch.

Potato pizza

Say what now? Yes, this is a traditional Italian pizza and you see it in every market and pizzeria in Rome. You can make it vegetarian but I like to add some bacon here.

Roll your dough and scatter about half a torn ball of mozzarella over it. Peel and slice your potato so that it is quite thin and then layer it in and around the mozzarella. Some bacon if you like weaved around, and some rosemary works very well here too.

If you like garlic – and who doesn’t? – cut a clove in half and rub the garlic over the potato slices. 

Source: Shutterstock/Gerasia

Fig, blue cheese and Parma ham pizza

Fresh figs in season are a highlight of summer. Keep this pizza white and don’t put a tomato sauce down first. Tear the figs into quarters (use 1 per small pizza) and squish them gently into the dough, making sure they are well spaced.

Scatter some blue cheese like Roquefort around and strips of parma ham. Drizzle with olive oil before baking.

Black pudding, tomato and goats cheese pizza

Black pudding and goats cheese go so well together, and slices of perky tomato lift it up. Start with some tomato sauce. Slice your black pudding thinly and put a few slices on (don’t cover the pizza with it). In between, put some tomato slices and scatter small bits of a soft goats cheese. Scatter some flat leaf parsley over when finished and if you like chilli, it does well here.

Source: Shutterstock/SARYMSAKOV ANDREY

Florentine pizza

For people who love an egg, the Florentine pizza is a must. Wilt some spinach and squeeze out the excess water. Season with a little salt and a little nutmeg and put on some rolled pizza dough with some tomato sauce (tomato sauce first). Crack an egg on top, then sprinkle over some grated firm mozzarella and grated Parmesan.

Pizza fritta

Have you ever thought of deep frying your pizza? Trust me it is good! I had it for the first time in Rome. The pizza base is rolled and deep fried and then the sauce is added once it is out of the fryer. In this instance it was finished with Parmesan and basil but choose your weapons. A lovely soft cheese like Brie would do very well here. Dress it up with some ham and olives.

About the author:

Niamh Shields

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