Since its creation, pizza has gone through plenty of transformations before becoming famous all over the world and turning into one of the most popular and loved food choices. Nowadays, there are many different varieties of pizza existing in two different forms – fresh and frozen. Freshly-baked pizzas have been the more preferred dish until manufacturers have devoted much of their time to make frozen pizzas good enough to rival their quality and taste. What is more, there are recipes of other interesting pizza-like dishes that pizza fans wouldn’t regret to give a try to. These look and taste like pizza and are made with the same or similar ingredients, but are not pizza, some of them are even healthier. This part reveals more about classic pizza types, frozen variations, and similar pizza-like dishes.
Classic pizzas, originating from Italy, are a serious matter. Pizza chefs need to be aware of a number of rules and follow a set of guidelines to make an authentic pizza. The preparation consists of four levels that a chef should be experienced at in order to reach perfection: the base, the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings. A general necessity for quality classic pizza is a thin crust, a wood-fired oven, and fresh ingredients for toppings. However, different types have their own secrets that are the key to sensational flavours. Some of the most popular and commonly loved classic pizza styles are pizza Aglio e Olio, pizza Napoletana (Neapolitan pizza), pizza Margherita, pizza al Taglio, and pizza quattro stagioni (four seasons pizza).
Pizza Aglio e Olio
Pizza Aglio e Oilo, recognized as garlic and olive oil pizza in English, is one of the simplest classic Italian white pizzas. All that pizza chefs have to do is knead the dough, drizzle olive oil on it, and spread freshly chopped garlic and oregano. At the end, it might be sprinkled with some shredded parmigiano or romano cheese. It is perfect for those who are not big fans of tomato sauce. Pizza Aglio e Olio is very easy to make, yet very delicious and make a good dinner
Pizza Napoletana (Neapolitan pizza)
Pizza Napoletana, Neapolitan pizza in English, has been first created in the 18th century in Naples, Italy. Since this pizza style is thinner, it shouldn’t be layered with too many fancy toppings. It is normally made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Pizza Napoletana is best when prepared with either San Marzano tomatoes or Roma tomatoes, and a special kind of cheese produced from milk from water buffalo. One of its defining characteristics is that it has more sauce than cheese that leaves the middle of the pie wet and soggy. The natural dough consists of wheat flour, natural yeast, and salt and is kneaded and stretched by hand. It is authentic only when baked in a wood-fired oven without using a baking pan, preheated from 8 000° to 1 000° F. It only takes approximately 70-90 seconds to become completely ready. When taken out of the oven, the pizza has the aroma of the thin crispy crust mixed with the slightly acid flavour of tomato, along with mozzarella cheese, and spices. Its size is pretty small (about 10 to 12 inches) which means it is not served in slices. Its crust is so thin that it should be eaten with a fork and knife.
Pizza Margherita is actually one of all the official variants of pizza Napoletana. It is over a century old and is named after the first Queen of Italy – Queen Margherita, a wife of King Umberto I. When around 1889, Queen Margherita and her royal husband King toured their kingdom, the Queen took note of the large, flat bread being consumed by people around. She tried it and loved it. She called Chef Rafaelle Esposito to her palace, where he created a variety of pizzas for her. In honor of her, he designed a special one – a pizza with toppings in the colors of the Italian flag (red tomatoes, white mozzarella and green basil). The special pizza became the Queen’s favorite one and is known to this day as the pizza we all love. Margherita is the most famous pizza of all and the favourite one of many people from different countries. It is believed that if a pizzeria serves a well-prepared Margherita to its customers, the overall quality of pizzas is good.
Pizza al Taglio
Roman-style pizza al Taglio, literally translated “by the cut”, and also known as pizza al trancio (“by the slice”), is baked in big rectangular trays and sold out in slices. An interesting fact about these pizzas is that its price in pizzerias and pizza shops depends on its weight. In other words, the customers select and tell the server what products they want on their pizzas and what amount to cut off. Pizza al Taglio is often topped with the best kinds of cheese, cured meats, and fresh and delicious seafood. It is cooked in a wood-fired or electric oven for approximately 15 minutes to form a crispy golden crust. Cooking it longer doesn’t have a positive effect on toppings, so overcooking is frequently prevented by applying some of the ingredients later on or after baking. This pizza style is different in different regions of Italy. It has gained popularity in other countries too.
Pizza Quattro Stagioni (four seasons pizza)
Pizza Quattro Stagioni (four seasons pizza) is another special Italian pizza style. It couldn’t be found just in any pizzeria or pizza restaurant. What is so unique about this pizza is that it is prepared in four sections with diverse ingredients, one for each season. There are rules as to which ingredients to use for which season. For example, spring is represented by cooked ham and black olives; the topping for the summer is artichokes and anchovies; autumn goes with tomatoes combined with mozzarella; and lastly, winter with – just mushrooms. The pizza is made with a tomato sauce or cheese. There might also be other ingredients. It is advisable to use a pizza stone for baking and dry some of the ingredients to reduce their moisture and prevent sogginess. Pizza Quatro Stagioni is also available as a vegetarian meal.
Frozen pizzas, first invented in the 1950s, have been gradually popularizing. At first, they were not really appreciated. Customers regarded them as a distinct, less flavourful type of food. They complained about the soggy and crumbly dough and tasteless toppings. In their trials to make a decent frozen pizza, manufacturers have faced two great challenges: the formation of ice crystals that break down the gluten structure of the dough and the interrupted natural biological and chemical processes. After all the experiments and improvements of taste, contemporary frozen pizzas have become ubiquitous. They can be found everywhere, from supermarkets to small local shops and gas stations. The reason why they are often preferred over fresh pizzas is that they are much cheaper and no special preparation is necessary. People can store them in their freezers until they decide they want to have them for dinner. Furthermore, it is considered that these pizzas tend to be healthier and more convenient than some fresh styles, because they are less greasy. Frozen pizzas are cooked in an ordinary home oven or a microwave. However, nowadays, there are special kinds of toasters specially produced to heat up a frozen pizza. It is good to have some knowledge of how to best prepare a frozen pizza and how long it could last.
Making the perfect frozen pizza
There are a number of instructions that should be followed in order to achieve best results from a frozen pizza at home. Adding fresh herbs and veggies significantly improves the taste. For instance, these can be baby spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers, sliced tomatoes, etc. Slightly roasting the vegetables removes some of the water, so the pizza wouldn’t get too soggy when cooked. The finishing touch is added with fresh herbs such as oregano or basil. They give a fresher taste to the frozen pie. Preheating the oven is a necessary condition for good browning and crisping. The frozen pizza should be put directly into the hot oven and cooked for five to eight minutes. Sliding it on an oven rack increases the chance for a crispier crust. The rack should be placed at the centre of the oven.
Frozen pizzas normally are best eaten within one to two months after being made, but it is safe to have them for dinner even beyond that period (the expiry date should be checked). Refrigerated frozen pizzas or pizza leftovers could last for three or four days before they are no longer safe to eat. Pizza should be thrown away after being exposed at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria grow rapidly in environments where the temperature is over 40° F. It is better to prepare and enjoy a new pizza than risk it with the leftovers.
There are other original pizza-like specialities offered at restaurants that might be of interest to pizza connoisseurs. Some of them are not only healthy, but also very delicious and could eventually be a great replacement of a pizza night. They are easier to make and take less time, as they don’t include kneading, stretching and waiting for the dough to rise. Some of these pizza-like dishes are zucchini pizza slices, sweet potato pizza, mini pizza cups, pizza casserole, pizza rolls, and pizza pancakes.
Zucchini pizza slices
Zucchini pizza slices are a delicious alternative for those who are craving for pizza, but have a problem with the carbs. It is not hard to make the slices, and not much differently than when making a pizza, a whole range of toppings could be used. According to the original recipe, a thin layer of pasta sauce should be thoroughly spread over the zucchini and then the toppings, flavourful cheese blend, and herbs such as dried oregano are added. Some of the suggested extra toppings are mini pepperoni, olives, sundried tomatoes, and anchovies. The cheese blend includes mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan all mixed together. If the oven is set at the right temperature (preheated at 400° F), the ingredients brown nicely without getting burned. Baking takes up to five minutes or until the zucchini slices become slightly tender.
Sweet potato pizza
Sweet potato pizza is the ideal meal when looking for another healthy alternative of pizza. In this case the carbohydrate-filled crust is simply swapped out by sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoe slices are delicious and a healthy natural gluten-free and grain-free pizza base. It is important to find fatter sweet potatoes, so when sliced into rounds to provide enough room for the toppings. The rest of the ingredients used for the preparation of a sweet potato pizza are tomato paste for the base, diced bacon or vegetables for the topping, grated mozzarella for the cheese blend, and the classic spices oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Some chefs add fresh tomatoes or diced pineapple for fans of pineapple pizza. The oven is preheated to 375° F and the potatoes are cooked for up to eight minutes until the cheese on top is melted. The meal is best when served right after it is taken out of the oven.
Mini pizza cups
Mini pizza cups resemble miniature pizzas and are the perfect snack for parties or any other gatherings. They are quick and easy to make and can be served hot or cold. They are made with biscuit dough which is spooned with spaghetti sauce and topped off with the most enjoyed ingredients on pizza. Hawaiian pizza cups have pineapple, green pepper onions, chopped pepperoni or ham, and a small amount of mozzarella cheese on top. The mini pizza cups are baked at 400° in a preheated oven for up to 20 minutes until biscuits are baked and cheese is melted. When cooked properly, this pizza-like dish turns out very tasty and mouthwatering. It’s worth giving it a try!
Pizza casserole takes more time and products to make and is considered to be a dish for special occasions. Pizza casserole has all the elements typical for a pizza and looks a lot like pizza, but surprisingly, its base is made with spiral pasta. The ingredients needed are pasta (marinara) sauce or pizza (fresh tomato) sauce, pepperoni, beef and pork sausage, chopped onions, green pepper, black olives, and a blend of shredded part-skim mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese. It is baked at 350° F in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Loaded with so many kinds of meat, pizza casserole would please any meat-loving pizza and pasta fans.
Pizza rolls are another delicious substitute for pizza. They are very convenient to make, because they can be stuffed with different pizza toppings and put into the freezer. On the next day or in a few days, they are still good to heat up and serve for dinner. Pizza rolls are available as veggie for picky eaters, but the most popular type is made with egg roll wrappers, classic pizza sauce, pepperoni, green pepper or red pepper, onions, and part-skim mozzarella cheese. Afterwards, they are fried on the stove at 375° F, a couple of minutes on each side until getting golden brown. They are normally eaten with additional warmed pizza sauce for dipping. Apart from being offered in restaurants and some pizzerias, pizza rolls could also be easily found frozen in many supermarkets and smaller shops.
Pizza pancakes are a delicious dinner or lunch treat that very few people wouldn’t enjoy. Pizza and pancakes are at the top of people’s “favorite food” list worldwide, so trying a dish that combines both, is a fun experience. The base this time is simply a pancake. When the pancakes are ready, the next step is to spread the pizza sauce and prep the pizza toppings suiting the eaters’ preferences. For instance, these might be pepperoni, tomatoes, green pepper, black olives, pineapple chunks, grated cheddar on top, and dried Italian herbs. The toppings are mixed separately and after that added to the pancake which is put in the oven for 15 minutes, until the sprinkled cheese bubbles. There are certain techniques to avoid making the pizza pancakes soggy. Different restaurants offer different tasty variations of this pizza-like dish.