For a friend’s “assemble your own pizza” party, this was my contribution. I confess I used pre-made crust and ragu for this today, because we just didn’t have time today for me to make these things from scratch unless I skipped playing golf this morning after watching the gamecast of Italy-New Zealand’s exciting tie.
Focaccia (or if you’re in a hurry, pre-made) pizza crust
6 tbsp. ragu Bolongese
7-8 small globes of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, marinated in olive oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes
7-8 slices Salami Calabrese
5-6 cloves garlic
½ white onion
1 red pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil (there should be plenty of this on hand at all times in any kitchen that is there for more than mere compliance with the building code)
A few pinches of corn meal (if using pre-made crust instead of your own focaccia)
Julienne the pepper, and mince the garlic, shallot, and onion. Place on aluminum foil, drizzle olive oil on top, roast at 325° for about 20 minutes. Spread about 1 tsp. of olive oil over the bottom of the focaccia; sprinkle corn meal on bottom.* Spoon the ragu on the focaccia, spread around. Place roasted aromatics on top. Carve the mozzarella globes in half, distribute on pizza roughly evenly. Then distribute salami and anchovies on top of the rest. Bake until bread is a golden brown and cheese has melted. If necessary, allow to stand for a few minutes before serving to allow excess liquids to absorb.
Several things proved controversial with my very white-bread friends here. First, the cheese is not shredded and instead simply melts where it comes to rest on the distribution. Why there must be an even distribution of massive amounts of cheese on the pizza is beyond me because using good cheese is more important than using a lot of it. Second, many people fear the anchovy. They shouldn’t; it’s savory, salty, and absolutely delicious.** Third, some people seem to think salami only belongs in a sandwich. How is it different than pepperoni?***
Some people just can’t stand this much umami.
On the other hand, some people had some other rather creative ideas for pizza. I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of spaghetti pizza — it came last in the service and just about sent me into carbohydrate overload. It came with some nice crumbled pork sausage and tasted pretty good, though. Another person put three of the four seasons on a single pizza — artichoke, olive, and mushroom; she omitted the ham because she is (mostly) vegetarian.
The Wife bypassed sauce altogether, spreading only some olive oil around and topped it with more of the roasted aromatics I used in the Calabrian Umamimania pizza (without the peppers, which she does not care for). I pulled a tricky one and bought Crimini mushrooms for her instead of those tasteless white things passed off as “food” to unsuspecting Americans. The Criminis and some black olives got marinated in some more olive oil, oregano, basil, garlic, and salt before being put on top of the pizza, and although I’m not usually much of a mushroom fan this was damn good stuff. As I understand it, this is close to a traditional Sicilian pizza, in that the ingredients are baked directly into the crust.
But the biggest revelation was Caribbean-style pizza. Hawaiian pizza, as some may know, is topped with Canadian bacon and pineapple. Caribbean pizza is topped with banana and green onions. Surprisingly good. A little looking around reveals that the use of banana and other sweet fruits on pizza may have originated in Brazil, which sort of makes sense when you think about it — there is a large Italian expatriate and immigrant population and sweeter fruits are more plentiful there than the more savory vegetables and pork products favored in Italian and American pizzas.
* If you’ve made your own focaccia and done it correctly, this has happened already. The corn meal is to help prevent the crust from sticking to the pizza stone.
** The Wife claims to like the flavor but dislike the “hairy” texture. It’s no fuzzier than a peach, if you ask me, and it’s packed to the gills (literally) with savory, salty yumminess.
*** Pepperoni is also good on sandwiches. Come on, there’s no rule against that.