Although pizza has a reputation as being high calorie and high fat, it can actually be pretty healthy. With meat, dairy, and grain, all you have to do is add vegetables or fruit for a nutritionally balanced meal.
Traditional veggie pizza toppings include mushrooms, red and green peppers, and onions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg — lettuce, that is. There are dozens of vegetables that make great pizza toppings. And fruits too.
The button mushroom used on a conventional pizza are mild and unobtrusive. But wild mushrooms like chanterelles, shitakes, and portbellos can add a full, woody flavor that’s rich and savory. Sauté them in a little butter or olive oil before adding them to your pizza.
There’s also tremendous variety in onions. Raw red or yellow onions are bright and pungent. Green onions are perfect for Asian or Latin pizzas. And caramelized onions are subtle, with a sweet, rich flavor that is the perfect compliment to salt.
Caramelizing onions takes a while and requires more onions than you’d think — they really cook down. Thinly slice one or two whole onions, sauté them in butter until they are softened, then add some chicken stock, reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking — stirring occasionally — until they’re a nice, warm brown. This could take half an hour, or more.
Roasted garlic is also simultaneously mellow and savory. Spread it over the crust and sprinkle with a little grating cheese like Parmegiano Reggiano.
Peppers can be raw, cooked, or roasted. And olives add a lot of flavor in a small package.
Kalamatas and green olives are the saltiest. Canned black olives are the most mild. Capers and garlic are Mediterranean staples.
Chopped ripe tomatoes are wonderful, and the sun-dried variety adds an intense burst of tomato taste. Fresh or dried herbs can transform a pizza from fine to sublime. Oregano and basil are perfect for Italian pies. Cilantro is essential for Asian and Latin. And thyme, parsley, and sage are good additions that you likely have in your pantry.
Although not traditional, greens make excellent pizza toppings. Combine arugula with gold cheese or fontina and sausage or bacon. Sauté spinach and make a white pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, or feta. Radicchio can add a sophisticated, bitter note when combined with sweet, succulent shrimp.
You can also add chopped lettuce after your pizza comes out of the oven. This eliminates the need for a side salad.
One of our favorite veggie pizza toppings is artichokes. Drain and chop the canned variety, or use the marinated hearts that come in a jar. They add a bright, citrusy flavor that’s unmistakable.
Even if you’re not a big vegetable eater, consider adding some to your pizza. As pizza toppings go, they add a lot of flavor without adding a lot of calories.