The ancient Romans knew how to bake slices of bread with butter, herbs, and cheese. And when tomatoes began to be used for food in modern Italy, tomato sauce was added to the flatbread with cheese. But since then, many other pizza toppings have appeared, and some have even managed to become classics – like the meeting of the four cheeses on the dough.
In general, pizza is an extremely malleable dish, and the toppings in it can be almost anything: the main thing is that the products fit together.
Here are eight pizzas that prove it, and the chefs explain why veal brains can go with eggplant on a pizza, crab with creamy curry, and turkey tonnato with oranges.
Pizzetta with falafel and tahini sauce
“We came up with this pizza a couple of years ago, when falafel and healthy eating were at the height of fashion. And that’s when we wanted to make a healthy, wholesome pizza that wasn’t like other pizzas. We already make falafel with yogurt and mint sauce in the restaurant, so we didn’t have to reinvent it – we put exactly the same in the pizza. Its dry and harsh taste is softened by tahini paste that often neighbors with falafel in different dishes, as well as two cheeses – mozzarella and suluguni. We could do with just one mozzarella, but then we would not surprise anyone. And suluguni gives the mozzarella a certain spiciness, while the taste of it you will not recognize in this pizza, it is transformed into something else. At the end, before serving, we garnish it all with cilantro and sumac, and you can look at the dish this way: it’s a falafel with the usual set of additions to it, just served differently.
Calamari pizza with pickled artichokes and bottarga
“The base of this pizza is the same as the Margarita – a tomato base with mozzarella, to which we add fried calamari and pickled artichokes. With this set of ingredients, we bake the pizza, and then, on the finished dish, we put the bottarga on top, both sliced thinly and crumbly. Bottarga is very salty, so all the other ingredients in this pizza have a quiet delicate taste. Instead of dried mullet caviar, you can use other dried mullet, as long as it is well salted.
Calf’s Brains and Eggplant Pizza
“This is a bombastic pizza, a brain-breaker, a culinary orgasm, a gastronomic epic. The most important thing here is brains, just like people. When we came up with this pizza, we knew that it was a controversial story and it might not work, but now it’s one of our most popular pizzas. Actually, the idea was to make the pizza with by-products, and at first we even thought about making it with lamb’s eggs. Calves’ brains are a delicacy. To make such a pizza, you have to get up at six in the morning, go to the market, because at twelve there will be no more brains: one calf has only one kilogram of brains. The brains, though they play the main role here, have a delicate taste. If you do not know about the filling, many people think that it is some kind of dairy product. Since I associate veal brains with the Caucasus, we add eggplant to the pizza and a little adjika to the tomato sauce.
Pinsa with ricotta and jams
“They make pinsa in Rome with ricotta, honey and fresh figs. And my partners and I decided that we should also have a dessert version of piña. Besides, it is not always possible to buy fruit of the right quality and taste. That’s why we use jams: strawberry, apricot and fig. In Italy, there are many desserts with ricotta. Unlike oily mascarpone or other creamy cheeses that would be the base of a sweet pizza, ricotta is light and goes well with jams.”
Crab pizza with creamy curry sauce and flying fish roe
“I came up with this pizza closer to summer when there was a demand for light dishes and seafood. Crab is a juicy product. We took the cutthroat crab – just because it’s popular in our kitchen. We bake the base first and put fresh products on it, which means the filling is not baked. The delicate, mild flavor of the crab gains momentum when combined with the sauce, which we make from cream cheese, cream, curry paste and flying fish roe. The caviar, in addition to having a bright fishy flavor, also has a great crunch to it. It’s topped with mozzarella, diced Azerbaijani tomatoes and parsley.
Turkey pizza with tonnato sauce and oranges
“We envisioned this pizza as a vitello tonnato pizza, only served a little differently. So the pizza base here acts as a bread plate on which the slightly modified vitello tonnato is placed. We decided to swap the veal for turkey, so the filling is lighter and more tender, and the turkey goes well with the tuna sauce. In fact, it’s the kind of sauce that goes great even with chicken. The pizza has quite a bright taste: salty tuna sauce, sour capers, creamy mozzarella, spicy arugula and orange slices; it’s salty, sour, sweet and slightly bitter. At first we tried putting grilled pineapple here instead of orange, but the orange adds up to a thinner sauce.”
Pinza with smoked salmon, zucchini and sesame seeds
“Pinza is such a thing; you can put anything you want in it. We came up with this one after the sanctions were imposed: we needed foods that were easy to find. This recipe first included smoked trout, which was later replaced by smoked salmon. The smoked fish is softened by the grilled zucchini. Pieces of fish are placed on slices of zucchini and sprinkled on top with sesame seeds – regular or black. You can also add fried red onion, dill, sour cream to such a pizza – it will be good too.”
Smoked ham, apple and cinnamon pizza
“To start with, apple goes great with cinnamon. It’s a time-tested combination, and we were happy to use it. The apple and cinnamon needed something salty to develop a new taste sensation in the eater, and that’s how the luxurious Voronezh smoked ham came about. It’s more like a supplement here, it doesn’t dominate – cinnamon is still in the lead, because it’s more vivid and sounds separate. We bake the base first, until it’s 70% cooked, and then we put the filling and bake some more.