Nobody had to twist my arm to write this column. I am a meat lover from way back, a protein proponent without equal. When I was, oh, about 16 years old, I didn’t have any Italian sausage in the house, so I opened a can of Spam, cut the whole thing into cubes and put it on a pizza. My mother almost threw me out of the house, but I have to say the pizza wasn’t all that bad.
The Spam idea today would not be all that far-fetched. In fact, one of the most popular pizzas in Latin countries is the “Hawaiian.” Ham and pineapple are the toppings that give it the Hawaiian moniker.
Although it is generally the case, a Meat lover’s pizza doesn’t always imply loading up a pizza with several different kinds of meat. Just by upping the regular amount of a particular kind of meat (sausage, pepperoni) brings a pizza into the meat lover’s category.
Common sense must be used, however. A pound of meat on a 10-inch pizza is overkill, and would probably turn most people off. On the other hand, I recently had an encounter with a whopping 18-inch pizza that was loaded with chunks of Italian sausage –– probably a pound in all. And it was a very good pizza for a couple of reasons.
The crust was thick enough to hold up under the weight of the meat, sauce and cheese. Also, the sausage was quality all the way (worst case scenario would be to load a pizza with meat that was not top quality). I have always been a proponent of balance (a harmonious relationship among the toppings, sauce, crust, and cheese), but with a meat lover’s pizza, that idea doesn’t always work.
A few suggestions to consider should you be thinking about dipping your toe into the meat lover’s pizza water:
• Consider the compatibility of the meats being used. It wouldn’t make much sense to used barbecued beef and pepperoni, or andouille sausage with Italian sausage. On the other hand, the combination of sausage, pepperoni and meatballs on a Meat lover’s pizza would work great.
• The thickness of the crust should be in proportion to the amount of meat (and cheese and sauce) being used. If you load a lot of meat onto a cracker-thin crust, nothing good will happen. The very weight of the toppings will make the crust groan with pain, make the pizza almost impossible to eat and, at that point can you really call it a pizza? You might just as soon serve the meat alone and leave the crust out.
• Think outside the box. We all know that the two most popular pizza toppings are pepperoni and sausage. So take a different look at how to use the two important toppings. For example, instead of putting the pepperoni on the pizza in the regular way –– sliced –– use coarsely chopped pepperoni and spread it out, along with the sausage, across the entire crust. Also, some meat purveyors will sell you diced pepperoni. I have been using a lot of diced pepperoni lately and find that it really does deliver good pepperoni flavor from one side of the pizza to another (and no problem in everybody getting a good taste of pepperoni once the pizza has been cut into slices).
Alternatively, for a Meat lover’s pizza, bring in sandwich pepperoni. Sandwich pepperoni is two to three times larger in diameter than standard pepperoni. Using this larger cut will enhance the whole idea of a Meat lovers pizza, and will allow you to really lay it on for a truly robust flavor and presentation.
• Don’t try to put together a Meat lover’s pizza by using two (or three) different kind of Italian sausages. The whole idea of that will get lost on the customer, since there is not enough difference in flavor to make a difference. On the other hand, if you bring into the mix another style of Italian sausage (luganega comes to mind, and so does soppressata), then the idea works.
Or, instead of using Italian sausage the way it is ordinarily used, you change the style of cut. By that I mean buy link Italian sausage and cook it off in the oven. Then slice the sausage into rounds or lengthwise for a topping that looks and tastes a lot meatier.
• Picking up on the sausage theme, here is a recipe for an Italian cold cut pizza, that falls smack into the Meat Lover’s pizza category. The Italian word for cured meats or cold cuts is “salumi.” Salumi, as an appetizer, has become a very popular antipasto in Italian restaurants, so why not take it one step further and use it to create a Meat Lover’s pizza?
PIZZA CON SALUMI
Makes one 14-inch pizza
4 ounces pizza sauce
6 slices Genoa salami
6 slices capocolla
6 slices mortadella
6 slices sandwich pepperoni (bigger in diameter than standard pepperoni)
1/2 pound shredded mozzarella, or combination of mozzarella and provolone
Grated Romano and Parmesan
Spread the sauce over the crust (it will be less sauce than you might ordinarily use on this size pizza).
Sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce.
Now lay each of the salumi (cold cuts) on top of the cheese, overlapping the slices, starting from about 1/2 -inch in from the edge of the crust, bringing the slices into the center of the crust in a spiral fashion, to cover the cheese completely. (The idea here is that by overlapping the cold cuts, it builds or adds heft to the pizza.) Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
Sprinkle on some grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. Bake.
Note: the above recipe works great, too, in a deep-dish pizza. Also, if you want to whet your customers’ appetite even more, do this salumi pizza in a rectangular shape instead of round. Use the same technique of overlapping the slices of meat, but alternate the meats to allow for a taste of each when the pizza is sliced.