Pizza Insalata

Salad pizza, or pizza insalata, has so much going for it I often wonder why more restaurants don’t offer it. Obviously, pizza insalata is not a style of pizza that you would want to deliver, but it works great as a lunch option or as a dinner appetizer. Simply put, a salad pizza is a refreshing way to have a salad and a pizza at the same time, so in some fashion you can also promote the idea of having your pizza and eating it too — healthy implications notwithstanding.

You undoubtedly already have all the necessary ingredients — pizza crust, salad greens, cheese, salad dressing — so it’s not like you have to link together a whole new food chain to get into it.

Making pizza insalata is as simple as taking a pizza shell, brushing it with olive oil, adding cheese and baking the pizza until the cheese is melted and speckled brown. I hope you noticed that no pizza sauce is used. And none is needed.

The other great advantage to offering pizza insalata is that you can prep most if it ahead. Bake the pizza and set it aside. A speedy lunch dish evolves by simply slicing the pizza and arranging it on the plate with a tossed salad.

Here’s how it goes:

Pizza Insalata

If the pizza is to be served as a first course, it will serve four people easily. As a salad entrée it will serve two generously. I am listing the ingredients for a simple Italian salad dressing, but you can use any style of good Italian dressing.

Makes one 14-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)

6-7 cups mixed lettuces (red leaf, leaf, radicchio) or mesclun

¼ (one-fourth) cup sliced red onion

4-5 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and cubed

½ (one-half) cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 14-inch pizza shell

6-8 thin slices of provolone cheese (or 6 ounces of a shredded Mozzarella/provolone blend)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuces, onion and tomatoes. Set aside, or prep several hours ahead.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay the slices of cheese evenly over the crust up to the border.

Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and the cheese starts to take on brown speckles. Allow the pizza to cool for 10 minutes or more (can be prepared to this point and held for up to 2 hours then reheated just a bit just before serving).

To order, toss the salad with the dressing. Cut the pizza into four wedges. Arrange a wedge (or two) or a large plate. Put the salad in the center of the plate. Sprinkle the greens with grated Parmesan (optional). Serve.

Now you can expand the possibilities by adding other ingredients. For example, draping thin slices of prosciutto over the salad. On occasion I will add other ingredients — roasted red peppers, olives, anchovies — to the basic salad to jazz up the flavor and to expand the selection.