The white clam pizza is one of the best seafood pizzas going. But, there has always been a cloud hanging over the idea of seafood in conjunction with pizza. However, two or three really good tasting seafood pizzas can add another dimension to your all-star pizza line-up.
Seafood and pizza are a happy flavor marriage — provided you go about it the right way. Here are some tips, tricks and recipes to get you going.
The types of seafood that work best for seafood pizzas are chopped clams, shrimp and squid. However, at various pizzerias in Naples, Italy, I have seen mussels and clams in the shell arranged on top of pizza, as well as anchovies and sardines.
Using anchovies as a topping constitutes a love-hate relationship for most people. Using several anchovies is not a good topping idea, because the flavor is too pronounced. However, anchovies paired with onions, olives and selected fresh herbs make for a tasty pizza.
Smoked salmon and flaked tuna are two more excellent topping choices for seafood pizza. Lobster and crab work, too, but now we are getting into some higher food costs. I suppose if certain restaurants in New York City can charge thirty bucks or more for a designer hamburger, a premium can be attached to a succulent lobster pizza.
And, at one time, seafood distributors couldn’t give away squid. Now it is one of the most popular appetizers in Italian restaurants. With that in mind, I am suggesting you try using fried or grilled squid as a topping for seafood pizza. However, you need to fry or grill it ahead, then add it at the end just before sending out the pizza. A spicy red sauce as a tomato base would work great with the fried calamari. Extra-virgin olive oil would be the ideal addition to a grilled squid pizza.
In some situations I like to cook or grill the seafood ahead — shrimp, scallops, for example — and add it as a topping after the pizza comes out of the oven. This helps me control the doneness of the seafood I am using. Some seafood really dries out from the high heat of the oven. There is a trade-off, though, and that is you will miss out on some of the natural flavor that comes from having the seafood bake along with the pizza.
There is a secret seafood pizza ingredient: clam juice. It will give any seafood pizza a huge flavor boost. Sprinkle it on before or after baking.
Let’s talk about the subject of cheese with a seafood pizza. There is a possible happy marriage between seafood and cheese on a pizza, but common sense prevails. In other words, you can use cheese with a seafood pizza, but use it sparingly or not at all. In fact, often enough, just a sprinkling of grated Parmesan does the trick. Another technique is to incorporate the cheese into a sauce, such as a pesto sauce.
Using what you’ve learned so far, try these recipes to take your seafood pizza making expertise to a whole new level.
Shrimp Pizza alla Genovese
Genoa, Italy is famous for its pesto. Just about every home, apartment terrace, restaurant and car wash has pots in which fresh basil is being grown. The basil leaves soon are to be transformed into a delicious pesto sauce. In this recipe, the combination of shrimp, roasted red peppers and pesto sauce illuminates the goodness that can be captured with a seafood pizza.
Makes two 12-inch pizzas
8 ounces pesto sauce
8 ounces medium shrimp (peeled, deveined, butterflied)
1 1/2 cups julienned roasted red bell peppers (if using the canned or jar peppers, rinse and pat dry)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
Divide the ingredients between the two pizza shells. Pesto goes on first, followed by the shrimp, the bell peppers, and the olive oil. Bake and serve.
Shrimp and Black Bean Pizza
I came across a version of this pizza in a seaside village in Mexico. Another name I use for this pizza is “surf and turf.” The bean and pepper mixture can be prepped once or twice a week and kept in the cooler, covered tightly.
Makes one 14-inch pizza
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh plum tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 14-inch pizza shell
6 extra-large (16-20 per pound) shrimp, shelled, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed under cold water
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
In a large bowl, combine the beans, onion, cumin, chipotle peppers, plum tomatoes, and scallions. Add the olive oil and toss to combine.
Spread the bean mixture evenly over the crust up to the border. Arrange the shrimp evenly over the beans. Sprinkle on the cilantro. Bake.
To keep this pizza simple I use canned chopped clams.
Makes one 14-inch pizza
1 14-inch pizza shell
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped clams
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
Brush or rub the crust with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Distribute the clams evenly over the pizza. Sprinkle on the garlic, red pepper flakes, parlsey and thyme. Sprinkle about 5 tablespoons of clam juice over the toppings. Bake.