I studied Asian cuisine across Asia for two years. I’ve written a cookbook and have continued my culinary studies in Europe and the U.S. I recently completed an article on everyday foods that contain natural glutamates that define a savory flavor usually referred to as “umami.” While perusing that list to see if there were new items to add, it struck me. Many of those ingredients would be perfect on a pizza. I decided to whip up a dough crust and experiment.
My test group was my sons and their friends. There were about a dozen of them ranging in age from 17 to 29. The perfect subjects for my “Super-Pizza” test. Here’s the recipe and the directions. I’ll assume you’ll buy a pizza crust from the store but if you want to make your own, many bread machines offer a good variation or you can find a recipe online and do it yourself. To me the challenge wasn’t the crust but the sacred alchemy of the toppings. This is not an easy pizza to make, but try it once. You might be surprised.
“Umami Madness Super-Pizza”
- 1/4 cup corn meal(optional if you buy a store bought crust)
- 1 -16 inch crust
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 – 29 oz Can Plum tomatoes drained, sliced and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup sliced Shitake Mushrooms
- 1 cup slice Baby Portabella Mushrooms
- 12 fresh basil leaves torn
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic thinly slice
- 1 cup Italian Sausage (crisply browned)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 sliced Black olives
- 1/2 cup slice Kalamata olives
- 12 Anchovies (optional if everyone hates anchovies but “so loaded” with umami)
- 6 rashers of crisp bacon crumbled
- 1/4 cup of Romano
- 4 oz. Roquefort coarsely crumbled
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1 cup shredded Mozzarella
- 6 asparagus spears sliced to 1 inch (blanched and shocked in ice-water)
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
The Sacred Ritual:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set an oven rack in the center of the oven.
Put some foil in sheets on a cutting board or pizza board. Top this with the corn meal. If you are one of those rare people who have a pizza stone, have that in the oven while preheating and do your usual thing with the corn meal on the pizza board. Place the crust on the foil topped or paddle topped corn meal with your crust. If you’re using a store-bought crust you don’t have to fuss this with corn meal step. Your crust will have the proper integrity on the oven rack.
Drizzle the olive oil over the crust and spread it around with your fingers. Top this with the crushed plum tomatoes. Now you need to slowly sprinkle all of the ingredients on the list in the order they are indicated. You’re building layers and want certain things exposed to direct heat, and others protected by ingredients above. Follow the order carefully or you will not turn lead into gold.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and check the cheese. Look at the center as well. The mozzarella is your canary in this coal mine. When it starts to get a nice browning around the edges that moves towards the center you’re done.
Pull the pizza and let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes. That’s right. It’s a lot like other foods right out of the oven and a little resting time will allow everything to come together a bit and avoid those blisters we get on the roofs of our mouth when we eat hot pizza too fast. You can cut it into wedges, but I always go for the square cut approach. That’s up to you.
I hope this gets the attention of your hungry bunch and you can always simplify it next time. Just remember to keep your eye on umami and everyone will think it tastes just great.