The key to a delicious veggie pizza is not necessarily in ingredients, but in method. By par-baking the crust and sautéing all the vegetables ahead of building the pizza one can avoid a soggy bottom crust topped with watery vegetables. This also adds layers of flavour. Bonus tip: How to make homemade frozen pizzas.
Is there anything better in this world than a fresh homemade pizza with a crispy crust and delicious vegetables? Yes, a pizza without all the rabbit food some of you might say. I pity you because I know then kind of pizza you have has that has turned you against all the vegetable pizzas. It was a soggy bottom pizza that was just all wet and soupy on top. Maybe it was frozen once, which can be okay, not great but fine. As long as there are no vegetables on it that is because they never cook in time with the crust and all that excess moisture in combination with the sauce will turn the middle of the pizza into a wet, mushy mess. That can be a challenge even for vegetable lovers.
Making the Perfect Veggie Pizza
This pizza recipe gets rid of all these problems by combatting the excess moisture problem three ways. First you par-bake the crust, an extra step that is well-worth the effort. Even without a pizza stone or pizza oven it creates a crispy bottom, no floppy fold it in half pizza. (What is that about?) It also dries out the top to keep it from getting too mushy. Then you create a cheese barrier that keeps the excess moisture from the vegetables (which we keep at bay with step three) at the top where it can evaporate. Last but not least instead of using raw vegetables we use sautéed or blanched ones, that have already released most of their moisture in the cooking process before. You can also use some leftover veggies from the day before, that’s the reason mine has broccoli on it.
Joy: Who puts broccoli on pizza!
Disgust: That’s it, I’m done.
Anger: Congratulations San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza! First the Hawaiians, and now you!Inside Out, Pixar (2015)
All those steps help improve the overall texture of the pizza and they also improve the flavour. By browning the vegetables such as onions, bell peppers and mushrooms they can develop more flavour than they could by just baking them. You can also season every component of your pizza every step of the way building layers of flavour. The only downside is the extra work I will admit, but you could just make it worth your while by homemaking frozen pizzas. You have all that work once and then you can have delicous frozen pizza some other time. I try to do that whenever I have some space in the freezer.
Homemade Frozen Pizza
Obviously you don’t have to make a veggie frozen pizza, you can top it with anything you like. Even pineapple that funnily enough was invented in Canada, but they blamed it on the Hawaiians because even they thought it was weird. Sorry. (I don’t pizza shame, top it however you want). When making a homemade frozen pizza you want to follow the recipe below right until the moment you put the topped pizza (step 5) to finish in the oven (skip step 6), instead of baking it you leave it to cool completely. Then you freeze it (on a baking sheet or cutting board for support) and once solid you put in in a freezer bag. It is important to make your pizza in a size that you can wrap later, otherwise it will get freezer burn. Remove the pizza from the freezer as needed and bake for 20-30 minutes (less time if you defrosted the pizza ahead of time) until the edges are golden and the cheese has fully melted. This is how easy it is to make frozen pizzas. Maybe this could be a fun lockdown activity to get the family involved.
• 500 gr flour
• 2 tbl semolina
• 2 tsp salt
• 42 gr fresh baker’s yeast (or dry-active yeast)
• 300-350 ml luke-warm water
• 2 tbl olive oil
• Olive oil
• Canned tomato puree (seasoned with salt and olive oil)
• Vegetables of choice (onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli,…)
• Seasonings: Salt, Pepper
• Grated cheese (cheddar, gouda, vegan cheese product)
• Mozzarella (ripped into small-ish pieces)
• Herbs (oregano or basil)
• Chili flakes or pickled chillies
- Make the Crust: Mix the flour, semolina and salt until well combined. Make a well in the middle, pour in some of the water and dissolve the yeast. Now let the yeast sit for a few minutes until foamy. Start adding water in stages to keep hydrating the flour as needed without getting too wet and knead (with a machine or by hand) until smooth and elastic dough begins to form (5-10 min). Add the olive oil and keep kneading for a couple of minutes. Cover the dough and leave it to prove until it has doubled in volume.
- Prepare the Vegetables: By sautéing the vegetables most of their moisture will evaporated on the stove and not on top of the pizza. Cut all vegetables into small cubes and slices and sauté them in a little olive oil on high heat until most of the water has evaporated. Start with hard vegetables such as onions and bell peppers and add softer vegetables such as mushrooms, aubergine and spinach last. Broccoli is best blanched ahead of time until just tender. Season vegetables to taste with salt and pepper and leave it to cool.
- Par-bake the Crust: Preheat the oven to 200°C. Punch the air out the dough and knead it briefly. Then halve the dough and shape it into a disc by stretching or rolling it out to the desired thickness. Place the dough on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
- Pizza Sauce: Season pureed tomato with some olive oil and salt to taste, it will cook in the oven. You can also add some crushed garlic to the pizza sauce.
- Build the Pizza: Remove the crust from the oven, pop bigger air bubbles and brush a little olive oil on the edges. Add tomato sauce and a layer of grated cheese. Top it with the vegetables and some small pieces of mozzarella. When using dried herbs sprinkle them over before baking otherwise add them afterwards.
- Finish Baking: Bake the pizza until the edges are golden, the bottom holds its shape and the cheese is perfectly melted (10-15 min). Top the pizza as desired with fresh herbs and chilli flakes or pickled chillies.
I know this recipe looks elaborate, but it is one of the easiest things you can make. Obviously you could use a store-bought crust if you don’t have time. Though the extra step of making the crust yourself is worth it, it is more of a weekend activity. Eat vegetables during the week and have a pizza party on the weekend is a great compromise. Once everything is covered in flour and you sautéed all these vegetables, you might as well make some frozen pizzas for busy days. Give a man a pizza and he will eat one day, teach a man to make a frozen pizza and he will eat delicious pizza without a lot of effort for days to come. Don’t eat pizza every day, even if it has vegetables on it. I hope you enjoyed this recipe and stay healthy. #stayhome (if you can)