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Pizza Topping Showdown!

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I'm going to a friend's house for dinner on Friday, and we're having a pizza showdown. He's bringing his toppings, we're bringing our toppings, and we're going to see who puts together the best combination. This guy's a really good cook and he makes great pizza, but I'd like to see if I can't match him this time. I'm hoping the Chowhound community might have an idea for a delicious combination that will contrast what I'm up against, and maybe even taste a little better. I had the notion of doing something traditional, but doing it really well; for some reason, I also had mango in my head, but I'm not totally sold on it.

My nemesis has revealed that he's going to be doing caramelized onions, proscuitto, artichokes, asparagus, olives, and feta.

He's providing the crust, and it won't be anything unusual. Oh, and the toppings require cooking, I'd like to do that in advance before I take it over there.

What do I counter with?

Thanks!

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  1. My favourite is bacon, artichokes, pineapple and spinach. It may be a little too similar to his toppings, although the sweetness from the pineapple is really the key. If you do try this combination, make sure that the bacon is good and crispy and that the pineapple is fresh, not canned. It could be interesting if you grilled the pineapple first, to get a nice caramelized crusty layer. It's also delicious with dabs of soft goat cheese, but once again, this might be a little too close to his feta.

    1. I had a wonderful pizza recently where the chef added a farm fresh egg right before it went into the oven. Thin crust, ten minutes and the yolk was still runny. It had pancetta, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers. Egg added a richness.

      1. My favorite: arugula (a big pile), prosciutto, blue cheese, red onion, sliced garlic, red bell pepper, a shake of crushed red pepper and a little shredded mozzerella.

        1 Reply
        1. re: suburban_mom

          I will be doing a similar combo this weekend. Sorrel, prociutto, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, red onion, and the shake.

        2. Anchovies, black olives, Pecorino cheese, capers.
          Here's a link for the recipe (I wouldn't do it as a deep dish but simply as a typical Italian pizza pie)
          http://www.culturecheesemag.com/Putta...
          It's a winner for certain .....

          1. my fave - sundried tomato tapenade, bed of ricotta cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, romano, and fresh basil.

            also good, carmelized onions, wild mushrooms in a balsamic glaze, walnut pesto, gruyere, and parsley or basil.

            1. Oh man, I love them all, but I have to put out this- pepperoni and pineapple pizza, with or without jalapenos, which are really good too. Just sayin'- I'd never have gone there until I tried it, and now I'm a fan.
              That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.

              1. My fav...........and would be better than HIS....:)

                caramelized onion, Gorgonzola, walnuts, (sometimes a few chunky bacon bits)...then toss arugula with a squeeze of lemon and olive oil & throw it nonchalantly over the top....oh, yeah.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sedimental

                  I made a similar pie for a friend's party and people went nuts for it. Blue cheese, caramelized onion, pancetta and arugula. Mmm.

                2. How about gruyere, tart apples, arugula, etc?

                  1. Are all of the judges into very heavy topping, non-tomato pizzas? At this time of year, I like to go fairly classic, but with the best, freshest ingredients. Fresh tomatoes that have been salted and drained on paper towels so they are not too wet, the same for fresh mozarella, a handful of fresh herbs thrown on at the last minute along with some finely grated Parmigiano Romano. Oh, and I would do a grilled crust ahead of time, if you can't do it on site, to get that charred and smokey flavor into the crust. Barring that idea, I would go super meats.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      How about a "Greek" style pie?.Sauteed spinach,feta, kalamata olives and diced tomatoes.red onions sprinkled with fresh oregano.

                      Or rapini, hot sausage/chorizo and jalapenos...

                      1. re: petek

                        Sounds good, but it's not a summer pizza to me. Right now I just want what's freshest in the market.

                    2. I have not yet tried this on my pizza, but I've given it some thought. Roast, peel and puree red bell peppers in an amount that would cover a 12" pizza. Add to the puree mashed roasted garlic. Use half of the puree in combination with the tomato sauce that would be used to cover the pizza. Get some fresh mozzarella, slice it in thin rounds, and use it instead of shredded mozzarella. Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano just after the pizza comes out of the oven along with 'basilico tagliato a brandelli' (fresh basil sliced to shreds) as garnish.

                      The reason that I have not tried using roasted red bell peppers yet is that it has been TOO DAMN HOT to heat up the kitchen by using the oven.

                      FORGET THE FRUIT!!!!!

                      Buon appetito e mangia bene! Buona fortuna!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        "The reason that I have not tried using roasted red bell peppers yet is that it has been TOO DAMN HOT to heat up the kitchen by using the oven. "

                        You could do them on the BBQ

                        1. re: petek

                          You mean the 'grill' don't you? I don't grill anything when the heat index is 100+.

                          1. re: ChiliDude

                            Up here in Canada we call the "grill" a BBQ,but I hear ya,100 deg+ is way too hot...

                        2. re: ChiliDude

                          I use fresh mozzarella on pizzas quite often. Depending on the cheese, it can create milky pools on a pizza so I always slice it onto paper towels, lightly salt it and cover it with more paper towels, giving it a press to get moisture out. Really cuts down on soggy pizzas, at least for me.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Thanks for the great tip.

                        3. Well one thing that I love on pizza is hot capicola.

                          I'm not at all big on all the non traditional (for lack of a better term) toppings. So I'll suggest bacon, capicola, onions and green olives.

                          DT

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Davwud

                            Read what is discussed at this website. Pay particular attention to the origin of the meat and the true name of the sausage.

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capicola

                          2. I love the combination of hot, salty, sweet and tangy on a pizza - one of my favorite combinations is pepperoni, caramelized red onions and green olives. I also really enjoy caramelized fresh pineapple in conjunction with any salty meat (pepperoni, italian sausage, etc.) and/or banana peppers. Oven roasted tomatoes instead of tomato sauce can be nice. Also, what about a white pie made with homemade ricotta?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: biondanonima

                              I'm leaning to something along these lines—salty + sweet + spicy. Maybe I'll stick with my mango idea, but pair it with some bacon or pancetta and hot peppers.

                              1. re: synecdoche

                                I think if you get a slightly underripe mango (so that it still has a nice tart punch) and caramelize it first, it would be DELICIOUS with a salty meat and something hot. Maybe chorizo and jalapenos for a mexican kick? With some manchego cheese mixed with your mozzarella for a little extra flavor? YUM!

                            2. I've had a pizza that had saba (the reduced grape juice out of which balsamic vinegar is made), caramelized onions, black figs, and Gorgonzola cheese. Sweet and savory, delicious!

                              I've heard of a pizza topped with pesto, blue cheese, and corn.

                              Also, goat cheese, dates, and prosciutto.

                              1. If I were judging, I'd cringe at having so many toppings as your friend is planning. With so many toppings, it's impossible to get a complete bite, you risk getting the crust soggy and you risk the crust being unable to support the toppings.

                                I say keep it simple with no more than 2-3 toppings (not including sauce and cheese). My personal favorite is simple, but properly made sausage and mushrooms. Lots of options there in making the sausage and hunting down some fresh, wild mushrooms. Other suggestions would be along the same lines - Go for simple, but aim for quality. A white pizza with freshly shucked clams, garlic, butter sauce and quality ricotta. If you want something that sounds fancy, pancetta with grilled fig and candied cherry peppers.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: ediblover

                                  Unfortunately, I think that subtle, simple flavors have been eclipsed by BIG BOLD ones. I still think the best measure of a pizza maker is how well they do a margharita.

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    I agree. But, the subject was on toppings and toppings in general do tell a lot about a pizza place. Sausage is a big deal for me - Do they have the generic kind or take the time to either order it from a good place or make it in-house? The other dead giveaway (in terms of quality) is the mushroom. Canned, generic table and portabella shouldn't even be on menus - To me, they scream out, "We're not really trying."

                                    It's still all about the crust, sauce and cheese, but toppings are a big factor. Still behind the fundamental elements, as good toppings can't save a poor crust, but a nice finishing touch at the least.

                                    1. re: ediblover

                                      I disagree with your mushroom assessment. I prefer canned when I make pizza at home. They taste fine enough for me and they don't leech out a bunch of water.

                                      DT

                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        If you brown the fresh mushrooms in a hot pan with a little olive oil they will not leach out water and the flavor, IMHO, will be wonderful.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          I'll give it a try next time I make pizza. I'm not THAT big a mushroom guy so a more intense flavour may not work for me.

                                          DT

                                          1. re: Davwud

                                            I have not been a huge fan of mushrooms at times but this gives them a nice mellow, browned flavor and the texture is such an improvement over canned.

                                  2. re: ediblover

                                    I agree with ediblover that the friend's pizza seems like there's too much going on. I love artichokes, but people tend to put huge chunks of them on pizza, and then they just get watery and take over the flavor. The asparagus is going to get lost with the saltiness of the olives, feta and prosciutto, etc. 3 toppings plus sauce and cheese is plenty IMO.

                                  3. I once had an amazing pizza at a restaurant that had a white sauce (not sure exactly what they used), pear, walnuts and goat cheese.

                                    1. My favorite, since first bite, is shrimp, mushroom and black olive. Here in Oregon we call it a Friday Special. I've made it at home with large shrimp cut into bite-sized pieces and with baby shrimp meat, and all sizes in between. Anyone who has ever tried it will give me a puzzled look, take a bite and then just hummm. Exceptionally good.

                                      1. Pancetta con garlic pizza
                                        simple and delicious, however it may be too close to the one he is making.
                                        Its just pancetta, tomato sauce, lotsa garlic and Parmesan cheese.
                                        There used to be a pizza place in San Carlos, Ca that made these wonderful pizzas, but alas they have closed, and now I can't find a good replacement. It spoiled me for any other pizza.

                                        1. I've just discovered roasted fennel and would add that, Italian sausage and provolone. To roast the fennel, I'd add add a little EVOO, salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure to toss/turn fennel every 25-30 minutes or so.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: kokosowy

                                            Maybe some eggplant, marjoram, red chilis, lemon, burrata..
                                            I will confess that ever since I made this pasta recipe I have been recycling the flavors using it for my grilled vegetables, pizzas, etc. Found it to be very addicting.
                                            http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/or...

                                            Sorry...meant to reply to the original post...

                                          2. I think properly dressed arugula or watercress on top is a nice touch.
                                            Let us know who wins!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: monavano

                                              Please do tell us!! I'm loving all the suggestions on this thread!

                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                I'm also curious about the winner (and pics, if possible)!

                                            2. How about a quattro formaggi pizza (mozz, fontina, gorgonzola, parm) with spinach, topped with sliced lamb meatballs and green and black olives? I had something similar not too long ago and was blown away with how different it was from anything I had had before.

                                              1. OK, what were the pizza topping ingredients each of you used, and who won the showdown?

                                                1. sauteed broccoli raab, preserved lemon, sundried tomatoes
                                                  sliced boiling potatoes roasted with rosemary, veggie sausafe (we are veg), and Gouda
                                                  gorgonzola, spinach, sundried tomato

                                                  this is a weird one--my husband and I used to go to a pizza place in Yellow Springs OH that had falafel as a topping. It's actually good in a dirty weird way. I like it with hot banana peppers and diced plum tomatoes.