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Reviews, Recipes, Travels & Rants | April 24, 2019

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Once Upon a Pizza – Homemade Healthy Pizza Recipe

Healthy Pizza Side View
Sumit Malhotra

HemOnce Upon a Pizza – Homemade Pizza Recipe

Pizza usually excites everyone across all age groups and is a fantastic hit almost always. In fact, I have not come across a person who says no to the flat, round, crunchy crusted, gooey cheesy bread spread with exotica of toppings. Now this goes for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

For all who think primarily “Italian”, when the term “Pizzas” is mentioned may find it interesting to know that Pizza is a type of bread and dish that has existed since times immemorial throughout Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. So, it was not just restricted to Italy, where it is one of the national dishes made with the famous Italian tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

The word “Pita“, as in bread (not to be confused with “Pitah” or father in the Hindi language), is still commonly used in the Mediterranean and is a staple to them on an every meal basis and may have been derived from Pizza or vice versa. Historically pita was considered bread for the “poor” and remains reasonably priced all over even today. Even pizzas overseas do not cost an arm and a leg.

Though, in today’s India just a large pizza for an average family of four can set one back by more than a few hundreds of rupees. Throw in some garlic bread, a side order and drinks and one averages a bill that is around Rs. 800. Hence, my guess is that this itself makes pizza a dish which many in India may not easily be able to afford. Evidently, pizzas are normally found on urban plates and are restricted to the larger Indian cities.

Also, it is interesting to see that in India, pizzas have gone local with toppings like paneer (cottage cheese), tandoori chicken (spiced roasted chicken), chicken tikka (roasted morsels of spiced chicken), and lamb keema (mutton or lamb mince) making a notable appearance and which have been a big hit with the local populace.

Besides localized basic variants available in neighbourhood bakeries and cafe’s to American chains like Domino’s, Pizza-Hut, Papa John’s, Sbarro or gourmet pizzas with exotic and imported ingredients available at specialty Italian restaurants, we have internalized pizzas as our own and with a pizzaz that is unique only to us Indians. Also, contributing to the girth of Indians are our own local chains like Slice of Italy, Smokin’ Joes, Pizza-Square (they make square pizzas and don’t cut corners :D) to name a few.

As much as we enjoy them and as much as they are scrumptious, pizzas are still considered to be high in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories. Hence, pizzas are usually qualified as unhealthy, especially commercial pizzas with their thick crusts, double cheese crusts, cheese filled rims etc, given their highs in all categories. One slice may contribute at least 300 calories which when consumed leads an immediate assault on the cardiovascular system. Ask yourself if you have ever felt extremely lethargic after a pizza meal? How true is that?

This just may be, since commercial pizzerias thrive on serving extra toppings of just about everything in their containers and we just like the idea of adding on at least a generous extra cheese topping always, if not more. Having said and done this a lot of times, I also firmly believe that pizzas can be really healthy. Stumped?

In my opinion and often used practice, if you make your pizzas with the right (and carefully measured) ingredients at home, pizzas can turn out to be quite healthy and nutritious. Pizzas made at home especially with kids involved, make them big hit with the kids. Then the kids make you feel like a superstar when the shower of hugs and accolades comes right to you after the last crunch.

The entire process for making pizzas from the bread to the table is laborious and time consuming especially if you are taking the freshly baked route. However, there are still a few tricks that you can use to cut down on the preparation time.

How to speed up the process?

  1. Depend upon the locally available pizza bases which do save a lot of time. I usually do so (without feeling criminal) since I am yet to master the skill of making that perfect pizza base. Ensure you buy pizza bases as fresh as possible.
  2. In fact, make and keep the Italian style tomato sauce much in advance. I usually do this. And I have created a perfect tomato based Italian pizza sauce that is a hit with both kids and adults alike.
  3. Prepare the meat in advance. This also lets you focus on the flavour you want to get into the meat before it goes on to the pizza and into the oven.
  4. In addition to this, some vegetables like sweet corn may need some boiling beforehand. Keep them prepared ready to be topped upon the pizza.
  5. In addition to these, remember to preheat your oven and stick to the desired temperature and baking timing. I do this successfully having tamed the convection part of the microwave “oven” to let me make crunchy and healthy pizzas, my way.

How to make healthier pizzas at home?

  1. Try to make your own bread with whole wheat flour rather than refined flour. You can also get whole wheat flour bases easily today at most bakeries making pizza bases.
  2. Roll the pizza bread thin, just about 3-4 mm. This will not only reduce the quantity of dough used, but will also make nice crunchy pizzas quicker. Remember! thin crust is the default pizza :D.
  3. Apply a little olive oil to the base before putting on the initial layer of the sauce. This will help in creating the right crunch and also allow you to use lesser amount of cheese.
  4. Use a lot of tomato sauce; and use a lot of garlic in the sauce. Tomato contributes “lycopene” which as an antioxidant is considered to be a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancers, particularly prostate cancer. While, garlic is also claimed to help prevent heart disease (including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure) and cancer.
  5. Consider your meat toppings. In fact, stay away from red meats and stay with lean meats like chicken or even, what the hell, lean, fat trimmed bacon. Precook the chicken differently in your favourite style beforehand and play with different flavours on the pizza.
  6. Consider your vegetable toppings. So use tomatoes, onions, sweetcorn, olives, mushrooms, peppers (green, red and yellow peppers can add a lot of colour), spinach generously.
  7. And Add a lot of herbs (if you can find fresh ones … excellent). Herbs have a great nutritional value and give the pizza a fantastic aroma.

Making of that perfect homemade Pizza

what goes in? what kinds? how much?
Pizza Base Freshly acquired or made 1
EVOO Half a teaspoon
Yellow Bell Pepper Chopped in cubes
Onions Sliced in roundels
Red Bell Pepper Chopped in cubes
Chicken Mortadella 6 Slices
Jalapeno Thinly sliced
Mozzarella Cheese Grated; Fresher the better About 50 grams to a pizza

How to go about it?

  1. First of all, acquire fresh pizza base from a local market, unless you want to make your own.
  2. Press the pizza base between two identical smooth bottomed plates to make it thinner.
  3. Now, rub EVOO on the base and apply the sauce described above.
  4. Sprinkle some mozzarella on the base and then load up the toppings, including onion roundels, jalapenos, red and yellow bell peppers and cover them with slices of chicken mortadella or salami.
  5. Add the remaining grated mozzarella cheese right on top.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220C and bake the pizza on the low rack for about 15 minutes or till the cheese browns.
  7. Finally, enjoy your crunchy pizzas.

Psst: Be creative with your toppings. Vegetarians can use any combination made from corn off the cob, pineapple, broccoli, mushrooms, capers, onions, tomatoes, olives, peas, roasted garlic, and zucchini. You can also add nuts to your pizza including, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pine nuts or walnuts. For added seasoning and spice, you can play around with chilli, coriander, cumin, cardamom, thyme, kaffir lime leaves and rosemary. A seafood fiesta pizza can add to it prawns, smoked salmon, shrimps, tuna or anchovies. Load up meatier pizzas with bacon, chicken done in lot of ways including with BBQ sauce, Masala gravy, Cajun spices. So the options are myriad. You can also add chorizo, fried pork, ham, salamis, meatballs, keema, pepperoni, sausages, smoked turkey slices, and even duck if you can lay your hands on it.

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