by Dennis Lee, The Takeout
Frozen pizza is a big staple in our household. But as much as I love frozen pizza, it can get boring after a while. Adding things like mushrooms, garlic and onions before it goes into the oven is great and all, but in the end, it’s still a frozen pizza. You can’t get too far around that fact.
But what if you put stuff on a pizza after it’s come out of the oven? I’m not going to use the word “hack” here, but you know that’s where I’m headed.
Before I joined The Takeout staff, I worked as a professional pizza maker at Paulie Gee’s Logan Square in Chicago, and I picked up some tricks that changed up my frozen pizza game at home. You can also use them on fast food or leftovers to make them feel like a whole new pie.
(And no, none of these are ranch dressing, but don’t worry, I’m not a hater.)
Spicy honey has been on the up-and-up as a condiment in recent years, and it now occupies a permanent place in my pantry. It’s great in sauces or glazes and a great complement to fried chicken and biscuits and ice cream. But hot honey really, really works on pepperoni pizza. There’s something about the honey that amplifies the flavor of pepperoni like crazy; it’s like the pepperoni just gets louder with each bite. I can’t recommend trying this enough.
While you can certainly add ricotta to a pizza before it goes into the oven, I prefer the addition of cold ricotta after the pizza’s done baking. Dab bits of it all over the pizza so you get some with every bite. It’s cooling, rich and smooth, and it gives your pizza a fancy feel. I highly recommend you use a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off to put little uniform blobs on each slice. Oh, and definitely cut the pizza before you put the ricotta on, because running your pizza cutter through ricotta is a mess.
Arugula, lemon juice and olive oil
Don’t forget your greens, everybody! Fresh bitter greens like arugula on top of pizza are highly underrated. You can put them right on top of the pizza as-is, but an even better idea is to toss them in a touch of olive oil and a healthy dose of lemon juice. This is a good way to brighten up the pie without having to mess around too much in the kitchen.
Vegan and lactose intolerant friends, a pizza devoid of meat and dairy doesn’t have to taste boring. That’s where nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as the kids call it these days, can come in. I love nutritional yeast. I can easily eat it by the spoonful. It’s a byproduct of brewing beer, and it’s got such an impressively savory flavor that many people use it to replace parmesan in their cooking. A red pie with olive oil and garlic topped with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast will yield you a delicious, light result with a ton of flavor.
Because burrata is a knot of fresh mozzarella tied around a center of cream and bits of cheese, it’s not something you’re going to want to put in the oven before you bake off your pizza. Instead, once your pie comes out of the oven (or out of the box), take a messy piece of burrata and plop it right on a slice. Finish it off with a touch of olive oil, fresh basil and shaved parmesan, and suddenly you’re at a fancy pizza restaurant.
This is one of my favorites because prosciutto is so luxurious. Eating it by itself is obviously the best, but adding a slice of prosciutto on top of a slice right out of the oven is also heavenly, since the residual heat softens it up and releases the smell of the cured meat without cooking it.
Parmesan is a no-brainer. The stuff in shakers, packets and the green plastic container is fine, but it’s all grated. That makes it easy to sprinkle or stir into food. Shaved parmesan, meanwhile, is fantastic in that it’s a little thicker and it has a greater surface area. Using shaved parm instead of grated gives you the maximum cheesy effect with significant pops of flavor in each bite.
Just a drizzle of chili oil or herb-infused oil is enough to make your frozen pizza taste pretty complex. Even plain olive oil can give a slice some extra mileage.
I hope some of these ideas will help you up your frozen pizza game. None of them require a ton of work (if any at all), and sometimes small tweaks go a long way. If you’ve got any tips of your own, as always, be sure to let us know.