When a pizza isn’t a pizza

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com
It’s a casserole. It’s a pizza. It’s a Pepperoni Pizza Casserole - Bill Colvard | The News
Instead of a crust, a serving of pasta is hiding under a pepperoni pizza on top of this Pepperoni Pizza Casserole. - Bill Colvard | The News

Everyone has heard the old saying, “You can never have too much of a good thing.” Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. But it’s rarely true. Visiting relatives, for instance, are a good thing with a definite point where the fun peaks. Even too much cake can have serious repercussions.

But pizza you really can not have too much. Maybe at one sitting, there’s a limit. But it will be good again tomorrow. And the day after that.

Almost everybody likes pizza. Persnickety kids who turn their noses up at everything will lap it up. Finicky adults usually like it. Try to get a large group of people to agree on a restaurant and pizza is quite often the only thing the whole group can agree on.

And if you just can’t get enough pizza, you can have a pizza that isn’t a pizza. There are pizza casseroles, where all the components of pizza are thrown into a casserole. A pepperoni pizza casserole comes out of the oven looking like a pepperoni and olive pizza, but dig in and you’ve got yourself a hearty weeknight, one-dish dinner.

Marrying pizza to another favorite food almost always yields excellent results. Pizza pot pie combines another favorite comfort food, pot pie, with the deepest of deep dish pizzas, to great effect. Grilled pizza sandwiches take your basic grilled cheese to a whole new level and pizza soup is just a good idea. Soup is the ultimate comfort food and how much more comforting would it be if it tasted like a pizza?

And for kids who resist trying new things, there’s always pizza stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey. No need to stuff the turkey with some weird bread that looks like the turkey ate it, stuff it with a pizza instead. Make it for the kids but the grown-ups will probably lap it up too.

And since popcorn already comes in hundreds of flavors, why not whip up a batch of pizza popcorn for maximum TV viewing pleasure.

Keep your eyes open when traveling for culinary astronauts who take the pizza train to places you never suspected it might go. At Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philadelphia, pizza flavored ice cream is on offer, made with tomato, oregano, salt, basil and garlic. And if one place does it, others probably do as well.

And speaking of the pizza train, it occasionally stops at bars where some very creative mixologists have hopped aboard. A “Wood-fired Black Margarita Pizza Cocktail” boasting sausage-infused Jim Beam Black Label, is served in a hollowed-out green pepper and is stirred with a bread stick. A “Cold Slice” uses 3 Olives Tomato vodka steeped with basil, fennel, oregano, and a pinch of sugar, is garnished with an anchovy-stuffed black olive and served in a Parmesan cheese rimmed glass. And of course, a “Pizza-tini” is the perfect libation if you need a good use for that last leftover smidge of your secret sauce.

From the first course to the last, at any meal of the day, whether you’re eating or whether you’re drinking, pizza is there for you.

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

12 ounces pasta

1/2 lb. Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

3 cups (24 ounces) pizza sauce or marinara sauce

1/2 cup sliced black olives

4 ounces pepperoni

8 ounces ricotta

2 cups mozzarella, shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Cook the pasta as directed on package but stop 3 minutes early, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large saucepan over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Mix in the sauce with the sausage and 3/4’s of the olives and pepperoni and set aside. Mix the ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan and set aside. Place half of the pasta in the bottom of a large baking dish, top with half of the sauce, followed by half of the cheese mixture and repeat with another layer of each, finally topping with the remaining olives, pepperoni and oregano. Bake in a preheated 350°F. oven covered in foil until bubbling at the sides, about 20-30 minutes, remove the foil and bake until the cheese has melted and started to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. You’re not restricted to pepperoni and olives. add or substitute your favorite pizza toppings.

Pizza Pot Pie

You’ll need a 1-quart (6-inch ramekin) to bake your pot pie in.

8 ounces store-bought pizza dough

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces sliced Havarti

Put the pizza dough in a medium bowl and coat well with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour depending on the dough. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the garlic, bell peppers and onions in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has evaporated from the pan and the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until thick, about 15 minutes. Brush the sides and lip of a 1-quart (6-inch) ramekin with the butter. Line the bottom and sides with the Havarti. Fill with 1 1/2 cups of the hot marinara-sausage sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce for another use. Gently pull and stretch the pizza dough into a 10-inch circle and place it over the ramekin, leaving a 2-inch overhang all around. Gently press around the edges of the ramekin to lightly seal. Put on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and the top sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the ramekin to a heatproof surface and place a plate on top. Carefully invert the ramekin onto the plate, using a spoon to gently pry the dough from the dish. Serve hot.

Cheesy Grilled Pizza Sandwich

Rustic style sandwich bread

Butter or olive oil

Pizza sauce

Garlic bread seasoning


Mozzarella cheese

Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread, or brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic bread seasoning on each slice and gently pat on with clean hands. Turn slices of bread over. Spread pizza sauce on each slice and sprinkle with cheese. Place pepperoni slices on one of the sandwich halves and then place the two pieces of bread together. Grill on a panini press or hot skillet, or place under a broiler in the oven, flipping once, until both sides of bread are toasted and golden brown and cheese is melted. Cool for 3-5 minutes before slicing in half and serve.

Pizza Soup

10 servings 5 minutes prep plus 40 minutes to cook

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes

2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed tomato soup, undiluted

2-1/2 cups water

1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni, quartered

1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. rubbed sage

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

10 slices French bread, toasted

1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

In a Dutch oven, bring the tomatoes, soup and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher. Add the pepperoni, red and green peppers, mushrooms, garlic, sage, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Ladle into ovenproof bowls. Top each with a slice of bread and sprinkle with cheese. Broil 4 in. from the heat until cheese is melted and bubbly. Yield: about 2-1/2 quarts.

Pizza-Flavored Thanksgiving Stuffing (or Dressing)

A good NYC-style pizzeria will sell garlic knots. If your local pizzeria doesn’t offer them, sub in a loaf of grocery-store garlic bread. The recipe should stuff a couple small birds or one 18- to 22-pound turkey.

1 pound garlic knots (about 18) cut into 3/4-inch dice, about 2.5 quarts

4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)

3/4 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage

1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

16 ounces (2 cups) low-sodium chicken or turkey broth, preferably homemade

2 small eggs

1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt and black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 275°F. Spread diced garlic knots evenly over a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until completely dried out, about 50 minutes total, rotating sheet and stirring knots several times during baking. Remove from oven and let cool. Raise oven temperature to 350°F.

In large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming subsides (don’t allow butter to brown), about 2 minutes. Add Italian sausage and mash with stiff whisk or potato masher to break up into fine pieces (largest pieces should be no greater than 1/4 inch). Cook, stirring frequently until only a few bits of pink remain, about 8 minutes. Add onions, green bell pepper, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add half of chicken stock.

Whisk remaining chicken stock, eggs, and basil in a medium bowl until homogeneous. Stirring constantly with wooden spoon, slowly pour egg mixture into sausage mixture. Add bread cubes and fold gently until evenly mixed.

Use part of stuffing to stuff bird if desired. To cook remaining stuffing, transfer to buttered 9-inch square baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until instant read thermometer reads 150°F when inserted into center of dish (about 35 minutes). Remove foil, sprinkle with a handful of Parmesan cheese, and bake until golden brown and crisp on top (about 15 minutes more).

Pizza Popcorn

1 1/4 cup unpopped corn kernels

3 tbsp. coconut oil

3 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. unsalted butter melted

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

3/4 tsp. dried parsley

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/2-3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/2 cup finely grated mozzarella

Pop your kernels, old school style: Set the heat to medium-high. Add coconut oil to a large pot with a lid. Add the kernels and cover the pot. When you hear the first sound of kernels popping, reduce heat to medium-low and allow the kernels to pop completely. Every minute or so, give the pot a shake to ensure all your kernels have been hit with a heat situation (this will make them all pop). Remove from heat and set aside. You can choose to pop popcorn using a popcorn maker of choice.

Make the pizza sauce mixture: Preheat the oven to 250°F. and line 2 (must be at least two, though three would be better) cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, melted butter, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and salt. Mix to combine. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Pour the popcorn in a very VERY large bowl, followed by the pizza sauce mixture. With clean hands, mix to distribute the mixture into the popcorn kernels. Spread the popcorn kernels between the parchment lined cookie sheets and bake until mostly dry, about 8-15 minutes (depending on your oven), tossing every couple of minutes to help spread the pizza goodness. A couple of minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle cheese evenly over the popcorn and allow to melt. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. This popcorn is best enjoyed the day it’s made.

It’s a casserole. It’s a pizza. It’s a Pepperoni Pizza Casserole
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_PEPCASS-1.jpgIt’s a casserole. It’s a pizza. It’s a Pepperoni Pizza Casserole Bill Colvard | The News

Instead of a crust, a serving of pasta is hiding under a pepperoni pizza on top of this Pepperoni Pizza Casserole.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_PEPCASS-2.jpgInstead of a crust, a serving of pasta is hiding under a pepperoni pizza on top of this Pepperoni Pizza Casserole. Bill Colvard | The News

By Bill Colvard


Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.