You may ask yourself, what is non-Italian pizza? Really, it is a food that follows the basic structure of pizza: crust, sauce, cheese/toppings while eschewing the traditional Italian flavors associated with standard pizza. This could take the form of indiginous flatbread dishes from both Africa and the Asian sub-continent or (more commonly) the many unique pizza options available in modern restaurants and home kitchens. It is this latter category that I am going to focus on, since indiginous flatbread dishes are their own entities and do not need to be referred to as “pizza.”
The idea of placing food on bread has been around for thousands of years and knows no cultural or geographical boundaries. Pizza, at it’s most basic, is the modern day continuation of this culianry tradition. It a one dish meal, that can generally be eaten by hand and on the go. More then all that; it has in relatively recent years come to be seen as a blank canvas on which we can create our meal of choice.
Consider the following flavor profile for “Italian” pizza: tomato sauce, basil, garlic, mozarella cheese, pepperoni, Italian style sausage. We will also put pesto on this list since it is a primarily Italian flavor profile.
Now, let us consider the menu at a certain west-coast based sit-down pizza chain: BBQ Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, Pear and Gorgonzola, Jamaican Jerk, Mango Tandoori and more. Each oft hese items take the traditional pizza structure and impart it with a different profile of flavors from around the world. Experimenting with different and exciting flavors on pizza is a great way to mix things up. It can be a great opportunity to expose finicky kids to a new and interesting world of flavors. After all, what kid doesn’t love pizza?
So let us consider a couple of these previously mentioned “California” pizzas and then take the lessons learned to create out own unique non-Italian pizza.
The BBQ chicken pizza features: barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda and Mozzarella cheeses, BBQ Chicken, sliced red onions and cilantro. This is one of the most straightforward adaptations of the pizza structure. Barbecue sauce replaces the traditional tomato sauce, smoked gouda enhances the standard issue mozzarella, BBQ chicken gives us a healthier alternative to the usual pepperoni or sausage, while the red onions and cilantro give a distinctive veggie and herb profile.
The Mango Tandoori pizza is made with: grilled Tandoori chicken, mango, mild onions, red peppers and Mozzarella cheese on a SPICY golden curry sauce. Topped with fresh cilantro and a sweet mango-chili sauce. Again, we have sauce, meat, veggies and cheese all hailing from the general flavor profile of India.
Finally, the Pear and Gorgonzola pizza gives us caramelized pears, Gorgonzola, Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses, caramelized sweet onions and chopped hazelnuts. Topped with field greens tossed in our Gorgonzola ranch dressing. This is our most “outside the box” interpretation, taking the idea of pizza crust as edible plate to a new level. On top of the traditional crust, sauce (in the form of the soft and juicy carmelized pears), cheese and toppins, we get the added touch of a small salad placed on top for added complexity and interest.
While these particular pizzas all come from a single chain, there are literally hundreds of restaurants doing the same thing. Next time you’re out don’t be afraid to order something a little bit out of the ordinary.
Not only that, but there thousands of home cooks working in similar directions across the United States and around the world. Becoming one of them is simple enough.
Begin with a crust, homemade or store bought matter not a bit.
Add to that a source of moisture: a sauce, an oil, a juicy fruit or vegetable. For illustration purposes, I’ll choose to make a lemon butter sauce.
Add a protein: I’ll go with flour dredged and sauteed chicken which has been chopped up.
Add produce: Why not some minced shallots, garlic and fresh thyme?
Sprinkle a cheese: Parmesean and a little gruyere.
Bake until your crust is golden and cheese gooey. And Voila! A “pizza” with a distinctly non-Italian flavor profile. In the case of my example, it essentially a chicken francaise pizza. Delicious!