How to Make Lighter, Healthier Fresh Vegetable Pizzas
We’re amazed how much pizza we ate when we were young. We visited pizza shops weekly and at mountains of pizza loaded with cheeses and meats.
Now most commercial pizzas seem heavy and rich to us. We much prefer lighter pizzas, especially in the summertime. These pizzas are made with fresh vegetables, fewer toppings, and a crispy crust. In this article, we’ll tell you how to do it.
It’s amazing what you can put on a pizza. You can serve many of your favorite garden vegetables on a pizza, everything from tomatoes to potatoes and broccoli to beans. Some may seem a little strange but if you like the veggies, chances are—you’ll like them on a pizza.
Your vegetable pizzas are made on thin crusts to keep the ratio of vegetables to bread high. Most vegetables, such as green beans and sliced potatoes, will need to be partially cooked before adding them to your pizza. The thinly sliced zucchini squash on the pictured pizza were not precooked.
Here’s how to make your pizza:
- Mix the dough. Mix up the dough according to your recipe or the directions with the mix. (See “What you’ll need.”) If you are using a stand-type mixer, you will need to knead the dough for three minutes with the dough hook.
- Partially cook the vegetables if necessary. While the dough is kneading, stir fry your vegetables until they are heated through but yet crisp. They will continue to cook in the oven.
- Form the crust. Once the dough is kneaded, place the dough on your baking pan if you are going to use a pan or on the counter if you are using a stone. Form the crust using a pizza roller, rolling the dough uniformly to the edges of the pan. The dough should be no thicker than 1/2-inch. (See “What you’ll need.”)
- Spread the sauce. Spread either a white sauce or a marinara sauce on the dough. Spaghetti sauce will do. Our favorite sauce is French onion dip but alfredo sauce works well with vegetables. Often, we just coat the crust with a generous layer of olive oil.
- Add the fillings. Spread a thin layer of vegetables on the prepared crust Cover with grated cheese. At least some of the cheese should be mozzarella.
- Bake. Bake for 9 to 17 minutes or until the edges of the crust are browned and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Baking times will vary depending on the pan, the thickness of the crust, and the toppings. (See “What you’ll need.”)
- Serve. Remove the pizza from the oven. Slide the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza roller, butcher knife or kitchen shears. Serve immediately.
Note that there is no rise time for a thin crust pizza. The pizza dough will rise some as you place the sauce and toppings on the pizza. It will also rise in the oven. This will create a medium think crust.
Baker’s tip: If you are not going to serve your pizza immediately, place the pizza on a wire rack. A hot pizza left on the pan or cutting board will sweat and make the crust soggy.
What you’ll need:
- Dough Relaxer. Dough relaxer relaxes the gluten structure that makes dough tough and difficult to work with. It virtually eliminates springback. It is nearly impossible to make a thin crust pizza without dough relaxer. Quality pizza mixes, like those from The Prepared Pantry, contain dough relaxer or you can buy dough relaxer directly for about a ten cents per pizza.
- Pizza roller. Unless you can twirl and toss, a small pizza and pastry roller is the way to go. It has a rolling surface of three to four inches and is inexpensive and easy to use.
- Pizza pans and stones. By the time the cheese is bubbly, the crust should be thoroughly baked, even to a crisp. That takes a hot pizza stone or a dark pan, preferably a perforated pan.
- Pizza peel. If you are using a stone, you will need a pizza peel, a large thin wooden paddle to transfer your pizza from the counter to the hot stone in the oven and from the oven to the cutting board. If you are using a pan, you won’t need a peel.
- Pizza mixes. Because you don’t have to assemble and measure ingredients, mixes will take about ten minutes out of your prep time—a necessity if you are going to make a pizza in 20 minutes.
If you are going to make your own, what flour should you use?
Pizza doughs should be made with a moderately high protein flour, somewhere between high protein bread flour and all-purpose flour. You can purchase a specialty flour designed for pizzas or mix your own blend. Mix one cup white rye flour or dark rye flour to four cups full strength bread flour. Rye flour adds a nice, almost sour-dough like taste. If you don’t have rye flour, you can substitute pastry flour or use all-purpose flour.