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The question I have is a simple one: Why don't we see more broccoli on pizza?
Sure, we've all seen broccoli on pizza—the green, moist, steamed stuff that they throw on standard New York slices and cover up with cheese so it tastes more like a cheesy broccoli casserole-on-bread than anything else. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking broccoli the way we see the brussels sprouts pie a la Motorino, or the kale-covered rooftop red at Paulie Gee's, crunchy, brown, and caramelized.
I'm talking broccoli with charred edges and an intensely sweet, nutty flavor. Broccoli that goes on raw and comes out barely cooked through, crunchy in the center. Now that we know how great other brassica can be on a pie, I started wondering why we don't see more cabbage-family vegetables on top of pies. So I started baking. Cauliflower works great, as does radicchio and even green cabbage, if you shred it before baking. But broccoli is the real winner, getting deep brown and crisp as the pie bakes.
The key is to cut it into very small pieces—florets about the size of a couple jelly beans—toss them in oil, then spread them out so that they can immediately start dehydrating as soon as they hit the oven. Using a baking steel, my pies are in and out of the oven in about 5 minutes, which is not an awful lot of time to get broccoli to cook. The small size and proximity to the broiler helps in that regard.
Broccoli gets really nice and sweet on its own, but I found that accenting that with a bit of red onion and contrasting it with a pinch of red pepper flakes really boosts its flavor. Have any of you had great broccoli pizza? Where at?
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.