It looks like pizza, smells like pizza, it even tastes a little like pizza, but it's not pizza. At least, not inasmuch as pizza is defined by its bread-based crust. The slice you are looking at shares much in common with pizza. It's got gooey melted cheese. It's got a robust tomato sauce that balances zestiness and sweetness with just the right bit of zip.* It's got a crisp underbelly and a soft, moist, tender interior. It just happens to be made with noodles instead of dough.
*Don't you hate those words? I do.
Why, you may be asking, would one even want to make a pizza crust out of ramen? I mean, you might as well ask why write the great American novel? Why put a man on the moon? Why climb Mt. Everest? We do these things because it is in the human spirit to strive to ever-greater heights, to tackle the untackle-able.
Or maybe I was just bored on a Tuesday evening and thought to myself, "What can I do with this pack of instant noodles, this can of tomatoes, this block of mozzarella cheese, and this cast iron pan I've got?"
The second question you might ask is, but is it worth it?
Well to be perfectly honest, I was pretty happy with the end results. Like most other Pizza-Like Objects, it can't help but be tasty. That's just what happens when you stick melted cheese and tomato sauce together. The noodle-y crust gets super-crisp, basically deep frying in olive oil at the bottom of the skillet as the pizza bakes, and, on top of that, it takes all of 30 minutes to make from start to finish. Find me a real dough-based pizza recipe that can claim that!
Here's how it's done.
It all starts with a well-seasoned cast iron pan, in which I heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil. I found that this pre-heating step was necessary in order to give the ramen crust a jump-start on getting crisp. To the hot pan, I add a couple of packets of barely-cooked instant ramen noodles, pressing them down into an even layer. The idea is to make a solid cake of noodles, so it's important to press down firmly.
One major issue I ran into was sauce seepage. Try and put some pizza sauce directly onto the noodles and it ends up soaking into them, saturating them and preventing them from crisping up. The solution? Some strategically placed cheese barriers. A thin layer of grated cheese protects the noodles nicely, while also adding a bit of their own fat and flavor that seeps down as it bakes.
Next up, sauce and more cheese. You can go fancy and make your own sauce with this recipe, or just use canned sauce if you want to stick with the low-maintenance vibe of this whole affair.
Toppings are next. I used pepperoni, pepperoncini, and some freshly grated 24-month old Parmesan, because that's just how I roll.
The whole thing goes into a 450°F oven to bake until browned and crisp. That takes about 20 minutes, which is just enough time to set the table, but let's be honest: if you're making pizza crust out of ramen, the most setting you'll be doing is putting a towel over the makeshift step ladder table, and perhaps putting on some clothes before you crack the next beer.
When it emerges from the oven, be at the ready with some more Parm to finish it off. It'll come out looking like, well, like a pizza. Until you carefully loosen it with a thin metal spatula and slide it out onto a plate, that is.
Nope, I lied. It still looks like a pizza. Remarkably similar to my Foolproof Pan Pizza, in fact, crispy bits of burnt cheese around the edges and all.
It's not until you cut out a slice and flip it over that its true colors are revealed.
Ah. There we go. There's the bastard child in all his unbridled noodliness.
The process is almost so simple that a step-by-step written recipe seems redundant, but click on through if you'd like to try it out for yourself!
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.