- The right finishing sauce can add extra flavor or eye appeal to your artisanal pizzas.
- From spicy honey to chili maple syrup, try these ideas to amp up your flavor profile without struggling with super-complex applications.
By Tracy Morin
Adding a finishing sauce to your pizza may be the last step in the process, but that doesn’t mean your sauces should be an afterthought. A simple drizzle here and a spritz there can easily take your menu items to the next level, separating your pizzeria from the competitor down the street and helping your menu items stay of-the-moment and full of flavor.
“When looking at trends or unique ways to give our guests something new or different, the sauce we use can certainly hit the mark, adding extra flavor or eye appeal,” notes Drew French, founder of Your Pie, based in Athens, Georgia, with more than 75 locations nationwide. “Whether it’s blending something traditional with a new spin or adding a flavor post-bake to increase visual appeal, sauces are a great way to bring guests where they want to go.”
Need some sauce-spiration? Read on to see the many ways pizzerias across the country are incorporating them on standout specialty pies.
“In addition to our spicy honey, we’ve used a housemade harissa and also created a chili-citrus-espresso salsa for a recent pizza special.”
— Myke Olsen, Myke’s Pizza
Myke’s Pizza, Mesa, AZ
At Myke’s Pizza, two pies on the regular menu feature a housemade, locally sourced spicy honey drizzle: the Salami pizza, with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and aged Gouda; and the Pineapple pizza, a spin on the traditional Hawaiian, with mozzarella, pork roll, pineapple and pickled jalapeños. “The honey is a subtle way to take traditional styles to the next level—it works exceptionally well on the Pineapple pizza, where the drizzle marries the sweet-and-heat combo of the fruit and chili toppings,” says owner Myke Olsen. “We use spicy honey to either complement or play up other flavors on the pizzas where they are featured.”
For the Salami pizza, Olsen notes, the chili flavor pairs well with the salami, while the sweetness amplifies the natural sweetness from the crushed tomato sauce. On the Pineapple pizza, the spicy honey melds with the sweetness of the pineapple and balances the jalapeños’ spiciness. “It’s the perfect finishing topping that ties the whole pizza together,” Olsen says. “We find sweetness and heat encourage customers to take that next bite.”
Olsen notes that the spicy honey can easily be added to any of Myke’s pizzas or other types of dishes, like wings, or sold as an additional dipping item for sides like garlic knots or simply for the pizza crust itself. “A side of spicy honey is a popular add-on item for our guests,” he says. “In general, drizzles and sauces are an easy way of adding combined or complex flavors to a pizza. In addition to our spicy honey, we’ve used a housemade harissa and also created a chili-citrus-espresso salsa for a recent pizza special.”
“An egg yolk drizzle is a fun finisher for any brunch pie, while a Calabrian honey or Fresno jam drizzle can add a little kick with just a drop.”
— Joe Liles, Baker & Brewer
Creamy, Sweet ’n’ Sour
Baker & Brewer, Charleston, SC
Executive chef Joe Liles of Baker & Brewer thinks outside the box when it comes to fun finishers for his pies. Two of Baker & Brewer’s best-selling pies are the Pistachio Pesto pie, topped with crème fraîche and dusted pistachios; and the Bacon, Egg & Cheese pizza, with panna, potatoes, local bacon, Gouda and a farm egg, finished with housemade chili maple syrup. “An egg yolk drizzle is a fun finisher for any brunch pie, while a Calabrian honey or Fresno jam drizzle can add a little kick with just a drop,” Liles suggests. “The key to any finishing drizzle is truly to finish with it—make it the last item on the pizza so it doesn’t gunk up your pizza cutter!”
At Baker & Brewer, the Pistachio Pesto Pizza was created by its parent company, EVO Pizzeria, in 2005. Liles notes the unique combo has even scored national recognition. “Folks are very passionate about how much they love this pie,” Liles reports. “After the pizza comes out of the wood-fired oven, it’s finished with housemade crème fraîche, then pistachio dust. The crème fraîche adds a level of tangy sour that compliments the richness of the mozzarella and pistachios.”
Meanwhile, the brunch menu, served only on Sundays, is the one chance for customers to enjoy a farm egg-enhanced pizza—the Bacon, Egg & Cheese pie is drizzled with thin lines of egg yolk after baking. “The creamy texture this offers is what we all love about sunny-side up or over-easy eggs,” Liles explains. “But it’s just evenly distributed on the pie, as opposed to the normal pile of yolk.”
“Whether it’s blending something traditional with a new spin or adding a flavor post-bake to increase visual appeal, sauces are a great way to bring guests where they want to go.”
— Drew French, Your Pie
A Sauce Extravaganza
Your Pie, Athens, GA
Your Pie has added several limited-time pizzas that feature drizzles to create unique flavors. Here are just a few that have found impressive success on the menu:
- Hot Honey Pepperoni Pizza, with marinara and mozzarella, blends pepperoni, sweet peppadew peppers, house-pickled jalapeños, and a sprinkle of feta, all topped with fresh chopped basil and drizzled with hot honey.
- Peach & Prosciutto Pie, with a base of olive oil and ricotta, is topped with prosciutto and a blend of mozzarella and Parmesan. Fresh peaches are added before being baked. Post-bake, chefs add a pinch of fresh basil and a housemade honey balsamic glaze drizzle.
- White Truffle Pizza features a base of Alfredo sauce, along with shredded mozzarella, spinach leaves, and slices of Roma tomatoes and red onions. It’s then topped with slices of small mushrooms and large slices of portabellas and sprayed with truffle oil after baking.
- Chicken al Pastor Pizza features housemade avocado-pineapple salsa, jalapeño and mozzarella, and it’s drizzled with smoked chipotle ranch and a squeeze of lime for a fresh burst of flavor.
- BBQ Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza includes barbecue sauce and mozzarella, topped with chicken, bacon, cilantro, red onions and a swirl of housemade ranch dressing.
Several LTOs at Your Pie also featured similar drizzles on dipping sticks, salads or pastas. “Tastes are always developing and changing—some items, like sriracha, we introduced very early, before they were mainstream, while others, like truffle oil, are timeless flavors that our guests might not have ever tried before,” French notes. “We like to push our normal menu to give our teams and guests something new and exciting to try.”
French adds that a sauce is a great way to add a flavor impact—without a super-complex application. A balsamic glaze, for example, might require some prep time if made in-house, but applying it post-bake can greatly impact a pizza’s final flavor. “The missing link to a great pizza, a lot of times, can be in the sauce—and playing with different sauce combinations is a great way to expand your menu without adding a lot of SKUs to your back of house,” French says. “But, although I’m a huge sauce fan, more isn’t always better. It’s the balance of flavor that comes together, so that’s how we decide if we do a drizzle, spray or use the sauce as the main application.”
In terms of when to add the sauce—pre- or post-bake—Your Pie works on a case-by-case basis. “We will only do post-bake sauces if the oven really changes the desired flavor we are hoping to achieve, or if the color pop is such that we want to highlight it post-bake,” French says. “Experiment to see how the flavors change, develop and make your pizza creation come to life!”
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.
Recipe: Spicy Honey
Provided by Myke’s Pizza
5 lb. honey
2 oz. chilies de árbol
2 oz. ancho chilies
8 oz. fresh jalapeños
Pour honey into a 5-qt. saucepan. While wearing gloves, lightly crush the chilies de árbol. Tear or cut the ancho chilies in half. Roughly chop jalapeños. Add dried and fresh chilies to the honey. Heat honey over low heat (about 200°F) for one hour. If the honey begins to foam, simmer, boil or steam, reduce the heat. Allow the honey to cool. Strain the honey and discard the chilies. Transfer to a squeeze bottle with a very small opening.
You can use any mixture of dried chilies—just be sure to include chilies that add heat, like chilies de árbol.
In addition to heat, jalapeños add water to the honey, which keeps the honey easy to pour.
You can substitute up to half of the jalapeños for another fresh chili. Fresno chiles are a great addition.
Be careful not boil the honey or allow it to steam; water loss makes the honey hard to pour.
This recipe can easily be scaled up or down.