Secrets of a Great White Pizza

QUESTION:

I want to add a white pizza to my menu. I know there are a lot of different cheese-blend combinations out there. What are your personal favorites?

ANSWER:

My all-time favorite white pizza is made with a light application of Alfredo sauce in place of the standard tomato-based sauce. I prefer to make or use a very basic Alfredo—consisting of only Parmesan cheese and cream—so that the sauce doesn’t dominate the flavor of the other toppings. This approach allows me to adjust the garlic levels to complement the other toppings as needed.

To make these great-tasting pizzas, I first apply the Alfredo sauce to the pizza skin. If garlic is used, I add it next, in diced form, over the top of the sauce. The garlic may not get evenly distributed throughout the sauce, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. The random application of the garlic gives more interest to the taste of the pizza—this is sometimes referred to as “layering” the flavor, as it yields subtle changes in the flavor of each and every bite. From there, the pizza skin can be dressed in the usual manner. However, with a cheese-based sauce, you can probably reduce the amount of cheese applied to the top of the pie without compromising perceived quality.

A light Alfredo sauce works splendidly for a seafood pizza. For guests with high-end tastes, you can add lobster, crab meat, shrimp, caviar, oysters and even calamari. However, unless you run a high-end store, it’s more practical to use lower-cost ingredients. I’ve gotten very good reviews for seafood pizzas made with nothing more than firm-flesh white fish and shrimp complemented by red onion and fresh, thin-sliced tomatoes, all topped lightly with mozzarella and shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese. For this type of pie, I like to apply a little more Alfredo than I would use for other white pizzas, then sprinkle on a liberal application of dried dill weed to create a flavor that’s reminiscent of tartar sauce. I’ll add some sliced garlic, followed by slices of fish filet and baby shrimp, plus the red onion, tomato slices and cheeses. I try to keep the cheese application light so as not to detract from the rich flavors imparted by the seafood. For a 12” seafood Alfredo pizza, I normally use only three ounces of mozzarella cheese and one ounce of shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Delicious and different, these seafood pizzas will command a premium price, but, by using discretion in your topping selection, they needn’t send your customers into “sticker shock.” And they can help boost sales on slower days, thus improving your bottom line!

Tom Lehnmann is director of bakery assistance for the American Institute of Baking (AIB).