When we make pizza, less is always more; the cracker-thin pizza crusts we roll out won’t support a towering pile of ingredients. That said, however, more is always more; we generally prep a tremendous number of ingredients, line them up on the counter, and invite many friends over for music and drinks and make-your-own pizza night. We make a decent-sized mess but it’s awfully fun.

Since a light dusting of toppings is all that you can fit on one of these pies, it’s important that they pack the maximum flavor-punch. Here are our tried-and-true favorites combinations:

Prosciutto, arugula, fontina: Base of shredded fontina, then add thinly sliced tomato. Toss huge handfuls of arugula and finish by laying slices of thinly sliced prosciutto over the greens.

Halved cherry tomatoes are a nice substitute for tomato slices

Salad pizza: This is really just like the one above, only leave out the arugula. Grill the pizza and top it with big handfuls of mixed baby salad herbs and greens just before you cut and serve.

The prosciutto, hidden here by the greens, give it the right kind of zing.

Muffaletta: Advance prep: mix together julienned ham, julienned salami, finely diced yellow onion, diced celery, chopped black olives, chopped green olives, chopped pimientos. Add with freshly ground black pepper and olive oil and toss together. Assembly: Base of thinly sliced tomato, spread out the muffaletta mixture, and finish with sliced provolone cheese (not the smoked kind!)

You can be creative with your muffaletta mixture; in the past I’ve added celery, leftover cooked, chopped eggplant, marinated artichoke hearts, and jalapeno-stuffed olives.

Sausage, onion, and spinach: Advance prep: Slice one large yellow onion and caramelize in olive oil. When they are ready, add 1/4 pound Italian sausage, turn up the heat, and brown. Assembly: start with a thin layer pizzaiola sauce, top with the sausage and onion mixture, sprinkle red chili flakes and a mixture of shredded provolone and mozzarella cheese. Toss some baby spinach on top before you grill it. You can easily omit the sausage for a vegetarian option.

Sausage and artichoke: Advance prep: brown together a half pound mild Italian sausage with a minced clove of garlic and 1/4 cup minced red onion. Add a half cup diced mushrooms and a half can of artichoke hearts packed in water, roughly chopped, or a half cup chopped frozen hearts. Reduce the heat and cook this all together for 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat completely and add a big spoonful or two of mascarpone cheese. Mix well, set aside to cool. (For a vegetarian option, substitute sliced fennel bulb for the sausage.)
Assembly: Use the sausage-artichoke mixture as a base. Top with a sprinkle each of red chili flakes, shredded mozzarella, and shredded parmesan.

This sausage and artichoke pizza has a bit more cheese than usual.

Hawaiian: Start with a very thin layer of pizzaiola sauce. Top with small cubes of Niman Ranch ham steak and diced dried chili pineapple, which is dried pineapple rolled in cayenne pepper. This is sweet, so a little goes a long way here. Top with a mixture of shredded fontina, parmesan, asiago, and provolone. (All these ingredients are available at Trader Joe’s; the 4-cheese blend is Trader Giotto’s Quattro Formaggio, pre-shredded in the deli section.) For a little extra spice sprinkle with dried red chile flakes.
Note: If you can’t find the dried chili pineapple, substitute regular dried pineapple you can find at natural food store and chopped jalapeno peppers.

The first Hawaiian-style pizza I had that used dried pineapple instead of canned was at the Big Sur Bakery. The dried pineapple kept the thin crust from getting soggy and added a bit of extra sweetness with the salty diced Niman Ranch ham and seedless jalapeno peppers.

Wolfgang Puck-inspired pizzas:
Barbecued chicken: start with a thin layer of hot and tangy barbeque sauce, add chopped red onion and shredded chicken, and finish with gouda cheese.

This is such an old photo – I can tell because it’s been over ten years since we’ve used a Boboli crust!

Smoked salmon: Advance prep: mix cream cheese together with lemon zest, finely minced red onion, and dill. Grill your pizza crust in advance. Assembly: spread cream cheese mixture on the cooked crust. Top with flaked smoked salmon and capers. Cut into small squares and serve.

This smoked salmon pizza is also an elegant and delicious dinner party appetizer.

The Kid Two Special: Spray the pizza crust with olive oil. Top with chopped black olives and chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives. Lightly sprinkle with parmesan cheese and top with a few small chunks of diced dried chili pineapple.

Kid One Favorites: 1. Pizzaiola sauce with salami, chopped black olives, and mushroom topped with mozzarella cheese. 2. Pizzaiola sauce with mozzarella cheese.

This has always been LL’s favorite for regular take-out pizzeria pies.

Dessert pizza: Another post about dessert pizza is right here.

Spring is supposed to be here, which means another pizza party is in the horizon. Do you have a favorite combination for us to try?

I’m far from alone in this quest for perfect pizza. I’ve just found baker Peter Reinhart’s book American Pie that details his personal search, in this part travel-book, part cookbook. I’ll read it here soon and let you know how it is.

Click here to read my post “Grilled Pizza,” with recipes for pizza dough, pizzaiola sauce, and my method for grilling pizza outside.