You spend hours making pizza dough and sauce from scratch. You preheat the oven to the perfect temperature while you carefully form the crust, add the sauce, and add only the finest cheese and toppings. Your pizza comes out tasting good, but it’s just not the same as that from your favorite pizzeria. What’s missing? Herbs and spices!
The best pizza makers know that the difference between a good pizza and a great pizza is the perfect blend of herbs and spices. Here are some of the best herbs and spices to add to your pizza.
Garlic – A staple in Italian cuisine, garlic has a spicy, pungent flavor that sweetens when cooked. Purists often insist on using only fresh garlic cloves, which they dice or crush in a garlic press. The garlic may be sautéed or used as is. Garlic powder and garlic salt have a longer shelf life while still offering the trademark garlic flavor, but they do not mellow as much when cooked.
Oregano – This is one of the most common herbs found on pizza. Its leaves have a peppery, slightly bitter flavor that is most potent when dried. Oregano blends very nicely with garlic. It may be added to your pizza sauce or sprinkled directly on top of the pizza.
Onion – Much like garlic, onion has a pungent flavor that sweetens with cooking. There are numerous varieties of onion, each with its own distinct flavor. There are also a variety of onion powders available.
Basil – Closely related to mint and cloves, basil is used on traditional Italian pies such as Pizza Margherita. Dried basil can be found in the spice aisle, but it is nowhere near as flavorful as fresh basil. This spice should be added near the end of cooking, as extended cooking also destroys its flavor.
Bay leaves – The fragrant leaf of the bay laurel is frequently used in Italian dishes. Peak flavor is reached several weeks after picking and drying. Whole leaves are often used when cooking the pizza sauce, then removed before canning or adding to the pizza.
Pepper – If you want to add a little heat to your pizza, pepper is the herb you’re looking for. Black pepper is a staple in most pantries, and it is great on pizza. Crushed red pepper is another popular option, but it has a little more of a kick and should be used sparingly.
Thyme – Another herb in the mint family, thyme has a unique flavor with hints of pine, mint and lemon. It is most flavorful when used fresh, and both the stems and leaves may be used. However, fresh thyme has a short shelf life, and dried thyme retains its flavor fairly well.
Herbs may be used in the sauce, sprinkled directly on the pizza, or even added to the dough for the crust. With a little experimentation, you’ll find the perfect combination to suit your tastes.