A great pizza has the right balance of sauce, cheese, and crust — but don't forget about the toppings! While most toppings can just be chopped up and tossed onto the pizza before baking, there are a few that should be precooked first for better texture and flavor.
Pizzas usually don't take very long to bake, and the bake time is really to crisp the dough and melt the cheese. Raw meats — like sausage, chicken, or bacon — usually won't cook through in the short baking time, so they should be precooked. (And did you know that you can even microwave pepperoni first to get rid of some of the grease?) Smoked sausages and salamis that are sold fully cooked are just fine, though, and don't need to be precooked.
2. Root vegetables
I love root vegetables and hard squashes on pizza, but they're worth blanching or roasting separately beforehand, unless you can cut them razor-thin. No one wants to bite through an al dente piece of butternut squash, potato, or sweet potato!
3. Hearty leafy greens
Delicate greens, like arugula and spinach, don't need to be precooked for pizza, but hearty, leafy greens — especially those with coarse stems — need to be cooked first. Blanch broccoli rabe to soften the stems and tame some of the bitterness, make crispy kale for extra crunch, or sauté Swiss chard! Make sure to pat the cooked greens dry before topping the pizza, as excess water can make the top of the pizza soggy.
Some might argue with me here that onions don't need to be precooked, especially if they're chopped up really small. If that's your preference, use raw onions with my blessing! My preference, however, is to cook onions down until they're soft and sweet. If I have the time, I even caramelize them first — caramelized onions just make everything better, am I right?
- Learn how: How To Caramelize Onions
Sautéing mushrooms does double duty of removing some of the excess water and concentrating their delicious flavors. It also gives you a chance to season the mushrooms while they're cooking, so give them a quick turn in a frying pan before you make mushroom pizza.
- Learn how: How To Cook Mushrooms on the Stovetop