Vegan pizza (no meat, no cheese) is misunderstood by most people, including many vegans.
To most, a vegan pizza may seem to be yet another unwelcome and unwarranted attack on the things they know and love, and a pale, mock, artificial simulation of “the real thing” (namely, the classic pepperoni pizza).
The truth, however, is the exact opposite. Pizza is originally vegan! And many gourmet pizza connoisseurs, in fact, regard the original vegan pizza (the Marinara pizza) as the best and finest pizza.
On the other hand, for those with health or vegan weight loss in mind, it is hard to beat a vegan pizza, in terms of calories, fat content, and nutrition.
And, finally, when it comes to ethical living and eating, a vegan pizza is the superior choice.
The Perfect Vegan Pizza: the Marinara
To make a perfect vegan pizza, you need know a few things first. Perhaps most important is to understand that the basis of all pizza is the vegan (i.e., cheeseless!) Marinara pizza, a dish from Naples made for sailors (who introduced the tomato to Europe from their travels to Peru). Hence the name Neapolitan pizza (only the Marinara and the Margherita are true Neapolitan pizzas).
The Marinara vegan pizza recipe is deceptively basic and simple, made with just tomato, oregano, sliced garlic and extra virgin olive oil on a Mediterranean flatbread, cooked in a wood-burning pizza oven.
You can see a video of a pizza chef making one below (the crust is way softer than anything I have seen or tried, however. Maybe it’s another variation?) :
The key to making a perfect Marinara pizza is using the right ingredients and cooking methods. The Italians are quite serious about this and there are strict rules and guidelines (regulated by the European Union and the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza) to qualify as to what constitutes an authentic Marinara pizza. (The Italian Government has also applied for the Neapolitan pizza to be added to the Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.)
One of the key components is the base or crust. Regardless of the type of pizza you are making, you should understand that no matter how great your toppings are, you won’t be able to properly appreciate it without a proper base. Your perfect vegan pizza crust will make your vegan pizza stand out from the rest. Authentic Neapolitan vegan pizza dough is made with 00 Flour, a fine white flour something like pastry flour, which is not easily available outside of southern Europe.
As far as the Vegan Pizza Toppings are concerned, the key component is the Marinara sauce. It is a fairly simple to make, but to be authentic, San Marzano tomatoes from Naples are necessary. These tomatoes were originally sent as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and grown in the volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. These tomatoes are thinner and pointier in shape compared to the more familiar Roma tomatoes, with much thicker flesh, fewer seeds, with a much stronger taste, sweeter and less acidic, with an almost bittersweet taste like high-quality chocolate (which was also originally cultivated in the Americas).
Fresh oregano, too, is ideal, and gives your Marinara vegan pizza that extra bit of superiority over the common pizza.
Finally, an authentic Marinara pizza must be cooked in a wood-burning pizza oven. The True Neopolitan Pizza Association of Italy specifies that Marinara pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven, at 485 degrees Celsius (900˚ F), for 60 to 90 seconds (as in the pizza making video above). It is not practical for everyone to have a wood-burning stove, but it is surprising how affordable one can actually be.
As an alternative, there are innovative table-top brick pizza ovens or baking stones that you can put into a conventional oven or on your grill to simulate clay ovens. These make a very noticeable difference in your baking results, whether for pizza, breads, or cookies. Cooked this way, your vegan pizza will consistently outshine the common varieties.
Phyllo Dough Pizza & other European Cheeseless Vegan Pizza
Although strange for Americans, no cheese pizza is common in Europe using fresh and flavorsome ingredients (even if not always vegetarian). Centuries of tradition and experimentation in Europe have produced perfect combinations of tomatoes, sauces, garlic, vegetables, herbs, and crusts, to which adding cheese would be a gastronomic crime! Indeed, excluding the cheese from an authentic continental European pizza is the only way you can properly taste the finely-chosen toppings and their tantalizing combinations, opening yourself up to an entirely new range of flavors.
Mushroom and artichoke hearts seasoned with lemon juice and ground pepper pizza, tomato pesto pizza, oven roasted garlic and red pepper pizza are great vegan pizza toppings to try. Garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and high quality olives (with pits!) or homemade garlic white sauce with caramelized onions, fresh tomato slices, and a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper are excellent variations, as well. A strange pizza to American ears, but a common favorite in Europe, is Potato Pizza (paper-thin sliced potatoes with fresh rosemary, chopped onions, ground pepper (optional), and extra virgin olive oil). There is a whole new (but really old) world of vegan pizzas to discover. Great authentic Italian vegan pizza recipe books can help open up this world to you.
Another variation is Phyllo Dough Pizza, that is pizza with a phyllo dough base. Phyllo dough (or “filo”) pastry is made of paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough, used for small sweets and savory snacks. It is very common in Mediterranean, Balkan, and Middle East cuisine. Vegan pizza toppings of sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil, mustard seeds and garlic goes very well on a Phyllo Dough Pizza base.
Vegan Pizza Versions of the Familiar American-style Pizza
For cheesy vegan pizza toppings you can use vegan mozzarella “cheeses” that are sold commercially, or you can make melty “cheese” sauces based on nutritional yeast. (These can save you money given the high cost of cheese and cheese substitutes, and they are very healthy.) Nutritional yeast sauces are often made by combining flour, nutritional yeast cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, water, mustard (optional), and vegan margarine/oil. Or sometimes a vegan white sauce is made, seasoned by stirring in salt, garlic, tumeric, and/or soy sauce, and finally oil and nutritional yeast is added. (Click here to learn more about nutritional yeast and vegan cheeses).
You can then pile on the veggies (and vegan meat substitutes, if you like) as you would in a familiar veggie pizza. Again, however, the quality of the crust, toppings, and the cooking method make all the difference.
For those times when convenience is required, there are frozen vegan pizzas available as well.
Modern Vegan Pizzas for Health and Vegan Weight Loss
Putting vegan pizza in a comparative perspective, you can see how it helps with vegan weight loss. For example, one large slice of Hand-Tossed pepperoni pizza from Domino’s has 340 calories, 14g of fat, 5g of saturated fat, 16 mg of cholesterol, 660 mg of sodium, and 42g of carbohydrates.
Vegan pizza, on the other hand, has on average 155 calories, 4g of fat, 0g of saturated fat, 0g of cholesterol, 251g of sodium, and 28g of carbohydrates.
(An extreme example can be seen in 8oz, or two slices of Domino’s Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza, which has 780 calories, 37g of fat, 15g of saturated fat, and 1,940mg of sodium.) As a general guideline, a serving of tasty, healthy pizza (2 small to medium slices) should be 200 calories or less. Indeed, some scrumptious vegan pizzas have less than 100 calories per serving.
Just cutting out cheese takes away most of the calories normally associated with pizza, making for great vegan weight loss. Each ounce of fresh mozzarella, for instance, contains 80 calories, 6g of fat, 4g of unsaturated fat, and 20mg of cholesterol. Vegan mozarella is not much different, having 70 calories, 7g of fat, 0.5g of saturated fat, an 0g of cholesterol. In addition, using your imagination with veggies not only makes your healthy vegan pizza more interesting (e.g. spicy Thai-curried broccoli, or briny Kalamata olives), but also increases its fibre content as well.
For those who are interested in whole foods, raw or minimally cooked foods, low fat and other such optimized vegan diets, there are a whole range of interesting and super-healthy vegan pizza ideas. These may be based on gluten-free vegan pizza crusts comprised of ground seeds, vegetables, and legumes, for example. (Click here to find excellent cookbooks with such recipes.)
Very often what is needed for these recipes are food processors (to make the alternative crusts) and coffee grinders (to grind seeds into flour).
There are also ready-made gluten-free vegan pizza crusts, which not only make your vegan pizza simpler to make, but many people find these superior-tasting compared to white flour pizza crusts. Please explore the site and learn more about making Perfect Vegan Pizzas. Hopefully you will expand your horizons, and pick up something new. You, your family, and your friends will be glad that you did.
To find out more about veganism check out the article here. Also, you can click on the link for more good vegetarian recipes. For info about the original vegan pizza, check out the official Neapolitan Pizza Association of Italy link here.