Proper seasoning is crucial to cooking, and pizza is no exception. With no hard fast rules seasoning and herbs allow you to be creative with exactly how your pizza and its sauce and toppings taste. Below are the essentials for making pizza. Always remember that seasoning and herbs can increase in strength of flavor overnight such as when used in a sauce.
Salt & Pepper
The corner stone of seasoning for any dish; salt and pepper. Fresh cracked peppercorns are preferable for their more complex flavor. Salt is essential at some place on a pizza; in the dough, perhaps with sautéed vegetables and in tomato sauce along with pepper. A light amount of fresh cracked peppercorns as a finishing addition adds a complex and mild spicy flavor on some pizzas.
Oregano adds the traditional and essential pizza flavor to a tomato based sauce. Oregano’s complex juxtaposition of bitterness and slight hint of sweetness pairs well with tomatoes, olives, capers and meats. Unlike other Italian herbs oregano pairs well with hot and spicy foods as well. The flavor of the oregano leaves becomes more pungent and flavorful when dried.
The taste of basil offers a natural sweetness with hints of pepper and mint. Fresh basil makes it a perfect main flavor ingredient or a secondary flavor. Cooking basil destroys the flavor thus should be used at the very end or as a garnish. As a dried herb basil loses most of its flavor and what remains is more similar to hay than the original fresh basil leaf. If you need to store basil, blanch for a few seconds in boiling water and freeze. For the best basil try growing your own basil plants and trim leaves from the top to use. Trimming from the top promotes bushy full growth.
A versatile seasoning and key ingredient in many cuisines around the world. Garlic is a species of the onion genus, Allium, and can be used raw, sautéed or roasted to create a variety of flavors. Garlic compliments many foods and flavors with its pungent and spicy flavor which mellows and sweetens considerably when cooked. Garlic grows in bulbs which contains many sections called cloves on the inside of the bulb. Dried, ground or chopped, garlic is also available and has a slightly more sweet and harsh flavor than fresh garlic. One interesting health benefit of garlic is it has the highest anti-inflammatory effect per gram of any food.
A small leafed, woody stemmed herb; thyme has a sweet and mild pungent flavors and is highly aromatic. Thyme can be used fresh as whole sprigs or just the leaves as well as a dried herb. The fresh has slightly more intense flavor but retains most of its flavor dried better than many other herbs. It pairs well with meats and many vegetables and can be combined with rosemary marjoram, oregano, Italian parsley and bay leaves.
Rosemary’s needle like leaves are sweet and pungent with a piney scent and combines well with meats, potatoes and onions. Rosemary can be used in fresh and dried form and using the needles however fresh can easily overpower a food, use sparingly. Dried rosemary rarely softens back and may be best used chopped or partially ground from its needle form unless submersed in a liquid for a long amount of time.