Spinach on pizza adds an interesting dimension to cheese and other vegetables – it brings color and flavor to vegetarian pizzas, and its tartness is nicely balanced by the sweetness of mozzarella cheese. However, a lot can go wrong when using spinach as a pizza topping. The leafy texture and the need to soften it before using can sometimes turn the top of a pizza into a mess. Whether you prefer fresh or frozen spinach, here are some tips for preparing it properly to help make the finished product a success.
Defrost and Drain
Frozen spinach is convenient and easier to use than fresh spinach, but it loses some of its leafiness and definition in the freezing process. It also absorbs a lot of water, so once it’s thoroughly defrosted, press it into a colander or squeeze it into a ball to wring out the excess moisture. Break the ball apart with a fork and let it air dry for an hour or two. This will reduce the amount of moisture it releases when it’s baked and will keep the top of the pizza from getting soggy.
For a more interesting flavor, you can also sprinkle the defrosted spinach with garlic powder or mix it with some chopped, cooked bacon.
Steam and Chop
Large, fresh spinach leaves need to be steamed or blanched for a minute or two to make them soft and palatable. Place the steamed leaves between a few layers of paper towel and blot it dry, then chop or tear it into small pieces. The smaller and more uniform the pieces are, the easier it is to spread evenly. If you prefer larger pieces of spinach leaf on your pizza, placing them strategically in a single layer will prevent unsightly blobs.
Baby spinach leaves may be tender enough to use without steaming first, but very dry leaves may burn. Add them in the last minute of baking, or place them on the pizza when it comes out of the oven.
Work With Your Cheese
Spinach works best on white or Sicilian- style pizza – no matter how well you dry it, spinach will probably still release some moisture when it’s baked. Using it with a tomato-based sauce can make the surface of the pizza too soggy. Whether you use sauce or not, place the spinach on top of the cheese. The cheese creates a barrier that lets some of the moisture evaporate before it reaches the sauce or the crust. As the topping cools, it will form a nicely textured pizza top that is easy to eat.
Spinach is a healthy pizza topping, but it’s a challenging ingredient that requires special care. The key to a beautifully baked spinach pizza is to defrost or steam it thoroughly and to remove as much moisture as you can before you spread it on the dough. Keep your layers thin and uniform and use cheese to separate it from the sauce. Spinach also burns quickly, so don’t overcook it. Pay attention to the moisture level, keep an eye on the oven and you’ll soon master this delicate, flavorful pizza topping.