Did you have Pizza Friday when you were in elementary school? Parker and I both remember looking so forward to pizza in the lunch line on Fridays (blegh, now the thought of those red and white rectangles makes me gag a little) but Pizza Friday sounds so festive and so Parker and I got used to ordering from our favorite neighborhood spot when we didn’t opt to go out for dates on Fridays. When our pants started getting a little too tight, we had to cut that habit (along with Pancake Sundays…), but recently we’ve started getting our fix from a pretty healthy alternative that will shock and amaze you.
You may have already heard using cauliflower to make a pizza crust before – if you haven’t tried it and think it sounds ridiculous, trust me (I’m talkin’ to you, Mom). You just need to try it. When I first presented the idea to my husband, I said “Sweetie, I’m making something really weird for dinner so I’ve got a backup plan for you. You don’t have to eat it.” I think the reverse psychology worked, or at least took the pressure off, because when it came out of the oven he looked excited. And he cleaned his plate too so I knew I had a winner. This recipe has a lot of cheese in it, so it’s still considered a once in a while treat, but it’s so much better than traditional pizza.
I hate to call this “pizza” because 1.) the obvious no flour, no dough, made of vegetables thing, and 2.) because you can’t really eat it without a fork. I’ve added panko breadcrumbs to my recipe to help absorb some moisture from the cauliflower, but in the end we are making a base out of a vegetable that is primarily made up of water. So, there are ways to make it a bit firmer and less mushy, but it will never be the sturdy and foldable New York slice. Just to set your expectations accordingly.
You have to be able to get the cauliflower in to tiny little rice-y bits, which you could do with a cheese grater but a food processor is much quicker and cleaner. Be careful though – just pulse it until it’s done, otherwise you may puree it. It gets microwaved to make sure it’s cooked before adding the rest of the ingredients.
I like to add lots of seasoning to mine to give it nice flavor, but I’ve seen some recipes that don’t add much other than garlic and salt. It’s a personal preference I suppose.
A note about the cheese used for this recipe: most recipes call for the pre-shredded mozzarella cheese you buy in the bag. I’ve used that and it works just fine, but I don’t like the added caking agents and preservatives needed to process and keep it fresh (you know how I feel about that) so I use fresh mozzarella and grate it myself. It does take a bit more time, so use your judgement. Either one is better than regular pizza, so you’re already winning.
Once you mix all the ingredients and dump the mixture out on your pizza pan or cookie sheet, pat it out as evenly as you can. I like to start out with a spoon and then finish gently with a rolling pin to make it smooth.
Most recipes call for baking the crust at 450 for 15 minutes but I have found that browns the outside too quickly while leaving the inside still mushy so I bake at 400 for 25 minutes until it’s golden. Seems to be the magic number for our oven.
Since we’ve already determined that the pizza won’t be a eat-with-your-hands meal, I say go for it with the toppings. What are your favorites? Since this is usually a Friday night tradition for us, I almost always end up cleaning out the fridge and using up any left over veggies on hand (usually peppers, spinach, mushrooms, eggplant, squash) and whatever protein I have on hand (usually grilled chicken or ground turkey – both good). Basically, you can hide anything under cheese and it’s amazing. For this I went fancy though and got some diced prosciutto that was on sale.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
- 4 cups cooked, riced cauliflower (1 head of cauliflower)
- around 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (2 1/2 for crust, plus more for topping)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning (or dried oregano as substitute)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Toppings of your choice – just don’t forget the pizza sauce!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pizza pan or cookie sheet with non-stick spray or olive oil.
Cut off florets of cauliflower in to medium sized chunks and discard the large stems and leaves. Place in food processor and pulse a second at a time until cauliflower resembles rice (careful to not puree by over-processing). Place the diced cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, get to preparing any toppings that require cooking. You will want to make sure all toppings are cooked beforehand.
When cauliflower is done cooking in the microwave, let it cool a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients (we don’t want to scramble our beaten egg!). Add 2 1/2 cups shredded cheese, the beaten egg, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and olive oil to the cauliflower and mix well.
Pour out on to the pizza pan and spread out in to a 3/4″ thick circle with a spoon and/or rolling pin. Clean edges up by patting towards inside of the pie to avoid any thinner spots that may overcook. Place in 400 degree oven and bake 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
Once finished, allow to cool for a few minutes before adding toppings – this will help it firm up a bit. When you’re ready, place back in the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cut in to 8 slices and enjoy!