You haven’t had pizza until you’ve had it in Italy! There are many types of pizza dough and shapes in Italy (thin, roman-style pizza, napoletana pizza). And, of course Italy has a dizzying array of pizza toppings! However, there are a few pizza toppings that aren’t that common outside of Italy that pop up again and again in home kitchens and in Italian Pizzerias. Many of these will probably surprise you!
#1 Tuna and Onion
Yes, that’s right: Tuna! Of about a dozen pizzas on hand for take-out at any pizzeria in Italy, there’s almost always at least one with tuna ready to buy by-the-slice.
Tuna with thinly sliced onions (with or without tomato sauce) is one common combination. And of course, there is the famous pizza on the Italian island of Sardegna: Pizza Carloforte—with tuna belly, pesto and more…
#2 Tuna Belly, Pesto Genovese, Onions, Tomatoes (Carloforte)
Carloforte is a fishing and resort town in the Italian island of Sardegna. It has a long historical relationship with another Italian port city (Genoa) and so its not so surprising that the pizza famous in the region includes the traditional basil pesto from Genoa. Sardegna is well known for its fine tuna exports (the Japanese snap it up for their sashimi dishes), so tuna belly is another topping on the famous Pizza Carloforte. Find out how to make the spelt pizza dough we’ve used to make our Pizza Carloforte in the photo above:
Zucchini is a super popular pizza topping in Italy when zucchini are in season. Zucchini is almost always offered with mozzarella or provolone as a ‘white’ pizza (no tomato sauce). However, sometimes there are slices of fresh or cherry tomatoes on zucchini pizzas as well.
#4 Anchovies and Zucchini Flowers
In general, zucchini and anchovies are a famous pairing in Italy! So too are anchovies and zucchini flowers (blossoms). During spring and early summer, zucchini flowers and anchovies pop up as pizza toppings throughout Italy—usually on white pizzas (with no cheese or just cheese and no tomato sauce). However, they also are sometimes found on pizzas with tomatoes or tomato sauce.
#5 Potatoes (and Onions and/or Rosemary)
Another very common pizza available by-the-slice? Potato! The potatoes might be shredded or thinly sliced, with or without onion—and often flavored with a bit of rosemary or thyme. Simple and delicious!
#6 Mortadella and Cheese (Pecorino)
Mortadella and pecorino cheese are another famous pairing in Italy. Mortadella is an Italian luncheon meat. It it the same as American Bologna?
Mortadella and “Bologna” are both types of Italian deli meats, but they are different in terms of their ingredients, production methods, and origins.
Mortadella is a large Italian sausage or luncheon meat made from finely ground pork. The meat is cured with spices, including peppercorns, and then slowly cooked or smoked. Mortadella often includes pork fat in small, white, solid chunks for flavor and texture, and sometimes pistachios as well. It originates from the city of Bologna in Italy.
On the other hand, Bologna, also known as baloney in the United States, is a sausage derivative of mortadella. It’s typically made from a mixture of pork, beef, or chicken, which is finely ground and then stuffed into a casing. The product is then cooked or smoked. Compared to mortadella, Bologna is generally more processed and lacks the distinctive chunks of fat and spices that characterize mortadella. In the United States, Bologna is commonly used as a lunch meat for sandwiches.
In essence, you can think of Bologna as a simpler, more processed version of Mortadella, adapted for different cultural tastes and production methods.
Add Basil Pesto Genovese, mozzarella, shaved pecorino, pine nuts and fresh basil leaves to make a pizza version of this famous dish from Liguria.
#8 Salami and Gorgonzola
It’s common to find some kind pizza with thinly sliced salami on any pizzeria menu. One of our favorites also features gorgonzola dolce cheese. Since pepperoni is in fact an American meat product, try something like golfetta or calabrese salami for an authentic Italian taste.
Golfetta is a type of Italian salumi originating from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is a cooked salami, made with lean cuts of pork. The pork meat is finely ground, mixed with salt and spices, and then stuffed into a casing and cooked.
One of the distinguishing features of Golfetta is that it is lower in fat compared to many other types of salami. This is because it is made primarily from lean cuts of pork, with only a small amount of pork fat added. The meat is flavored with a blend of spices, including garlic, pepper, and mace, and it’s often sold in a distinctive golf club-shaped casing, which is how it gets its name – “Golfetta” means “little golf” in Italian.
#9 Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil)
Pizza Margherita is one of the most iconic and traditional pizzas originating from Italy. This type of pizza was supposedly named after Queen Margherita of Italy in the late 19th. It is notable for its simplicity, representing the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.
Pizza Margherita is topped with bright red tomato sauce—traditionally made from San Marzano tomatoes, which are known for their sweet flavor and low acidity. The white is represented by fresh mozzarella cheese, often specifically Mozzarella di Bufala Campana— a variety of mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalos raised in designated areas of Italy. The green comes from fresh basil leaves, added for their aromatic flavor.
#10 Anchovies, Olives, Capers and Mozzarella (Pizza Siciliana)
In Italian pizzerias, Pizza Siciliana typically takes its inspiration from the local flavors and ingredients of Sicily, an island in the Mediterranean Sea that’s part of Italy. However, the specifics can vary depending on the establishment.
A typical Pizza Siciliana may include the following ingredients:
- Tomato sauce: This is often made from richly flavored Italian tomatoes.
- Cheese: Traditional Sicilian pizza may use less cheese than other pizzas. When it is used, mozzarella or a local Sicilian cheese like caciocavallo or pecorino could be chosen.
- Anchovies: Reflecting Sicily’s seaside location, anchovies are a common addition.
- Olives: Sicily has many olive groves, and local olives, particularly green ones, are a frequent topping.
- Capers: These are also a traditional Sicilian ingredient, offering a burst of tangy, briny flavor.
- Onions: In some recipes, particularly ones influenced by the Sfincione (a type of Sicilian pizza more akin to a thick focaccia), onions are added.
- Oregano and/or basil: These herbs are often sprinkled on top to add aroma and flavor.
The ingredients are similar to those found in Pasta Puttanesca!
What about YOU? What are your favorite toppings for homemade pizza?? Let us know in the comments!