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SUPER PIZZAS FOR THE SUPER BOWL

It’s Super Bowl time again and anyone who has ever planned a Game Day party knows it’s different than any other. It’s not a celebration but an anticipation of a celebration. The guests aren’t there to socialize but to watch the game and the hosts are expected to join in, not focus on hospitality. The party isn’t the event, the game is and the memory of the occasion will be the final score.

Obviously, these circumstances affect the menu choices. This is a casual gathering of friends with a common interest in a sporting event, not in fine dining. Even if your party schedule includes the pre-game programming, people will be distracted and only graze until half-time. The favorites for this phase of the party are the traditional ‘junk’ snacks, Doritos,(of course) pretzels, potato chips, cheese straws, nuts and different flavored popcorns, which I’ve found popular; I’m listing some suggestions below. If your party is larger, it’s not a bad idea to offer different varieties of pretzels, chips and nuts but no more than two of each. You’ll only confuse yourself and make refills problematic.

Half-time circles dinner hour across time zones, from early bird in the west to continental in the east and by then your guests will have worked up an appetite, but again they’re distracted either by the show or the score. So finger food is the best answer. I’ve written several posts with menus and recipes for different levels of party, roasts and artesian bread to make sandwiches, ’neat’ casseroles etc. but they all share an avoidance of fluid dishes and have the ability to be consumed with plastic utensils from paper plates. (See the blog archives for: 2/9/12, 1/31/13, 2/2/14, 1/29/14) Early on, I learned this is an occasion where sudden moves are common, spills and dropped utensils frequently happen and the wise course is to stay away from foods that drip and stain and/or leave grease marks.

Pizza is the perfect solution. It’s moved into the gourmet class now, so you have a chance to show off some ‘chefly’ moves, if you like, while offering the down-to-Earth finger foods your guests want. Offer up a selection and you’ll probably score a place on their memory card along with the game. I recently came across a book, Pizzas and Snacks from Cole’s Home Library Cookbooks, which has a wonderful selection of easy, unusual pizza recipes. Better still, they suggest a variety of crusts and best of all, most recipes cook at the same temperature and time, so two can go into the oven at once.

The normal pizza serving estimate, for a 12 inch pie, is 4, allowing 2 slices per person. In this case I’d calculate a bit more, because people tend to continue snacking after half-time. It isn’t like a set course at a dinner. A nice touch is to include a platter of raw vegetables, celery hearts, carrot sticks, radishes and perhaps olives and/or pickles, by themselves, not with a dip.

Dessert isn’t necessary, except for a plate of cookies, a dish of mints or chocolate straws; again, something a bit different, but not lavish and, of course, coffee. Any Super Bowl party will have some booze if only beer and wine.

Before I get into the recipes, I’m going to offer a few tips I’ve found helpful over the years. Oh, and check the last recipe for a new twist on America’s favorite pizza!

  • Make sure everyone has a seat, even if you have to use folding chairs and arrange furniture so people don’t trip when moving.
  • Have plenty of paper plates, plastic cups, utensils and paper NAPKINS handy. Rolls of paper towels help too.
  • Set-up a bar for drinks away from food. It can get messy if they crowd the same space.
  • Put larger plastic lined trash receptacles in several strategic spots. Use laundry baskets, even boxes from the grocery store, with 30-gallon bags draped over the edges to conceal them. In this casual atmosphere it makes things easier on both you and your guests and could prevent a carpet or upholstery tragedy.

Now for the Recipes:

Flavored Popcorn-This is a wide open field for fun experimenting. Pretty much any powdered flavoring mix and/or herbs will do. I’ve used Taco Seasoning, Lemon Pepper and Basil and ground rye seeds. A friend of mine swears by Bouillon granules. She’s used chicken and beef, and wants to try ham with commercially grated Parmesan. Most seasoning firms make a powdered tomato bouillon. I’d like to try an Italian flavor with oregano and basil.
Simply add 1 Tbs. flavoring to a hot bag of microwaved popcorn and shake well. Adjust taste, pour into a bowl and toss with a wooden spoon and serve. Can be made about an hour in advance, depending on weather.

Pizzas: All recipes serve 4 and are baked at 425 deg. for 15 min. unless otherwise noted. The crusts are interchangeable, pizza dough commercially or home-made, puff pastry, a loaf of focaccia bread or pita breads split into rounds. Just adjust the cooking temperature for the puff pastry. Feel free to mix and match but notice the amounts of the topping ingredients for each pizza. You may have to double or halve some according to amount of crust chosen.
The best way to be ready for the party is to have the crusts covered and chilled, on the baking sheets or pizza rounds and the toppings measured and in separate bags or bottles, grouped by recipe. All you have to do is top the crusts and bake. Rmember to preheat the oven too. Serve the pizzas in the sheets or pans.

Tomato, Feta and Spinach Galettes
(1) 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach-thawed and lightly drained
1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce with sun-dried tomatoes
8 oz. crumbled feta
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
8 oz. cherry tomatoes- halved
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 sheets puff pastry*
Cooking spray
2 baking sheets
Spread a sheet of puff pastry on each baking sheet, folding edges up to make a ½ inch border, pinching edges to form corners. Spray lightly with oil. Spread each with ½ of the pesto, then with ½ the spinach, feta basil and tomatoes in that order. Top with the Parmesan and pepper.* Bake at 475 deg. for 15 min. until crisp and lightly browned.

Artichoke Pizza
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium onions- sliced
2/3 cup tomato paste
½ cup grated cheddar cheese +1 ½ cups extra
½ cup sun dried sweet peppers in oil-drained and sliced
1/3 cup black olives quartered
10 canned artichoke hearts drained and quartered
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup fresh basil
(2) 12 inch pizza crusts or (4) 6 inch pizza or pita rounds
Saute onion in oil until soft, drain on paper towels. Spread crusts with tomato paste and top with, in order, cheddar, onion, pepper, artichokes, olives, extra cheddar and Parmesan. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. until lightly browned. Serve hot garnished with basil.

Smoked Salmon and Spinach Pizza
½ cup tomato or Alfredo pasta sauce
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
10 spinach leaves – shredded or 20 of baby spinach sliced
1 small onion – sliced
4 oz. smoked salmon in 1 inch pieces
2 tsp. capers
½ tsp. dried dill
¼ cup sour cream
2 pita rounds-split or (1) 12 inch pizza round
Spread the pitas with the sauce top in order with ½ the cheese, spinach, salmon, onion, capers, remaining cheese and dill. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min., remove from oven, dot with sour cream and return to oven for1 min. Serve hot.

Asparagus Pizza*
1 lb. asparagus
1 large red bell pepper – chopped
1 lb. mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 cup pesto sauce
2 pita breads-split or (1) 12 inch pizza round
Boil asparagus until crisp tender and diagonally cut in 2 inch pieces. Spread rounds with pesto and top with asparagus, pepper and cheeses. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min.
*NOTE: ½ > 1 cup diced, cooked chicken is a great addition to this pizza.

Pizza Margarita Plus
2 1/3 cups tomato pasta sauce
½ cup packed fresh basil-half amount shredded
2 cups cooked chicken- shredded
7 oz. crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup coarsely grated mozzarella
1 loaf focaccia bread
Boil sauce until thickened slightly, about 5-8 min. Slice bread in half to make 2 rounds,. Spread cut sides of bread with, in order, sauce, shredded basil, chicken and cheeses. Place bread rounds on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. or until cheeses melt and brown. Serve hot garnished with remaining basil.

Mexican Beef Pizza
5 oz. lean roast beef-halved
16 oz. can refried beans
1 ½ Tbs. Taco seasoning mix
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 small avocado- mashed
1tsp.lemon juice
1 medium tomato – chopped
½ small onion- chopped
1 ½ Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup sour cream
(1) 12 inch pizza crust or 4 split pita rounds
Mix taco seasoning and beans and spread on pizza crust. Top with beef and cheese and bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. Meanwhile, combine avocado and lemon juice in a small bowl. Combine tomato, onion and parsley in another. Top cooked pizza with avocado mix, then tomato mix and finally sour cream. Serve at once.

Tomato, Eggplant and Pepperoni Pizza: A nod to the traditional with a twist
1 medium eggplant-thinly sliced lengthwise
Salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic-crushed
3 small tomatoes –sliced
4 oz. sliced pepperoni
½ cup ricotta cheese1 ½ Tbs. pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts
2 Tbs. shredded fresh basil
(1) 12 inch pizza round
Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand for 20 min. Rinse well and dry on towels. Brush with ¼ cup oil and broil until lightly browned on both sides. Mix remaining oil with garlic and brush pizza crust. Arrange overlapping tomato and eggplant slices on crust. Top with pepperoni, cheese, nuts and basil. Bake at 425 deg. 15 min. Serve hot.

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