Don’t Give up on Your Leftovers, ‘Pizza’ Them

Don’t Give up on Your Leftovers, ‘Pizza’ Them

I’ve been writing a lot about pizza lately. (Perhaps you’ve noticed.) Despite eating all of this experimental pizza, somehow I still want more. Luckily, Thursday is Pi Day, so I can pretend my diet has all been a part of my masterful pizza pie plan. As you embark on your own mathematical celebration, I’d like to encourage you to pi sustainably, and start with a leftovers pizza.

I rarely ate pizza as a kid because I hated tomato sauce. Now that I’m more open to the bright, acidic gravy (and dabbling in alternative pizza sauces), I’m making up for lost time. I’ve been buying frozen pizza dough, the kind in the refrigerated or frozen aisle of my grocery store, but I’m not making the average margherita or pepperoni pie. Instead, I’m using leftovers as my toppings. It’s simple: I stretch the dough, add sauce, and dump a heap of last night’s dinner on top along with some shredded mozzarella. You won’t be surprised to learn that the addition of bread and cheese can transform even the most dreary container of leftovers into a positively bitchin’ pizza.

Cast iron skillets are great for small pizzas:

How to make a leftovers pizza

The cast iron skillet is my go-to for many a personal pizza, but you can modify the following instructions for whichever size and method makes you happy, whether that’s using a pizza stone, an oiled sheet tray, or even your grill. 

1. Preheat the cast iron skillet

I like a cast iron skillet for this because it can hold onto high heat like a pizza stone, but it’s smaller, doesn’t require a pizza peel, and the walls of the skillet hold onto any loose ingredients. (Plus, you should experience a skillet-made cheese-bottom pizza at some point.) Get started by preheating the skillet inside of a 425°F oven for about 15 minutes.

2. Stretch the dough

While the pan is preheating, get your dough ready. Lightly flour the pizza dough and your hands. Stretch the dough with your knuckles or finger pads (try to avoid fingernail pricks, because the dough will tear) until it’s slightly larger than the size of the bottom of your skillet. Have your sauce, cheese, and leftovers nearby.

3. Build the pizza

Carefully remove the screaming-hot skillet from the oven and place it on a trivet near your raw pizza dough. Quickly lift the dough into the pan. You’ll have a few seconds to unfold any wrinkles or wiggly spots before the dough begins to cook on the bottom. (Do be careful if you’re using your fingers, and you can always use a wooden spoon handle to protect yourself from burns.)

Working quickly (since, again, the dough is starting to cook), top the dough with sauce, and scatter your leftovers over the top. Try not to add anything watery. If there is liquid pooling at the bottom of your container, use a fork or a slotted spoon to leave most of it behind. As far as how large a quantity of leftovers to use, that will vary depending on the food(s) involved. I’ve used an irresponsible amount of leftovers before and it still turned out great, but use caution if you’re not sure how the pizza dough will hold up. (You can always use the leftover leftovers to make leftovers egg rolls.) Finally, top the pizza with a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.

4. Bake your leftovers pizza

Place the cast iron skillet back in the 425°F oven, and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes, or until you’re happy with the browning. Cool the pizza for a few minutes before removing it from the skillet and slicing. 

This pizza trick is a great way to use up leftovers, and I haven’t had a bad one yet. So far I’ve made a turkey chili pizza, a chicken, corn, peas, and chickpeas pizza, and a kale and broccoli salad pizza—which rocked. The latter was actually lightyears improved as pizza. So even if you think there’s no hope for that container of over-salted chicken piccata, or the bowl of bland roasted Brussels sprouts, try it on a pizza. It could change your outlook on leftovers forever.

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