When should I add spinach to homemade pizza?
When making pizza, do you put the spinach on raw or cooked? I would prefer to put it on raw, but I am concerned that the high water content in the spinach will release in the oven and make the crust wet. I have used well drained cooked spinach in the past but I find no matter how hard you ring it out, it is still very wet for a topping! I am using baby spinach. Any suggestions?
The moisture that you're talking about really has nothing to do with draining it or wringing it out. When it's heated, the cell structure breaks down and the water in the cells is released. Since it's predominately water, that means you have a lot of moisture on your pizza to make your crust soggy. At the restaurant I used to work at we had two methods. If there wasn't going to be a lot of spinach on the pizza, then we would just put it on raw. If there was going to be a lot of it, then we would give it a quick saute and then put it on the pizza. I would do the same thing with squash, eggplant, etc. Anything with a high moisture content. You could also roast it first. In both cases, I wouldn't cook it for long as the goal is to just get most of the water out and then let it finish on the pizza in the oven.
There are at least three different styles of 'spinach pies' that I've had (that were pizza, and not other types of 'pie'):
- Spinich is cooked fully before adding to the pizza. Often is sautéd with garlic and other seasonings.
- Spinich is added fresh to the pizza before it's cooked.
- Spinich is added fresh to the pizza after it's cooked.
I'm not going to say that any one is particularly right or wrong. I grew up with the first style (I guess I'll call it 'Philadelphia style' for lack of a better designation, as we always had it when visiting my great-grandmother in South Philly). I've had it with tomato sauce, but it'd be more common to be a white pizza with sliced tomatoes (so you don't start with as much liquid as on other pizzas).
The third one seems to be a more California type thing, but I've also had fresh greens on pizza ~20 years ago at Generous George's (when they were still on Duke Street in Alexandria, VA). It only really works with baby spinach or other tender greens.
I've never been impressed with the middle one. I suspect it requires really knowing the heat of your oven so that it cooks the spinich just right in the same time it takes the rest of the pie to cook. You also want to put it above any cheese, so that the moisture gets a chance to evaporate rather than just being held in.
I find the best results from super-brief blanching. Drop washed spinach in boiling water for about 5 seconds, drain quickly, shock in ice water, squeeze out water (I use a sushi mat), chop if desired.
When baked for typical pizza cooking time (90sec-12 minutes depending on style) the color stays vibrant, the flavor is generally not bitter, and it doesn't dry out.
Young spinach can be ok without blanching; it doesn't dry out if kept underneath the cheese, for example. But I think the visual effect and flavor is more pleasant when spinach is blanched.
I just baked the baby spinach pizza with uncooked spinach under shredded cheese. It didn't come out soggy but some of the leaf edges were dry. Also, even though the spinach was piled high, there wasn't as much of it as I would like after it cooked down. Next time I will try using thinly sliced cheese over the spinach leaving just enough space between the slices for steam to escape. I used a thick tomato sauce, and baked on a pizza stone in a 475° oven. The overall result was good.