Mama mia!
These pizzas are healthy and easy to make

By Melissa B. Scott
Photos by Leigh Beisch

From its Italian origins to its Chicago and New York renditions, pizza is the perfect one-pan (or one phone call) meal. Yet typical take-out pizza is anything but healthy. From fatty meats such as sausage and pepperoni to gargantuan helpings of cheese, ordinary pizza—despite its convenience—may not be the most nutritious choice.

Grill your pizza

  1. Coat the grill with cooking spray. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  2. Combine 2 teaspoons canola oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Place one uncooked 12-inch pizza crust on the rack and grill for 3–5 minutes, until dough looks puffy and begins to turn golden. Flip crust carefully using a heat-proof spatula or tongs. Brush the grilled side with the oil mixture and top with your choice of toppings. Cover grill and let the pizza cook for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted. (If you’re not using cheese, cover and cook for another 3–4 minutes.) Remove pizza from heat when crust reaches desired crispness.

—M.B.S.

A new approach is all it takes to overhaul this family favorite. When made at home and topped with fresh ingredients, pizza can supply numerous nutrients along with that soul-satisfying taste. Pizza laden with garden-fresh summer vegetables, for example, supplies a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants. Chunky tomato sauce is loaded with lycopene, onions and garlic help boost the immune system, and colorful bell peppers supply both vitamin C and beta-carotene. Even low-fat cheese gets the nod as a source of bone-building calcium. So instead of reaching for the phone tonight, try tossing together a homemade pizza using these creative, flavorful, and healthy combinations. Buono gusto!

Basic Pizza Dough

Makes two 12-inch crusts (16 slices) / Any pizza can be made using a store-bought crust, but if you have time, try this healthy, basic dough. Use as is, or customize with different fresh herbs (see notes in the pizza recipes that follow). To make this dough in advance, prepare up through step 3, then punch down, place in a gallon-size zip-top bag, and refrigerate up to five days.

1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit 5 minutes.

2. Lightly spoon whole-wheat flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Mix with 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, salt, and freshly chopped herbs, if using. Add yeast mixture, oil, and honey or maple syrup and mix well.

3. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add enough all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a bowl coated with oil or cooking spray and turn to coat. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until double in size.

4. Punch dough down and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide into two balls.

Nutrition Facts Per Slice: Calories: 93 calories % fat calories: 11 Fat: 1g Saturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 18g Protein: 3g Fiber: 2g Sodium: 135mg

Thai Peanutty Pizza

Serves 8 / This richly flavored pie will fool even the biggest meat-loving fans. When cut into small pieces, it also makes a fabulous appetizer.

Peanut Sauce
6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon liquid aminos (such as Bragg’s)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced

Topping
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
6 ounces low-fat extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
1/3 cup bean sprouts
1/3 cup finely chopped purple cabbage
1/3 cup julienned carrots
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 Basic Pizza Dough recipe, mixed with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (or one 12-inch store-bought crust)
Cornmeal

1. Combine all Peanut Sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly, until peanut butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside

.

2. Combine soy sauce, sherry, ginger, and creamy peanut butter in a medium bowl. Mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add tofu and toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Coat a round pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to pan.

4. Spread peanut sauce evenly over crust and top with tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage, and carrots. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is firm and golden brown.

Nutrition Facts Per Slice: Calories: 216 calories % fat calories: 37 Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 27g Protein: 9g Fiber: 3g Sodium: 419mg

Sun-Dried Tomato and Broccoli Pizza

Serves 8 / This pizza bursts with flavor while providing a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants. If you prefer, substitute thinly sliced fresh tomatoes for the sun-dried tomatoes. Use the Basil-Tomato Pesto described in the Turkey Sausage–Pesto Pizza recipe.

1/2 Basic Pizza Dough recipe (or one 12-inch store-bought crust)
Cornmeal
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup Basil-Tomato Pesto
1 pound broccoli florets (1 medium head)
8 black olives, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Coat a round pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to pan.

2. If necessary, soak sun-dried tomatoes in 1/2 cup boiling water until soft, about 10 minutes. Thinly slice and set aside.

3. Spread 1/2 cup Basil-Tomato Pesto evenly over crust. Top with sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, olives, and garlic. Sprinkle with mozzarella, feta, and toasted nuts. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 213 calories % fat calories: 25 Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 7mg Carbohydrate: 30g Protein: 13g Fiber: 6g Sodium: 415mg

Pizza Primavera

Serves 8 / Grilled vegetables are a great way to take your pizza baking outside. Vary the produce depending on what you prefer and what’s fresh, such as portobello mushrooms, asparagus, or yellow squash. Use store-bought pizza sauce, or try the Chunky Tomato Sauce detailed in the Chicken-Gorgonzola Pizza recipe.

1/2 Basic Pizza Dough recipe, mixed with 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or one 12-inch store-bought crust)
Cornmeal
4 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 baby zucchini, sliced
2 baby eggplants, sliced lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small red onion, cut into quarters
1/2 cup chunky pizza sauce
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup Basil-Tomato Pesto

1. Preheat grill or broiler. Combine oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and red onion, and toss to coat. Grill in a vegetable basket, turning often, or broil for 10 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Coat a round pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to pan.

3. Spread pizza sauce evenly over crust. Top with grilled vegetables. Sprinkle with goat cheese and dollops of pesto. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 177 calories % fat calories: 34 Fat: 7g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 7mg Carbohydrate: 24g Protein: 6g Fiber: 3g Sodium: 403mg

Chicken-Gorgonzola Pizza with Caramelized Onions

Serves 8 / For milder flavor, substitute 1/2 cup shredded smoked mozzarella for the Gorgonzola. The intensely flavored tomato sauce can be made in 30 minutes; it’s also a great sauce for pasta or lasagna.

Chunky Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Topping
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1 chicken half-breast (about 6 ounces), cut lengthwise into strips
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 Basic Pizza Dough recipe, mixed with 1 tablespoon combined fresh basil, oregano, and thyme (or one 12-inch store-bought crust)
Cornmeal

1. For the sauce, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan; add red onion and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

2. In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion slices, cover, and cook 3–4 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are dark brown. Remove from pan.

3. Using the same skillet, heat remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat and add chicken. When chicken begins to turn white, sprinkle with basil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from heat.

4. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Coat a round pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to pan.

5. Spread 1/2–3/4 cup sauce over crust, leaving 1/2 inch of crust showing around the edge. Spread caramelized onions and mushrooms evenly over sauce. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, then top with cooked chicken. Bake another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 232 calories % fat calories: 31 Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 22mg Carbohydrate: 29g Protein: 12g Fiber: 4g Sodium: 648mg

Turkey Sausage–Pesto Pizza

Serves 8 / Enjoy the light, summery flavor of pesto combined with fresh tomatoes and healthy turkey or chicken sausage. Look for sausage with less than 5 grams of fat per serving and minimal sodium.

Basil-Tomato Pesto
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 Basic Pizza Dough recipe (or one 12-inch store-bought crust)
Cornmeal

Topping
6 ounces low-fat cooked turkey or chicken sausage, any flavor, sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
1/3 cup sliced almonds

1. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. (Pesto will keep in refrigerator for 3–5 days.)

2. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Coat a round pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to pan.

3. Spread 1/2 cup pesto evenly over crust and top with sausage, tomato, and garlic. Sprinkle with feta, mozzarella, and sliced almonds. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 231 calories % fat calories: 35 Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 24mg Carbohydrate: 25g Protein: 14g Fiber: 3g Sodium: 589mg Writer Melissa B. Scott fed these pizzas to her her fiancé over four straight nights.

Leigh Beisch, a San Francisco–based food photographer, used natural lighting to shoot the photographs for “Mama Mia!" “Focusing on the innate beauty of ingredients is important in my work,” she says. Beisch has worked on 19 cookbooks, but she also enjoys taking pictures of coastal and desert landscapes.