Pizza Expert Dan Richer's Favorite Toppings To Try On Your Next Pie

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A pizza is truly the sum of its parts, and the toppings are usually where the fun starts. Pepperoni, hot peppers, artichoke, or whatever else, pizza toppings are where your personality, creativity, and ingenuity start to shine. A great crust is essential, pizza sauce ties it all together, and then topping options are endless. But those boundless potential options can become a stumbling block, as the desire to pile on everything you want can backfire, and a huge amount of choices can be paralyzing. So we reached out to Dan Richer, a pizza expert, author of The Joy Of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know, and a judge of the annual Francis Ford Coppola Winery "Perfect Your Pizza" Competition, for some advice on his favorite toppings to try on your homemade pizza.

For both convenience and taste, Richer says, "I'm a big fan of letting nature dictate my toppings, so I usually look in my backyard for something interesting and super fresh." Richer has a "tiny neglected garden," at home which frequently sprouts things like fennel, mint, and purslane, and to him that "sounds like a winning combination with some chilies for heat and a squeeze of lemon." That practicality extends to leftovers like corn on the cob. "Corn is a highly underrated pizza topping!" Richer advises. "Cut the corn kernels off the cob before placing on top of your pizza dough with fresh mozzarella, scamorza, a touch of chili paste, and caramelized onions."

Let nature and availability guide your pizza toppings

Richer's advice isn't just for professionals with access to an abundant garden. Of course, anything you can grow fresh yourself, from herbs to cherry tomatoes, is going to taste great on your pizza, but that's not the only way to make a tasty seasonal pie. Farmers markets are great places to peruse in-season, local produce, and almost every time of the year will offer you something that would work on pizza. They're also good for getting creative with things beyond the standard peppers, onions, or mushrooms that you normally might not consider. Fall is beyond tomato season, but it is the perfect time for fresh chard, or a hearty pie made with roasted butternut squash. Spring may be too early for a lot of pizza toppings too, but you can follow Richer's lead and sprinkle your pizza with plenty of fresh herbs like tarragon, mint, and dill.

Cold pizza is a leftover classic, but Richer is right that fresh pizza is the perfect blank canvas for using up what remains from other meals. If his suggestion of using leftover corn intrigued you, try it on a white pizza, or combine it with chiles, cotija cheese, a drizzle of sour cream, and fresh cilantro for a street corn-inspired riff. By pairing your leftovers with naturally complementary companions (think chicken and barbecue sauce, or pasta sauce with that salami in your fridge), you can create unique pizzas that will taste delicious.