Skip The Sandwich And Start Topping Your Pizza With Pastrami

In the pantheon of meaty pizza toppings, pepperoni, sausage, ham, and heck, even ground beef generally take center stage. But that's such a limiting worldview. If you're one to buck convention, a silent contender is waiting in the wings ready to take your pie to new heights — pastrami. Yes, you heard correctly — that beef brisket cut generally reserved for deli sandwiches of the same name. This left-field choice might raise a few eyebrows, but let us assure you, pastrami on pizza is a revelation waiting to be explored.

At first glance, pastrami might seem like an odd choice for a pizza topping, but when you break it down, it shares plenty of similarities with the typical cured topping options. What sets pastrami apart, however, is its robust peppery crust and warm spice blend that permeates each slice. This unique flavor profile adds a layer of complexity to pizza that other proteins just can't deliver.

But pastrami brings more than just a bold flavor to the pizza; it introduces a deep umami that marries seamlessly with the cheese and sauce, be that a classic rustica, arrabbiata, pesto, or alfredo sauce. The savory, salty notes of pastrami reflect off the gooey, melted cheese as acidic sauce elements contrast with the cut's fatty richness. It's this unexpected combination that shakes off naysayers with their "whys" and boldly insists "Why not?" 

Go west ... for pastrami pizza

So what goes into crafting the perfect pastrami pizza? For lucky seekers in the Los Angeles area, the flavor will soon be within reach. With January 14 being National Pastrami Day, L.A.-based meat purveyor RC Provisions organized the first-ever Pastrami on Pizza Festival, which will feature local pizzerias will be serving up their takes on pastrami pies. For the rest of us, Tasting Table spoke to a few of event's participants to glean the ultimate inspiration for making pastrami pizza masterpieces.

For a perfect pastrami bite every time, the folks at Ozzy's Apizza in Glendale recommend that you "chop it up and spread it evenly throughout the pie so it cooks perfectly and doesn't get too soggy." And when it comes to toppings, Long Beach's Little Coyote says the key is to " find balance in the flavors. Pastrami is smoked and fatty so acidity is a nice counterpoint."

You can't go wrong by keeping it classic, with a pizza version of deli staples full of traditional flavors. Little Coyote suggests getting "inspired by the California-style pastrami sandwiches ... but on a pizza." Imagine a canvas of crispy, golden crust adorned with succulent pastrami slices. To amplify the experience, consider adding a layer of Swiss cheese that melts into a creamy, gooey masterpiece. Add the unexpected crunch of pickles, providing a delightful contrast to the tender pastrami. Finally, crown the creation with a spicy mustard drizzle, infusing a zesty note that awakens the taste buds

Or you can go Reuben style like they do at Ozzy's. Use a white sauce or ricotta cheese for a creamy contrast to the salty pastrami, and cut through all that richness with red onion and sauerkraut. For the perfect finishing touch on any pastrami pizza, a drizzle of Russian dressing takes things to the next level.