Over the years, many people (some famous, some not) have found themselves so moved and inspired that they felt compelled to publicly comment on the massive cultural impact (and general, all around magnificence) of pizza. Yes...pizza.
“Everybody loves dogs. They’re the pizza of the animal kingdom” – Stephen Colbert
“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” – Yogi Berra
But, perhaps the most moving and poignant pizza tribute, comes from the great 21st century philosopher, Bill Murray.
"Unless you are a pizza, the answer is yes, I can live without you."
So, how has the humble pizza managed to become such an omni-present and beloved part of daily life in this country and around the world? Well, it might have something to do with its versatility.
Pizza’s appeal crosses all demographic and generational boundaries – it’s popular with kids and adults alike.
Pizza is ideal for any social setting – it’s perfect for a quiet night at home in front of the TV, a large family gathering, or for a boardroom full of C-suite executives working through the night to close a big deal.
It’s great in everything from emergencies to special occasions – pizza is the perfect solution when unexpected guests randomly drop by, or for any party or celebration, big or small.
Pizza caters to appetites of any size – you can enjoy a single slice, but there’s no need to stop at just one. We don’t judge.
Pizza caters to most dietary needs – it can be enjoyed by meat eaters, vegetarians, pescatarians, and there are even dairy-free and cheese-less varieties of pizza that are suitable for the lactose intolerant.
And pizza doesn’t care what time of day it is – you can enjoy pizza for dinner, lunch, and even as a tasty breakfast. Come on, we’ve all done it. Again, we don’t judge.
Whichever way you slice it (sorry, we couldn’t resist), in almost any situation or scenario, pizza can make the day or it can save the day.
But as much as pizza is delicious and satisfying enough be an entire meal on its own, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy it with a companion dish or two…but what? What goes with pizza? What are the ideal sides for pizza?
While these may seem like simple questions, they generate a surprisingly large and tasty range of answers.
What flavor profiles complement the ingredients of the particular pizza they’re accompanying?
What textures pair well with the chewiness of a deep dish base or the crunch and crispiness of a thin crust?
What has the acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese and the starch of the crust?
And what is aesthetically pleasing? What looks good on the plate or the table next to the pizza?
All of these elements need to be considered when deciding what to serve with pizza. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but to help you make an informed decision, here’s a selection of different types of side dishes, with a range of options within each category.
- Onion rings – the sweetness of the onion and the crispness of the batter/breading are a beautiful combination.
- Mozzarella bites – a smaller, bite-sized version of classic mozzarella sticks. Be warned, one won’t be enough.
- Zucchini fries – a cross between breadsticks and French fries, but tastier and more nutritious than both.
- Chicken wings – pizza and wings…any kind of wings. Yes please!
- Meatballs – pick your favorite meat (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, or a combination), add a dipping sauce, grab some toothpicks, and you’re good to go.
- Cauliflower bites – battered, deep fried, and served with sweet chili mayo. Sensational.
- Croque Monsieur mash balls – a French appetizer with pizza. Culinary multi-culturalism at its best. Breaded and deep fried balls of mashed potatoes, diced ham, Dijon mustard, seasoning, and Emmental cheese. You won’t be disappointed.
Salads (we recommend oil-based as opposed to creamy dressings)
- Antipasto salad – pick your favorite antipasto ingredients and combine them with some fresh greens. Easy.
- Roasted asparagus salad – a basic garden salad with the added taste and texture of perfectly roasted asparagus spears.
- Mixed berries Caprese salad – add seasonal mixed berries to fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle with olive oil or balsamic, and season with coarse salt. Perfection.
- Tomato and cucumber salad – it’s light, refreshing, colorful, and takes only a couple of minutes to prepare. It’s also perfect contrast to the richness of the pizza.
- Avocado salad – wedges of avocado, sliced radishes, sliced cucumbers, crisp greens, drizzled with basil vinaigrette.
- Greek wedge salad – replace some of the heavier traditional wedge salad elements (blue cheese and bacon) with lighter options like feta, olives, and chilies to taste.
Sauces, Drizzles, and Dressings
- Honey – it sounds a little odd, but the sweetness of heated honey drizzled over the top of almost any pizza adds a unique flavor burst.
- Tzatziki – this traditional Greek yogurt-based dressing is lighter and less dense than Ranch. Add it to a side salad or directly on to the pizza. Either way works.
- Balsamic glaze – we generally think of balsamic as a salad dressing, but try it drizzled over a prosciutto, pepperoni, or sausage pizza.
- Calabrian chili oil…smoky and spicy, a drizzle of this Italian specialty will be a joy for those who like a little lingering heat to go with each bite of their pizza.
- Veggie platter – a platter of beautifully baked vegetables is always a good idea, and that’s certainly the case a side with pizza. Take your pick from whatever’s fresh and available, and you can even add a few slices of spicy sausage if you’re feeling adventurous.
- Ratatouille – this is basically a French vegetarian stew containing eggplant, yellow squash, tomatoes, and zucchini. The simplicity of a cup or a bowl of this pairs beautifully with the complexity of the pizza flavor combinations
- Loaded baked potatoes – especially with a thin crust pizza, this is a fantastic pairing! Bake the potatoes, slice them open, scoop out the flesh then mix it with your choice tasty treats. Put them back in the oven if anything needs heating or melting.
- Tomato soup – soup and a sandwich is standard fare, so why not soup and a slice of pizza? A simple tomato soup is a great choice. It’s just fresh tomatoes, onions, seasoning, butter, and stock. Couldn’t be easier.
- Cookies – depending on how decadent you’re feeling, a peanut butter/chocolate chip combo might be the perfect way to complement the saltiness of the pizza.
- Cannoli – double down on the Italian culinary experience with this traditional ricotta filled dessert treat.
- Dessert pizzas – pairing a pizza with a pizza actually makes sense when one of those pizzas is refreshing, fresh fruit-based variation.
- Ice cream or sorbet – let’s be honest, life doesn’t get much better than pizza followed by ice cream or a serving of palate-cleansing sorbet.
There you have it; the next time you’re wondering what to serve with pizza at a party, special occasion, or even just around the dinner table at home, you can elevate your pizza experience to the next level with these 25 amazing side dishes.
The beauty of choosing what to serve with pizza is that there’s no right or wrong decision.
It’s your pizza, your sides, your choice.