Pizza is our passion. As we’ve worked to craft the best slice out there, we’ve come across some interesting topping combinations that are too good not to share. From the classics to a few less common options, we fell in love with these pizzas and think you might, as well.
Hearth & Fire’s Top Five
Hawaiian pizza deserves first place on any list of the best pizza topping combos.
It brings together sweet pineapple and savory ham so well that no pizza recipe has duplicated its beloved taste since its invention in the 1960s.
Adding to Hawaiian pizza’s appeal is its quirky provenance: Unlike other popular pizza topping combos, it drew no inspiration from a regional dish.
Instead, it was the invention of a chef who added Hawaiian brand canned pineapple to pizza to attract new customers to his restaurant in Southern Ontario, Canada.
Gradually, Hawaiian pizza became popular beyond Ontario and, in 2014, was named by Time Magazine as the most influential pizza of all time. The publication credited it with inspiring hybrid pizzas such as buffalo chicken and barbeque which are now commonly served across the United States.
Experimentation with pizza combinations has continued in restaurants across America, including seasonal or regional ingredients, like green chiles in New Mexico and clams in Connecticut.
2) Ricotta and Meatballs
Ricotta and meatballs is an Italian inspired classic pizza that makes our list of the best pizza topping combos.
The mild fluffiness of fresh, whole milk ricotta can temper almost any flavor a meatball delivers – whether it’s spicy or herbaceous.
Pizzaiolos can also get creative by changing up how they use the meatball on the pizza. Variations can include hand-rolled, pan-fried meatballs, thin slices, as well as crumbled or uncased sausage scattered across the pizza pie. Whatever your preference, there's a version of ricotta and meatball pizza that will suit everyone's palette.
1) Spicy Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
There’s a strong case in favor of placing spicy Italian sausage and broccoli rabe on the list of best pizza topping combos.
As many will attest, it’s a bold and flavor-forward pairing – with the slightly bitter taste of broccoli rabe pairing nicely with mild- to medium-spicy sausage.
Many Chefs prefer recipes that exclude tomato sauce, and rely instead on the sautéed rabe to moisten the dough.
On the other hand, if you prefer sauce, we recommend a mild nutmeg-tinged white sauce such as the one featured in Jim Leahy’s recipe, here.
4) Pepperoni and Cheese
No list of best pizza topping combos is complete without reference to the all-American pepperoni pizza. Simple and delicious, this pizza combination originated in the United States, though there’s some debate around whether it first appeared in Connecticut or nearby New York State.
Pizza, once considered an exclusively Italian dish, is believed to have become popular here after World War II as European influences began to inspire American cooks.
On occasions when the Italian tradition of adding capicola to pizza was considered too expensive, chefs turned to sausage and later to a cured version of it, pepperoni.
When pizza chain Dominos partnered with a New York-based sausage company around the 1980s, the popularity of pepperoni pizza exploded across the country and, eventually, into Canada.
Some have also credited a 1990s cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with helping establish pepperoni pizza as one of the most popular pizza topping combinations because of how often the character Raphael ate it.
Pepperoni pizza’s popularity endures with 65% of respondents in a 2021 YouGov survey naming it as their favorite. The poll asked more than 6,000 Americans to identify what pizza toppings they liked most.
Finally, the Margherita pizza warrants mention.
Inspired by the colors of Italy’s flag, the Margherita is one of the most popular pizza topping combinations ever. Legend has it that this classic combination got its name in the late 1880s when the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, is believed to have tried it for the first time in Naples.
Today, you’ll find Margherita’s mix of tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese on any Italian pizzeria’s menu.
For those who want a different take on the toppings, the Margherita Extra can be found in Italy. It replaces mozzarella with buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce with cherry tomatoes.
Pro-tip: mise en place
Creating these or other unique topping combinations at home can be a fun and delicious expression of creativity. One technique that home chefs may find helpful when building different pizza varieties is mise en place.
Mise en place, a technique used by professional chefs, comes from a French phrase that means ‘putting in place’. Its approach ensures that every aspect of a recipe is prepped, with ingredients for each stage organized before the cooking begins.
Mise en place is also beneficial for any pizza maker who is, after all, assembling three core aspects of a single meal: dough, sauce and toppings.
When it comes to toppings, advance preparation like pre-slicing can be helpful. Pre-cooking is also recommended for toppings that contain a lot of water, like veggies, and have the potential to over hydrate the dough.
- For a Margherita, the basil can be sliced into thin strips or torn by hand into large pieces, and added to the pie at the very end.
- For a Hawaiian, grill pineapple slices and ham before being cut into bite size pieces appropriate for a pizza.
- Because of the potential for meatballs to over hydrate dough, consider combining breadcrumbs and grated cheese with the raw ground meat. Both ingredients will have an absorbent effect.
- Italian sausage can be uncased, fried and crumbled while the rabe is sauteéed in a separate pan.
- Thinly slice pepperoni and julienne cut pepperoni - using a combination of pepperoni cuts on your pizza can add to visual appeal and ensure a bit of pepperoni in every bite.
While you don’t want to rush through topping your pizza before it goes in the oven, there’s a limited amount of time before the dough will become too soft or sticky after you’ve started adding the toppings. To make the most efficient use of your time, mise en place is an expert-tested and -approved technique.
We hope that after looking through these topping combinations, you are inspired to try creating new and unique combinations at home.