Have you ever tried seafood on pizza? Seafood on pizza may sound strange to some, but it is more common than you may think. Everybody loves pizza but in the U.S., we traditionally top our favorite food with pepperoni or sausage or pineapple and ham, but seafood on pizza is still fairly uncommon.
While seafood on pizza may be new to the American palette, it has been a favorite in Italy and across the Mediterranean dating back 2000 years. There is some evidence that those early Roman flatbread pizzas were drizzled in fish oil and fish pieces.
In Greece, pizzas are topped with oily sardines, the French are not afraid to top pizzas with escargot, and in Spain, anchovies are added for a salty, cheesy bite.
As more American pizzerias are embracing creative pairings, pizzaiolos and home pizza chefs are learning about delicious ways to use fish and seafood on pizza.
Traditional Frutti di Mare Pizza
Traditional Italian seafood pizza or Frutti di Mare is made with a mix of seafood like clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp, squid, anchovies, sardines, and smoked oysters. Depending on the region of Italy, you may find different combinations of these salty treats.
An authentic Frutti di Mare pizza starts with an airy crust layered thick with fresh tomato sauce. The next layer is a combination of seafood and, lastly, a sprinkle of oregano and basil, with freshly ground pepper on top. This simple combination lets each ingredient shine.
Did we forget something? Oh yeah, you won’t find any cheese on a Frutti di Mare pizza because, in Italy, it is a sin to eat cheese and seafood together. While it might not be an actual sin, locals will treat it that way if they catch you sprinkling Parmesan on your Frutti di Mare pizza.
Italian Food Rules
No one is exactly sure where this rule about dairy and fish comes from, but everyone follows it without fail. There are some theories about its origins.
After the devastation of WWII, many speculate that Italians latched on tightly to culinary traditions as a way to preserve and reinforce their cultural identity. While that may be true, there are four other possibilities for why Italians don’t ever mix dairy and fish.
- Delicate flavors like fish and seafood are overpowered by the heaviness of cheese, salty fish oil does not mix with the creamy dairy.
- Region specific factors dictate that cheese making is usually done in the mountains, and fish is consumed near the coastline.
- Religion experts speculate that due to religious reasons (meat and dairy were forbidden on Fridays.) And since fish was eaten on Fridays, meat and dairy were always kept separate.
- Digestion complications is another theory. Cheese is heavier and takes longer to digest, and fish is lighter and easier to digest. The belief is that fish in the stomach will sour before the cheese breaks down, causing insufferable tummy troubles.
The real reason Italians don’t mix dairy and fish is probably some combination of all of these theories. But it seems to be specific to Italy and not the rest of Europe. In France, a popular dish is mussels in white wine and blue cheese sauce. And the Greeks have always eaten shrimp with Feta.
Luckily, we don’t have any food rules and can appreciate seafood on pizza in many different ways.
Best Kinds of Seafood on Pizza
Fish and seafood on pizza are great ways to get creative with your pizza making. You can mix a few types of seafood and fish or add vegetables.
The key to using seafood on pizza is balance. Keeping all of the flavors balanced, so none overpower the other. Some fish are salty and briny, so those would do better with a milder mozzarella. Lighter seafood like shrimp or scallops work well with Gouda or Parmesan.
Some of our favorite pizzas mix seafood with other traditional pizza toppings. Here are a few combinations that we love.
- Smoked salmon, capers, and red onion
- Tomato, sardines, and parsley
- Squid and saffron
- Anchovy, asiago cheese, and arugula
- Lobster with tarragon cream and sweet corn
- Tuna, red peppers, and artichokes
- Arugula, clams, and Parmesan
- Mussels, garlic, and shrimp
- Crab, bacon, green onions with an Alfredo sauce base
Helpful Tips for Adding Seafood to Pizza
- Add quick cooking seafood like shrimp to the pizza towards the end of cooking.
- Use cooked seafood: raw seafood won’t have enough time to cook thoroughly, and it’s dangerous to eat raw seafood.
- If using clams or mussels, follow the proper cleaning procedure before adding them.
Benefits of Eating Seafood on Pizza
Fish and seafood are good for you. The secret ingredient they contain is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential for optimal brain function and they have many health benefits. They help fight heart disease, prevent cancer, fight fatty liver, improve bone and joint health, and even fight depression and anxiety.
Some seafood, we are looking at you oysters, are even thought to be an aphrodisiac and promote fertility. So feel free to top your pizza with oysters, shrimp, tuna, salmon, calamari, squid, anchovies, and sardines to get the health benefits.
Of course, some seafood has high levels of mercury, so don’t top your pizza with shark, swordfish, and marlin. High levels of mercury can cause a host of health issues.
If you have never added seafood to pizza, you are in for a treat. Adding seafood to pizza is a great way to indulge in America’s favorite food without the heaviness of pepperoni and sausage.
The best way to enjoy your seafood pizza is with a glass of cold, crisp white wine. If you want to learn more about pairing wine and pizza, we have you covered.
Or, if you prefer to enjoy bubbly beverages, you can learn the best beer and pizza pairings to find the perfect beer to enjoy with your seafood pizza.
Have you tried seafood on pizza? What’s your favorite way to add fish and seafood to your homemade pizza?