More Than a Pizza Topping: 10 Smoky, Savory Ways to Use Pepperoni

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[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Yvonne Ruperti, Jennifer Olvera]

Pepperoni is still number one among pizza toppings, but beyond that, it hardly gets any respect. Admittedly, it's not the fanciest salami around, but it's smoky, fatty, and delicious—what's not to respect? Pepperoni is great for quickly adding a dash of meaty flavor to dishes like our fried-zucchini stacks, or a chickpea salad with grated Parmesan. And there are plenty of pizza-inspired dishes, with similarly satisfying combinations of chewy dough and melted cheese, for which the addition of pepperoni is never a bad idea—we can name grilled cheese, nachos, and mac and cheese, for a start. In fact, out of all 10 recipes in this collection, only two can reasonably be called pizzas—and they're made with English muffins and tortillas. Keep reading to see your humble supermarket salami in a whole new light.

Zucchini Stacks in the Style of Eggplant Parmesan

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

This homey riff on eggplant parm layers breaded, fried zucchini with pepperoni, tomato sauce, basil, and a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. We bake the stacks and finish them under the broiler to get the cheese nicely browned and bubbly. A bit of white wine and balsamic vinegar lend depth to the tomato sauce.

Get the recipe for Zucchini Stacks in the Style of Eggplant Parmesan »

Chickpea Salad With Pepperoni, Parmesan, and Basil

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

Earthy, wholesome chickpeas and bright herbs (basil is key, but we also like thyme and parsley) are counterbalanced by the meatiness of pepperoni in this Italian-inspired chickpea salad. Dress it with a red wine vinaigrette at least an hour and up to a day ahead of time so that the flavors can meld, but add the herbs right before serving to keep them fresh.

Get the recipe for Chickpea Salad With Pepperoni, Parmesan, and Basil »

Crisp, Flaky, Pepperoni Pizza Puff Pastry Waffles

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

As stated, there's no proper pizza in this list, but there are lots of inventive snacks that essentially cram pizza components into a different, equally delicious form. Take this crazy (and crazy-good) little number, made by rolling up puff pastry with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and shredded mozzarella and cooking it in a waffle iron. It'll come out well browned and crispy, with a delicately flaky interior and long strands of melted cheese.

Get the recipe for Crisp, Flaky, Pepperoni Pizza Puff Pastry Waffles »

The Best English Muffin Pepperoni Pizza

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Just like the ones you used to devour in front of the after-school special—except upgraded, using a few simple tricks. First, we toast the English muffins so that they don't soak up too much of the homemade pizza sauce. Second, we precook the pepperoni slices in a pan before adding them to the pizza—otherwise, the pizza cooks too quickly for the pepperoni to properly curl and crisp up. Not only that: You can use the rendered fat to brown the muffins and infuse them with flavor.

Get the recipe for The Best English Muffin Pepperoni Pizza »

Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza Supreme

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

When you're craving a super-thin bar-style pizza in the wee hours, there's no way you're gonna want to roll out pizza dough. Reach instead for tortillas, which get beautifully crispy and crunchy in a cast iron skillet—plus, they provide a completely flat plane on which to build, allowing you to spread the cheese out all the way to the edges. I like to keep my tortilla pizzas simple, with just tomato sauce, cheese, olive oil, and fresh basil. For really wild nights, though, pile on sausage, pepperoni, yellow onion, and green bell pepper.

Get the recipe for Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza Supreme »

Pepperoni Pizza Supreme Nachos

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[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Why limit supreme-pizza toppings to just pizza? For another route to midnight-snack bliss, top tortilla chips with pepperoni, sweet peppers, sliced onion and olives, and mozzarella. We use a thick homemade tomato sauce here—typical store-bought varieties will be too thin and soak the chips. Finishing the nachos with pickled jalapeños after they come out of the oven gives them a little extra kick.

Get the recipe for Pepperoni Pizza Supreme Nachos »

Fully Loaded Pizza Macaroni and Cheese

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This recipe starts with our basic stovetop macaroni and cheese, but replaces the cheddar with mozzarella and Parmesan, though we keep the American cheese for its unparalleled creaminess. Once the cheese is melted, we stir in an eye-popping variety of tangy, savory, spicy, and otherwise flavorful pizza toppings: Italian sausage, pepperoni, soppressata, black olives, peperoncini, tomatoes, and basil.

Get the recipe for Fully Loaded Pizza Macaroni and Cheese »

Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The concept of garlic knots goes from "pretty good snack" to "unbelievably delicious" when you add pepperoni and cheese and bake them in a cast iron skillet for a well-crisped, golden crust. And this show-stealing party dish takes only about half an hour of active time, since you don't need to make your own dough—with so many strong flavors involved, store-bought pizza dough works perfectly fine.

Get the recipe for Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots »

Pepperoni Garlic Bread Burgers (Grilled Cheeseburgers With Pepperoni Sauce Served on Garlic Bread Rolls)

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Combine the best elements of pizza and garlic bread for burgers with an Italian-American twist. We toast the buns in garlic butter flecked with oregano and parsley and make our own tomato sauce of crushed tomatoes, stick pepperoni, and a splash of vinegar. Topping the burgers with sharp provolone and Parmesan adds more flavor than using mozzarella.

Get the recipe for Pepperoni Garlic Bread Burgers (Grilled Cheeseburgers With Pepperoni Sauce Served on Garlic Bread Rolls) »

Grilled Cheese With Pepperoni and Pickled Cherry Peppers

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Anything that's tasty on pizza is likely to be tasty on a grilled cheese—especially pepperoni and sharp little pickled peppers. As with our English muffin pizzas, we recommend pre-crisping the pepperoni before adding it to the sandwich. You can do this in the microwave, but using a skillet will allow you to keep the rendered fat for toasting the bread. Homemade or store-bought banana peppers or cherry peppers will do nicely.

Get the recipe for Grilled Cheese With Pepperoni and Pickled Cherry Peppers »