How Many Toppings Are Too Many?

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

The other week I agreed to host a pizza party at my place and planned on banging out a dozen or so pies from my modified KettlePizza grill insert (read the post to see how we modified it for perfect pie-making), and did what I normall do: made a big ol' pile of dough, left it fermenting in the kitchen, then headed out to grab ingredients.

"what's a sausage and pepperoni pie without onions?"

Now normally I'll control myself. I might buy two cheeses, make one sauce, and pick up one type of cured meat and a couple of vegetables. But this time, there were issues. It started with my lactose intolerant, sausage-loving friend. Ok, so some of the pies would be cheeseless sausage pies. And I can't do sausage without grabbing some broccoli rabe and garlic, right? Oh, and while I'm at it, I might as well pick up those cute little spicy pepperoni-like salami they have at Eataly, and perhaps an onion, because what's a sausage and pepperoni pie without onions?

But wait a minute—there are some figs sitting there by the checkout counter. How in the heck did it get to be fig season already? I can't pass those guys up, and nothing goes better with figs than a bit of really great prosciutto. Except maybe some lardo. Better grab some of both just in case.

What's this? Now my friend is texting me to say that one of her friends might be vegetarians but likes anchovies? Ok, a jar of anchovies it is.

It was only after I got home that I realized that the tomato plant on my balcony was begging to be stripped of its ripened wares, so split yellow cherry tomatoes went into the mix as well, along with handfuls of fresh basil, oregano, and chives.

By the time I'd got everyone's dietary restrictions (not to mention my own personal agenda covered), I was out by the grill with over a dozen little bowls of stuff.

"I did what any reasonable man would do: I piled them on"

The first few pies went off without a hitch. Mr. Can't-Eat-Cheese was ecstatic with his sausage-garlic-rabe pie. The fig and lardo with fresh oregano was an instant hit (and one that should be repeated as soon and as often as possible). As I drew towards my last ball of dough, I realized that I had far more toppings than dough left, so I did what any reasonable man would do: I piled them on, and I piled them high. I ended up with a pie with buffalo mozz, fior di latte, cherry tomatoes, pepperoni, salami, sausage, lardo, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, raw onions, olives, basil, oregano, and pecorino.

And you know what? It was freaking delicious, which only goes to show that most of the time, I'm talking out of my butt. Balanced, sparsely topped pies can be great, and are my style of choice most of the time, but every once in a while it's ok to let loose.

What do you guys think? When is too much too much for toppings? Are you a when!-screamer or are you a more-the-merrier type pie eater?