Late-night tortilla pizza

Two slices of late-night tortilla pizza, in close-up; a long string of melted cheese stretches from one point

Let’s get something immensely clear right from the start: this isn’t pizza. I just want to get that out there before I say a single word more: by any standards of culinary authenticity, this bears only the faintest resemblance to the great flatbreads of Italy (or even, for that matter, the stuff that comes in a cardboard box 30 minutes after you call the local pizzeria. (Or more realistically for 2015, 45-60 minutes after you poke at your smartphone.))

A blue bowl filled with unmixed sauce components: a mound of tomato sauce ringed with a small pool of olive oil, and herbs, garlic powder, and salt scattered on top

OK, now that I’ve issued my obligatory fancy-foodblogger disclaimer… this is totally pizza, in the vein of French bread pizza, pizza-on-a-bagel, and other weird convenience food combinations. Don’t get me wrong, I love a true handcrafted pizza with a beautiful crust and the finest of toppings lovingly placed atop its perfect sauce and just-right amount of cheese. But here’s the deal: as I write this, I’m in the middle of tech week for a show. That means that all this week I’m working my normal 9-to-5, then driving across town for 4-5 hours of singing and dancing as we put together a great performance. By the time I get home, I’m so hungry that I’m like some ravenous animal who wants carbs and fats, and wants them now.

Two slices of late-night tortilla pizza on a plate

And this tortilla pizza is a perfect delivery system: I can make the whole thing from ingredients I usually have lying around, and I can be eating it less than fifteen minutes after I walk in the door — and that includes making the sauce. But I promise you: it’s not just for ravenous performers who don’t care what the food tastes like. I certainly make things that fall in that camp, but I don’t share them here! This is good any time of the day or week, even if you aren’t in the middle of a grueling rehearsal process. I took these pictures on a calm Saturday afternoon, and Jarod and I agreed that the pizza was just as good in the daylight.

Pizza components laid out: a bowl of sauce sitting on a folded tortilla, a small pile of cheese on a paper towel, and small piles of pepperoni and red onion on a cutting board (protip: it's cute to fold the tortilla for a picture, but it makes it a little fragile, oops)

If you think you’d like to prepare yourself for an unexpected late-night ravening, I have a couple of tips for you. First, buy your tomato paste in a tube if possible. I’m seeing this packaging on the market more and more, and it’s great: basically anybody who’s worked with tomato paste in the kitchen knows the annoyance of using only half a can of paste, the remainder of which inevitably turns into a science experiment. The unused portion of the tubed stuff keeps in the fridge basically forever (within reason), so it’s a perfect pantry staple. (That said, see the Options for a ketchup option — yes, really.)

Second, buy the right size of tortillas. Availability in your area may vary, of course, but in my local grocery stores there are few different sizes of flour tortillas available. You want to match your tortilla to your pan: the ideal match leaves the tortilla lying flat in the bottom of the pan, filling it all the way to the edge. As you can see in the pictures, I didn’t reach tortilla/pan perfection, and it was fine. Don’t overthink it. And obviously you’ll want to keep some cheese around, but I figure if you’re the type to be excited by late-night pizza, you’ve already got that covered, eh? Happy eating.

Bright, beautiful baked tortilla pizza in a black cast iron pan

Late-night tortilla pizza

  • Servings: 1 personal pizza
  • Print

Is it a vera pizza napoletana? Far from it. But who cares! This super-quick recipe goes from start to finish in under 15 minutes, and it satisfies intense pizza cravings that strike in the night. If you’re on board with pizza on French bread, or if you remember that “when pizza’s on a bagel, you can have pizza any time,” you know where I’m going here. What’s better, the whole thing can be assembled entirely from ingredients you may well have in your pantry already — yes, even the sauce! (And if you don’t have the ingredients now, after trying this out you just might start keeping them around.)

Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt’s “Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza” at Serious Eats.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 flour tortilla, as close in size as possible to your favorite cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp olive oil
4 tsp water
2 tsp Italian herb mix
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar

Approx. 2 oz. grated part-skim mozzarella (about 3/4 c), more or less according to your preference

Pizza toppings of your choice

Directions

Preheat your broiler (on high if it has variable settings) and position an oven rack 6-8 inches below.

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Pour 1/2 tsp of olive oil into a heavy skillet that closely matches the size of your flour tortillas and place the skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer in the pan, smear it around with a paper towel, wiping out the excess.

Reduce the heat under the pan to medium and lay the tortilla in it. Using the back of a spoon, spread the sauce over the tortilla, leaving only a very thin edge. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sauce and scatter your desired toppings on top.

Place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and both the cheese and any exposed tortilla are lightly browned, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to the stovetop and check the underside of the pizza. If it’s not yet crispy and speckled with brown, heat over medium heat for a couple minutes until it is.

Slide out onto a cutting board, slice, and serve immediately.

Options

If you have a preferred pizza sauce just lying around, you can of course use that instead of making the one I’ve got here; you’ll need about 1/2 cup.

No tomato paste? No problem! You can use ketchup. I know it sounds crazy, but c’mon: you’re making a pizzalike object on a tortilla. Just sub the ketchup for the tomato paste and omit the water and sugar.

This same method works very well with big, thin pita breads. Don’t bother splitting it open, just throw it right in.

And of course, the biggest option of all: toppings. That’s all you. One small tip: if you’d like to use Italian sausage or another bulk sausage, you can add it raw. As long as you keep the bits small (around a half-inch max), it’ll cook through.

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