Of all the Italian foods that have managed to break into the American diet, pizza has got to be one of the most well-loved and popular ones. According to a BBC News article, approximately 40 million Americans eat pizza in any given day. It’s also a go-to snack enjoyed during game or movie nights. However, this high demand has also led to the diminishing quality of pizzas available in the market. In fact, factory pizza is now so loaded with processed ingredients that the nutrients found in traditional varieties are almost impossible to find.1
But fret not, because not all pizzas are made equal. If you want to enjoy this Italian delicacy without the risk of possibly harmful processed ingredients, you can always make your own. There are numerous recipes you can follow, some putting their own twist on the traditional dish. An example is this delicious but healthy cauliflower pizza casserole recipe from Mercola.com employee Maja Stankovic Zulovic.
Cauliflower Pizza Casserole
Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 30 to 35 minutes Total time: 50 to 55 minutes
- 2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2/3 cup organic pizza sauce
- Himalayan salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup sliced black olives
- 1/2 cup onions, divided
- 1 tablespoon oregano, divided
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, divided
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Blanch the cauliflower for approximately 3 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine cauliflower with pizza sauce and toss until fully coated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place half the cauliflower in your baking dish, and top with half of the mozzarella, parmesan, olives and onions. Sprinkle with oregano and pepper flakes.
- Add the rest of your cauliflower to the baking dish and repeat the topping process.
- Bake until cauliflower is tender and cheese is bubbly. This will take approximately 30 minutes.
- Let cool slightly. Garnish with parsley and parmesan. Serve.
Where Did Pizza Come From?
Before the dawn of fast food pizza in the U.S., the term “pizza” wasn’t even widely known before the 1950s, which may be a bit surprising as it is now one of the most ubiquitous foods in the market.
Pizza’s origin is often attributed to Raffaele Esposito when he prepared a pizza for Queen Margherita boasting the colors in the Italian flag, but earlier records actually show that pizzas have been prepared even as early as the 6th century B.C. One of the earliest documentations states that soldiers led by Darius the Great ate flatbread smothered in olive oil and dates, much like how a pizza looks.2
Believe it or not, pizza’s introduction into the American diet followed a slow transition, with its production being confined to the households of Italian-Americans in its first years. But its sudden rise in popularity cannot be traced to one specific event, with experts debating whether pizza began to gain traction in the culinary world due to celebrity advertisements or because of soldiers seeking the dish after being stationed overseas.3,4
Today, there are over 75,000 pizzerias and pizza restaurants in the U.S., attesting to the magnitude of America’s love for this dish.5 But while there are more than enough pizza shops to choose from, making your own pizza at home might be your best bet if you’re trying to ensure ingredient quality.
Get Your Fair Share of Antioxidants From Cauliflower
Cauliflower is one of the most overlooked vegetables in the human diet.6 But while it’s often seen as a lesser vegetable compared to its close relative broccoli, cauliflower is actually rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals and other active compounds. As this recipe’s main ingredient, you can reap the following essential nutrients from it:7
- Folate is essential for the synthesis of new red blood cells in the body. It is also one of the minerals necessary for neural tube and spinal cord development during pregnancy, radically minimizing the risk of possible birth defects.8 A 2008 study from the Food and Nutrition Bulletin showed that low folate levels in pregnant women are indicative of low birthweight, which may trigger long-term health problems in infants, including folate related-anemia and a higher risk of infections and other diseases.9
- Sulforaphane is one of the most valuable components found in cruciferous vegetables. This sulfur-containing compound has been linked to cancer risk reduction and other functions.
- Fiber is necessary for promoting better digestion, nutrient absorption and overall metabolism. It also helps relieve constipation by bulking up stool, making it easier to pass.10
- Potassium is responsible for maintaining proper intracellular fluid levels and promoting muscle health, which includes the heart and other organs.11
- The vitamin C in cauliflower is responsible for maintaining immune system function, cardiovascular and skin health.12
The Cheesy Way to Better Health
Primarily revered for its long shelf life, cheese has come a long way, not only in its culinary applications but also in its potential effects on human health. As with other dairy products, cheese is packed with calcium and other essential minerals necessary for various processes. The two types of cheese used in this recipe, namely mozzarella and parmesan, are famous Italian cheeses widely used in numerous recipes because of their texture and flavor. They offer several benefits, such as:
- Assisting in maintaining bone health. Regardless of what type of cheese you’re consuming, you’re still getting considerable amounts of calcium. Calcium is known for playing an important part in keeping your bones healthy and strong by increasing bone mineral density.13 It also aids in bone formation and metabolism.14
- Helping to combat microorganisms. Lactoferrin, a milk glycoprotein found in cheese, was found to help keep microorganisms at bay due to its antimicrobial properties.15
- Improving blood pressure regulation. The high amounts of calcium found in cheese contributes to keeping blood pressure in check. In a 2015 study, it was found that calcium may aid in lowering both diastolic and systolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension.16
Make This Cauliflower Pizza Casserole for Your Family
While it might be extremely tempting for you to call for a pizza to be delivered to your doorstep, remember that cooking your food at home will always be your best bet, quality- and nutrient-wise. As a healthy substitute to fast food varieties, make this cauliflower pizza casserole instead. Not only will you get all the nutrients from its healthy components, you can also ensure that you’re sidestepping the numerous refined and processed ingredients used in fast food pizza.
Sources and References