Dips are fun to start with, but this is an especially good option for anyone looking to satisfy that pizza craving without all the carbs. If you like the idea of the dip but don't care about the carbs, try slicing a baguette into thin slices on a diagonal, brush with a bit of olive oil and bake until crispy. Then you can use the baguette chips for dippers. If you still want the pepperoni, add it to the dip instead.
I was scrolling through Pinterest the other day and kept seeing posts for pizza using a cauliflower crust. I was thinking that was a great low-carb option but personally, I loathe cauliflower! My favorite pizza toppings are either green bell peppers and onions, or pepperoni, which made me think of my sister, who turned me on to pepperoni chips a couple of years ago. They're awesome for a quick snack, or to use as a crumble in other dishes. It was the pepperoni chips that got me thinking about a pizza dip.
I figured you would need some cream cheese to start with, to make it dip-able, then you'd need mozzarella for that gooey string factor, pizza sauce, and any additional cheeses or add-ins you like. My favorite pizza uses a five-cheese blend, so instead of buying all of those different cheeses, I picked up a bag of shredded pizza blend.
Like I often do before trying a new recipe, I Googled pizza dip to look at other versions and see if there were any tips or anything that might not have occurred to me. I wasn't sure of the reason, but every recipe I looked at used the cream cheese as part of a bottom layer, then the other cheeses on top. That's the one thing I'll do differently in the future. I realized that at first, I was scooping across the top, so I wasn't getting down to that layer, and as it started to cool, the top started to tighten up a bit, so you had to work harder to scoop. I really don't see the reason for layering that way, so I'm going to mix all of the cheeses together from now on (maybe reserve some of the mozzarella to go on top), which will also be quicker, but still spread it in two layers so you can have the sauce in the middle. That's another thing - the other recipes called for more sauce, but I think that's too much.
Because this is a dip rather than a thin layer on top of a pizza being baked in a super-hot pizza oven, it occurred to me that I should saute the peppers and onions first so they wouldn't be raw. That also gave me an opportunity to add some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes - I love sprinkling my pizza with crushed red pepper. If you're making a plain version, you might want to go ahead and include some garlic salt or powder to your cheese blend. Also, since I had just opened a can of olives to use in a salad, I went ahead and diced up some of the extras to go into my dip. If you prefer a white pizza, increase the garlic, skip the sauce, and maybe include some ricotta.
When it comes to the pepperoni chips, because there will be a lot of shrinkage, be sure to go with the largest available at your market. You can use thin or thick slices; you'll just need to adjust the cook time. I used the regular thin slices, and they held up fine, but if you have a particularly aggressive dipper in your crew, you might want to go with the thick slices so they don't break. You can see in the picture below how much space there is between the cooked pepperoni slices - when they went into the microwave, most of them were touching.
1 t olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c chopped onion
1/3 c chopped green bell pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 c chopped black olives
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 t Italian seasoning
1/2 c grated Parmesan
2 c shredded mozzarella, divided
1 c shredded pizza blend cheese
I'm listing the directions for what I did, but see my note above re: not using the cream cheese as a separate layer going forward.
- Saute the garlic, onion, and pepper in the olive oil until the onion starts to turn translucent, then remove from heat and stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and olives.
- To the softened cream cheese, stir in the Italian seasoning, grated Parmesan, 1c of the shredded mozzarella, and half of the veggie mixture, then transfer to a large ramekin or other oven-safe baking dish.
- Spread a layer of pizza sauce over the cream cheese mixture - I started with 1/2 c but didn't get full coverage, so I increased it a bit.
- Mix the remaining veggies together with the second cup of mozzarella and the pizza blend of cheeses. If you want to throw in some additional Parmesan, go for it!
- Spread the mozzarella mixture over the sauce layer, dot the top with a little more sauce, and bake at 350⁰ until bubbly and starting to brown - about 30".
- While the dip is baking, cover a microwave-safe dish with paper towels, and top with a layer of pepperoni slices. It's OK if they're touching, but you don't want them overlapping. Cover with another layer of paper towels, and microwave for a minute and a half - check for doneness, then repeat in 15 or 30 second bursts until crispy.