Don't Worry, Bobby Flay's Dessert Pizza Still Has Cheese

Today, if you were to ask someone what a pizza is, they would likely describe a round flatbread topped with savory ingredients, including some kind of cheese, but 200 years ago, "pizza" was something else entirely. We have come a long way from Neapolitan pizza's origins as a dessert pie, when a "pizza alla napoletana" consisted of a buttery pie crust filled with almond-infused custard. Building on the legacy of this traditional Italian dish and our modern global version, Bobby Flay has created a dessert pizza that falls somewhere between the two; it takes the bready form of the latter, but the sweet flavor of the former — and he doesn't skip the cheese.

To make his dessert pizza, Flay slathers a generous layer of mascarpone (a creamy Italian cheese) across the flat surface of the bread that serves as the pizza's base. He then tops it with slices of grilled plums, along with fresh blackberries and raspberries. A drizzle of honey over the whole thing adds a touch more sweetness and depth of flavor.

Why mascarpone belongs on pizza

Mascarpone is a classic Italian cheese known best for its starring role in tiramisu. However, the mild flavor and creamy consistency of mascarpone make it very versatile and well-suited to a wide range of sweet and savory dishes. It is sometimes compared to American cream cheese, but mascarpone has a higher fat content and is more acidic. 

In Bobby Flay's dessert pizza, it lends a delicious richness to both the taste and texture in a way that elevates the overall dish, while allowing the other toppings to shine. Since mascarpone is made with heavy cream, the addition of fresh and cooked fruits can bring a sense of lightness to the pizza. When you take a bite, the creamy cheese and juicy fruit meld together into a unique sauce of their own.

Mascarpone can be used for savory pizzas, too. The slight sweetness of this cheese is a good counterbalance to supremely salty or bitter ingredients like prosciutto and arugula. It can also help to tamp down the spiciness of Calabrian peppers.

Making Bobby Flay's dessert pizza your own

Bobby Flay's dessert pizza is endlessly adaptable based on your own preferences and what's in season. During the warm months, you can experiment with different kinds of stone fruits and berries, including peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. In autumn or winter, opt instead for apples, pears, and persimmons. For textural contrast and a more complex flavor, mix fresh and grilled fruits together. Toasted nuts, like almonds, walnuts, or pecans, make an excellent addition for extra crunch.

If you're ready for something a little different, you can also take inspiration from another celebrity chef and try Gordon Ramsay's lemon-centric take on dessert pizza. While Ramsay opts for a combination of lemon curd and creme fraiche atop his pizza, you can easily swap in mascarpone if you prefer Flay's cheese choice.

Flay cooks his pizza on a grill, but if you think the best desserts are roasted in a pizza oven and you have one at your disposal, you can go for this Italian-style heating option instead. Either way, follow Flay's lead and prebake the crust. This helps to avoid ending up with doughy, fragile center or overcooking the delicate fruit toppings.