Paleo Pizza fit for Fred Flinstone

Paleo Pizza fit for Fred Flintstone

While it would be difficult to date the appearance of the first pizza, it was definitely not around in paleolithic times!  And while a number of nations hold claim to the invention of pizza, it would be hard to pinpoint the exact location where something we would identify as modern pizza was born. Many countries had their own versions: focaccia, pita, or loaves of flatbread, usually baked on stones beneath the ashes of household fires.

Was pizza ever made without wheat flour? As a person interested in health who knows first-hand the dietary problems of eating grains, I wanted to find out. Apparently, several versions existed, as wheat was initially expensive and not widely available in the early Mediterranean world. Eager to see what these ancient versions would be like, I tried my hand at making several no-grain pizzas this weekend, including two that were made according to rough historic standards. My third pizza was a modern fabrication, as taste was the goal, not historical accuracy! The result? The historic recipes should probably be reserved for antiquity; they weren’t that great. However, I was pleased with my modern attempt; it seemed to satisfy my cravings despite the lack of grains and dairy. Posted below are the two first-century recipes, and finally the one I think you should actually try!

Cecina (Old Roman Style Garbanzo Pizza)

First up is a sort-of pizza made of garbanzo beans.  Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are an ancient food and were listed as ingredients in the first-century cookbook of Marcus Favius Apicius. This recipe is adapted from one in Bugialli’s Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking. I made it as a sort of history experiment, not as a substitute for modern pizza.

Note that as garbanzo beans cannot be eaten raw, they do not meet strict paleo diet guidelines.

A Culinary History Lesson

A Culinary History Lesson

  • 1 1/2 c dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 T fresh rosemary
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

After rinsing the soaked beans, place them in a pot with fresh water and salt. Simmer, covered for about 1 1/2 hours, until fairly soft.  Drain (reserving some of the liquid), and grind them using the pulse button of a food processor until they make a thick paste (add some of the reserved liquid as necessary). Stir in 2 T of the olive oil.

Oil a pizza pan or pizza stone with more olive oil and spread the paste out evenly to form a pizza. Top with more oil, the rosemary leaves and add salt and pepper. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes, regularly checking to ensure it doesn’t burn on the edges.

Chestnut Focaccia

Since wheat was beyond the reach of many early Romans, chestnuts were frequently ground into flour as they were plentiful and practically free. Chestnut flour is still popular in Corsica and was likely the original ingredient for polenta, before corn was brought from the New World. While this focaccia would qualify as paleo-friendly in today’s diet terms, once more I wouldn’t recommend it. Chestnut flour has a strong taste, and I think it more suited for sweet Italian desserts. This recipe is adapted from the late Jeff Smith’s Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines.

Chestnut Flour; no longer cheap!

Chestnut Flour; no longer cheap!

Don't think of this as pizza.  It's not.

Don't think of this as pizza. It's not.

  • 1 1/4 c chestnut flour (available in Italian markets)
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • olive oil
  • 2 T pine nuts
  • whole rosemary leaves

Beat the water and flour to a batter-like consistency and add a bit of olive oil. Oil a 12-inch pizza pan and pour the batter onto the tray, spreading it out evenly. Top with pine nuts and herbs, sprinkle more olive oil on top, and bake at 175˚F for about 20 minutes. The bread will turn a golden brown.

Non-Authentic (But Really Good) Paleo Pizza

Now for the finish. It’s time for something that’s actually tasty! This tomato-topped pizza was never made in ancient times of course (even tomatoes weren’t introduced to Naples until the 1500s), but it sure does hit the spot! There are several varieties of paleo pizza on the net, including some great ones from bloggers Son of Grok and Scott Hagnas. This version is similar to both of those, but I added flaxmeal to achieve a more bread-like consistency and coconut flour to keep the dough light. Expecting the worst, I was very pleased with the results. The thin crust stays together even when you pick a piece up in your hands.

Good, thin crust

Good, thin crust

The Crust:

  • 1 c finely ground almonds or almond meal
  • 2 heaping T of flaxmeal
  • 2 heaping T of coconut flour (organic coconut flour is available at bulk stores, along with almond and flaxmeal)
  • 2 lg free-range eggs
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375˚. In a large bowl, mix the almond and flaxmeal with the coconut flour. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a bit of olive oil, then add the eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Mix well until a compact, firm dough is obtained.

Oil a heated baking stone or pizza tray, and press the dough into a rough pizza shape. Place the pizza in the hot oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes. At this time, remove the crust, add the tomato sauce and toppings, then return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes.

Simple, quality ingredients

Simple, quality ingredients

Marinara Sauce:

  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 t dried herbs (oregano, basil, mint)
  • 1 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
  • fresh parsley
  • sea salt and black pepper (salt optional, it is not paleo)

In a large skillet, slowly heat the garlic and red pepper flakes in the oil. Add the dried herbs and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushing them in your hands, and let the mixture come to a soft boil. Season, add the chopped parsley and let simmer, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon. Leave the cover off the pan to let the tomatoes reduce. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour.

Toppings:

Anything goes: I used anchovies (rinsed) and sun-dried tomatoes and garnished the finished pizza with fresh parsley. Have fun!

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21 Comments on Ways to Make No-Grain Paleo Pizza

  1. sio says:

    you are a culinary genius! this looks sooo delicious!
    i want to try it NOW! or better yet…impromptu dinner party…at your house! :)

  2. Sounds Tasty…well the last one does. I will have to give it a go with the kids next week end. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  3. Flossie says:

    That’s a lot of work, Greg. Can’t I just order in? :-^

  4. [...] to Pizza!  Yes, I said PIZZA!  Our resident kitchen-inventor extraordinaire, Greg, has created a Paleo pizza!  The Paleo gods are happy…and so are we!  Try it, feed it to friends and family who may [...]

  5. Robbie Craig says:

    Hmmm, that looks damn tasty! I wonder if you could make a calzone with it? Then I would just never eat anything else but paleo calzone…..

  6. Greg Carver says:

    A paleo calzone? Now THAT would be a challenge…

  7. lj says:

    Chickpeas = Legume

  8. Greg says:

    Correct lj, chickpeas are legumes. As stated in the post: “…as garbanzo beans cannot be eaten raw, they do not meet strict paleo diet guidelines.”

  9. Louise says:

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the great recipe ideas! Now if I had found yours before I went ahead and experimented my out come would be completely different!
    I made a simple pizza base with 2 cups of walnuts and two eggs. I also added flax seeds, just because I could! I blended the flax and walnuts to make a “flour” (I use the term loosely as the walnuts are a bit oily and don’t really make a flour per say.) I then added the eggs … the result is a bit gooey! so I rolled it out to my pan size and shape between a sheet of baking paper and a heavy plastic bag (ziplock freezer bags are great) thickness to preference (I like mine thin and crispy) and baked it as you did on your “Non-Authentic” above. Then added the toppings. Wow was it delicious!
    Love your website … plan to bookmark it for future recipe reference. I am still pretty new at this lifestyle … loving how it makes me feel, not to mention the weight I have lost!

  10. Andy says:

    This might be grain free pizza but it’s no where near paleo. Nice try.

  11. Greg says:

    Thanks for the ‘nice try’ encouragement Andy; but I’m not sure what you mean by ‘no where near paleo”. The first two recipes are not meant to be paleo, just historical experiments (as the post states), but the last one is paleo-friendly as there are no grains, legumes or dairy in the ingredient list.

  12. Jake says:

    Trying to make Paleo Pizza is like trying to make a Bordeaux without grapes… not going to happen. Embracing Paleo should be based on a healthy lifestyle built around leaner farm-raised (and grass-fed where available) meats and proteins, more wild seafoods, and lots of fresh vegetables (ok and some fruit).

    You CAN make pizza without flour and cheese, but if you do, you’re missing the whole point of pizza! It’s supposed to be bad for you – just like cheesecake, cigarettes, and trips to Thailand. If you need pizza to make life work then go out and enjoy the best TASTING pizza you can find (but no more than once a month) and get over it.

    JW

  13. Greg says:

    I agree Jake. This was just a fun experiment, and it turned out the final product tasted pretty darn good.

  14. TOM says:

    I can’t believe all the negative comments on here. These pizza recipes are a zillion times healthier than a traditional pizza. Trying to be perfect has knocked many people off a diet/lifestyle regimen. I think this is a great idea, even if you eat it weekly. It’s hard to live on a plate of meat and veggies all the time.

  15. Kelly says:

    Holy Yummy!!!!!! My kids couldn’t get enough either! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Not fluffy like traditional pizza crust but we loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Kelly says:

    Oh I added a bit of himalyan pink salt to the recipe and butter and garlic powder to the edges

  17. Christina says:

    I agree with Tom. This is a great alternative for days when another plate of meat and veg just isn’t exciting. It’s nice to have alternative, creative recipes on hand when things get stale. Anyway for those of us who eat primal and can tolerate raw (grass-fed organic) cultured dairy, some slices of raw cheese on top makes it all the more pizza-like ;)

  18. anonymous says:

    THis is not paleo. THere are no legumes, dairy, wheat, within the paleo diet. Please redo!!

  19. Greg says:

    Please re-read the post before you ask me to re-do!! The first two recipes are provided as historical experiments and are not paleo – as I stated.

  20. Dianne says:

    Thank you for a great gluten free pizza dough recipe that doesn’t call for cheese or funky ingredients…my gf husband will be very happy – as will this paleo girl!!

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