An Ode to the Frozen Pizza: Why This Childhood Staple Has Become My Pandemic Mealtime Savior
It all began when my husband made a trip to the supermarket to stock up on two weeks worth of essentials. Our goal during the COVID-19 quarantine is to do everything we can to minimize trips out, grocery shopping included, so we brainstormed our list together. My main addition: salad stuff and lots of greens.
“Buy all the red peppers, they have tons of vitamin C,” I recall yelling out. (Cucumbers, lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, asparagus—each one of these items also made the list.)
My husband returned with each one of my requested items. But, as we unpacked scrubbed everything down with Lysol, I saw something else: a DiGiorno pizza. (Actually, he had bought a total of seven frozen pies.)
I hate to admit this, but in my pre-pandemic life, I’m a pizza snob. I can’t help it, I live in Brooklyn! It’s home to institutions like Grimaldi’s, Lucali and Paulie Gee’s. I’ve waited in line two hours to shell out $5 for a single slice at Di Fara. I’ve embarked on the legendary Scott’s Pizza Tour not once, but twice with family and friends. I even hosted the rehearsal dinner for my wedding at our neighborhood favorite, Sam’s Pizza. I’m not kidding when I say I haven’t bought a frozen pie since I moved to New York City 13 years ago. Could I really enjoy a DiGiorno pie?
Don’t get me wrong: Desperate times call for desperate measures. And I count myself lucky that I could even find frozen pizza on the shelves. (I know from friends that quite a few places have long sold out of this option.)
My husband cranked the oven up to the recommended 400 degrees. He’d picked out a Supreme to try first, which I soon learned comes with all the fixings. (Sausage, pepperoni, green and red peppers, onions and black olives, too.) I was busy chasing after our toddler when he placed a slice next to me on a plate.
I took a bite. What is this crispy goodness? I mumbled, crumbs falling out of my mouth. The toppings taste so fresh! The dough is so soft and savory. This is exactly the treat I need right now.
In an instant, I recovered a part of my pizza identity I’d accidentally blocked.
It was a sunny weekday in the ‘90s. I had a close-to-lunchtime school dismissal and both my parents worked full-time. I was old enough to disembark from the school bus without supervision (and with marching orders to look after my younger sister). The first thing we’d do was a fridge check to see what the snack options were. My number one choice was always a slice of Ellio’s Pizza, which came with nine slices ready to be heated in a toaster oven and neatly packaged in a box. The runner-up was Celeste, just as good, and also microwaveable. (Speed was a virtue, especially when you’re a hangry middle schooler.)
Now, here I was—in the middle of an international pandemic—once again dreaming of frozen pizza. But now I was also grappling with the idea that perhaps I had robbed myself of this freezer-ready deliciousness all these years?
I’ve decided there’s more to it than that. Sure, a frozen pizza is a source of nostalgia, but it’s also a huge source of comfort in a time like this. Come on, it’s ready in minutes, it’s a one-and-done dinner and it tastes good. It checks all the boxes in terms of my culinary—and emotional—needs right now. (It doesn’t hurt that my toddler loves pizza. A win-win.)
Do I have to force myself to space out my frozen pizza dinners? Maybe. (The convenience is so addicting, if my husband didn’t stop me, I’d sail through all seven in exactly a week.) But I’m also improving my cooking and reheating techniques. (I’m even toying with an investment in this baking steel, a rec from a fellow pizza snob.)
It’s safe to say that post-pandemic, I think my pizza palate has expanded to forever have a soft spot for the frozen pie. (Just don’t tell the guys at Sam’s.)
5 Recipes for Homemade Pizza (Just in Case Your Grocery Store Is Sold Out of the Frozen Kind)
Baking Sheet Pizza with Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Talk about a one-dish wonder.
Vegetarian Pizza with Zucchini and Bell Peppers
See? We knew there’d be a way to use all that produce.
Sicilian-Style Pizza with Jalapeños and Honey
The base is focaccia. Yum.
Mini Skillet Pizzas with Mushrooms and Roasted Tomatoes
Delicious, whether you eat one—or five.
Prosciutto Hawaiian Pizza
Sweet and salty toppings, FTW.