Pizza Ortolana with eggplant, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella is the best vegetarian pizza option. Loaded with flavourful vegetables, this pizza suits vegetarians without the need for fake meat toppings. In fact, this is a great choice for meat eaters, too. Skip the ham and sausages and try a pizza with only vegetables.
If you are looking for a vegetarian pizza on a pizza menu in Italy, you best bet is to look for pizza ortolana. That is the common name of vegetarian pizza in Italy. The fact that is it not labelled pizza vegetariana (vegetarian pizza) makes it quite clear that this pizza actually targets everybody. Italy is a fantastic place to grow vegetables and pizza ortolana is a celebration of all the good things from the greens section.
In fact the actual name pizza ortolana means greengrocer’s pizza. In its most basic version, the pizza is topped with tomato sauce, eggplant and zucchini. But I like to be a little more creative and add even more goodness to mine. While I’m usually a less-is-more person when it comes to pizza, this might be my one exception to the rule. Never limit your veggies.
For detailed quantities please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
It is very common to have eggplant or zucchini preserved in oil in Italian households as a way to enjoy produce from your own garden year round. Even if you are not using your own, you can certainly use preserved vegetables for this recipe. Alternatively you can buy fresh and grill or fry just prior to adding to your pizza.
Here is my recipe for homemade roasted peppers in oil.
For fried eggplant instructions you can check out my eggplant parmesan pizza recipe.
In this pizza I chose to use buffalo mozzarella, but you can use regular mozzarella if you can’t find that one.
How to make pizza ortolana
Prepare your toppings. If using vegetables preserved in oil (like sun-dried tomatoes, or peppers), drain the desired quantity. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into thin slices. I generally use the zucchini raw but either grill (on a grill pan) or pan-fry the eggplant before use. Drain the mozzarella, cut into pieces and place it on a fine mesh sieve. Ideally this step is done a few hours in advance, to make sure excess moisture is removed – see recipe notes below.
Top the pizza. Stretch your pizza dough to desired thickness. If using a pizza stone (like I did) I recommend to sprinkle some semolina on the pizza peel so your pizza will slide more easily. If using a pizza pan make sure to spread some olive oil so the dough will not stick. Spread an even layer of pizza sauce then top with the various vegetables. Finish with the mozzarella.
Bake the pizza in the pre-heated oven at 250°C (480°F) for 8-10 minutes or until the sides and cheese have nicely browned. All ovens are different and depending if you are using a pizza stone or a pan you may need to place the pizza in a different section of the oven, or use a slightly lower temperature.
Add a swirl of olive oil as soon as you take the pizza out of the oven.
Make it vegan?
Traditional pizza ortolana is developed on classic pizza margherita, that is to say the vegetable toppings go on a base with tomato sauce and cheese (mozzarella). Of course, just like any pizza, you can customize it to your preference.
If you want your pizza to be dairy-free you can just go ahead and skip the cheese. Alternatively, you can add a vegan cheese instead of regular mozzarella, just make sure to choose one that tolerates the oven’s high temperature and delivers a stringy texture when melted.
But even if you decide not to use any cheese at all, this veggie pizza will work great anyway. It is topped with so many different vegetables that provide different textures and flavours at every bite, that if there is one pizza where you will not miss the cheese it’s this one.
Buffalo mozzarella troubleshooting
All mozzarella balls that come packaged in whey or brine need to be properly drained before use. This is of paramount importance when using buffalo mozzarella, that tends to be softer and creamier than regular mozzarella. Shredded mozzarella or the harder and drier mozzarella cylinders that do not come in brine do not require this step.
To properly drain mozzarella, remove it from its package and cut it into pieces. Place the pieces in a colander or sieve and let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes. I generally place my colander in the sink and leave it there for a couple of hours, but if you live in a very hot climate you may want to let it drain in the fridge. If your mozzarella is particularly soft you may gently squeeze it when it’s on the colander, to remove even more excess water.
A mozzarella ball that has not properly drained might release water as the pizza bakes – if that is the case move the pizza to the top part of the oven for the last minutes or two of baking time to speed up the evaporation of the excess moisture.
If you forgot to drain, you can just add your mozzarella to the baked hot pizza as soon as you take it out of the oven. Basically treat buffalo mozzarella like burrata.
What to do with veggie leftovers?
Any salad or simple pasta can always use a bunch of extra veggies, but if you’re short on ideas, here are some suggestions on things you can make with leftover vegetables from this pizza:
- Nigvziani Badrijani – walnut filled eggplant rolls from Georgia.
- Sun-dried tomato pesto perfect with pasta and hey, it’s vegan!
- Baked eggplant pizza bites perfect to use up both the eggplant and sauce.
- Roasted pepper soup is great to make with roasted peppers.
- Eggplant parmesan pizza is another shot for fried eggplant slices.
- Red pepper flans are an elegant starter.
More vegetarian pizza tips
Want to make your vegetarian pizza extra special? Make everything from scratch! For one single regular-sized pizza you can use my easy pizza dough recipe. If you prefer to make your pizza larger and rectangular in an oven tray, just double the quantities from that recipe.
Don’t buy tomato sauce when you can make a fabulous pizza sauce at home. You probably already have all the ingredients at home and my sauce is sugar free. Would rather skip the tomato sauce and make it a pizza bianca? Why not add the veggie toppings on a focaccia then? My focaccia with a poolish is thick and soft and will go great with mixed veggies.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 3 days. Leftover pizza tastes great cold, so you can just take it out of the fridge and let come to room temperature and enjoy as it is. Alternatively, you can either reheat it in the oven or on the stove and the stovetop method is by far my favourite.
Just add the pizza to a skillet with a minimal amount of vegetable oil. Keep the pizza on medium heat with the lid on. Keep an eye on it from time to time and lower the heat if needed to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. This is the best way to get both a crispy bottom and a juicy topping.
Other vegetarian pizza recipes
If you enjoyed this pizza recipe you may also enjoy:
- Mixed mushroom pizza
- Eggplant parmesan pizza
- Leek and mascarpone pizza bianca
- Garlic mushroom pizza bianca
- Pear and blue cheese pizza bianca
If you liked this vegetarian pizza recipe please leave a comment below. If you’re planning to try it another time, pin this recipe to Pinterest. Please consider subscribing to my newsletter and following me on Instagram and on Pinterest. Enjoy your pizza night!
Vegetarian Pizza Ortolana
- Prepare your toppings. If using vegetables preserved in oil (like sun-dried tomatoes, or peppers), drain the desired quantity. If using fresh (like eggplant or zucchini) slice the desired amount and grill or fry.
- Drain the mozzarella from the whey, cut into pieces and place on a fine mesh sieve to remove excess moisture. Ideally this step is done a few hours in advance but even just a half hour is fine (see notes below).
- Stretch your pizza dough to desired thickness. Spread an even layer of pizza sauce then top with the various vegetables. Finish with the mozzarella.
- Bake the pizza in the pre-heated oven at 250°C (480°F) for 8-10 minutes or until the sides and cheese have nicely browned. Add a swirl of olive oil as soon as you take the pizza out of the oven.