Pierogies and Pittsburgh go together like air and breathing. Creamy potatoes mixed with cheeses and caramelized onions for one of the best pizzas you’ll ever eat!. This pizza is Pittsburgh in every single delicious bite!
Pierogies are a Pittsburgh classic. Tender dough filled with creamy potatoes, onions, cheese or maybe sauerkraut. Almost everyone native to here has some family member or neighbor that makes them from scratch. My Mom made them weekly during Lent. They aren’t hard to make but if you’re not familiar with how to make, stuff and form they can be time consuming. For those that are not familiar with what they are, think of ravioli but more central and eastern European.
Pittsburgh is an old city full of heritage, traditions and deliciousness.
Pizza and pierogies are very near and dear to my heart. Being a Pittsburgh native, it’s kind of like a city requirement that you must love pierogies and all things pierogi-related. Heck, the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park (which is the prettiest baseball stadium I’ve ever been in) even has Pierogi races!
Pizza is well, pizza is my life to simply put it.
Many of you know this but for those that don’t, my family had a pizzeria for 17 years. Mom made homemade pizza for decades every Friday night. Our family had such a love of it that my brother met his wife working at a pizza shop which lead to them opening up their own. I started helping them out when I came home from college on the weekends and breaks to eventually managing it while running my own DOTCOM, teaching IT technology, and teaching at a local library. This went on for years.
I managed to help turn that little pizzeria into a huge success and catering business where we were catering thousands of folks for various events. My brother was from the school of “more is well, more”. Meaning his menu, which was take out/delivery only, contained over 200 items plus about 50 items not on the menu! Crazy, right?
But the greatest thing about when it’s a family pizzeria (and the fact that you ran it) was I had complete freedom to create whatever I wanted. We originally opened up at 7am and closed at 2am. I would create a million different breakfast type pizzas and sandwiches along with 2am bar fried foods.
But I think my favorite times where when I created specialty pizzas to match the season or occasion. Growing up Catholic, Mom forbade us to have meat on Friday which meant a ton of tuna casserole (hot or cold), macaroni and cheese or plain cheese pizza. Needless to say it got old and folks at the pizza shop were looking for more pizza varieties than cheese or veggies.
At the same time my brother started selling pierogies during Lent which were a HUGE hit. That’s when I got the idea – what about a Pierogi pizza? We already served mashed potatoes as we sold hot roast beef sandwiches with gravy. That recipe literally took me one attempt to make and I’ve never strayed from that original recipe as it’s simply perfect.
We offered two base varieties – cheese and onions or sauerkraut and sour cream. Both were mixed with potatoes. Now for those that hate onions, trust me on this when I tell you that you absolutely need to have the caramelized onions in the dish. If you hate the texture just caramelize them til they turn to almost a jam and all you’re left with is onion jam and flavor. But the onions, along with the cheese are true pierogi filling flavors.
I can still remember the first time I made this, It was around 10:30am on a Friday during Lent. I had just pulled out this test pizza from the oven when in walked the guys from the township. Now these guys were the township workers that came in every day for lunch. Since they were on a tight schedule we had to make sure that their stuff was ready to go when they walked in.
Well this day 2 of the guys were early and I hadn’t started their food yet. Normally they would pick up at 11:30 but for some reason they were there at 10:45. They were ‘killing’ time. As I was cutting the pizza and sprinkling on the crispy fried onions the one guy walked behind the counter to the pizza table and said, “WHOA!!! What is that??? OMG what is that???” I giggled and said it was a new creation I’m working on for Lent. I called it my Pittsburgh Pierogi pizza.
Well that’s all I needed to say as the other guy came to the pizza table grabbing two paper plates and said, “We’ll taste test for you.” LOL To hear these huge manly men groan in food delight is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget hearing. The one guy literally stood up, grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek telling me that I’m a GENIUS… and that he wanted 2 large Pittsburgh Pierogi Pizzas for 4pm pick up.
Um… okay but um… this was a test pizza. I mean my brother had no clue about this pizza or even what to charge. Oops..
So while they finished “my” pizza I made the lunches and shipped the rest of the pizza off with them. Folks something happened that day at the pizza shop that was the first of many events. I kid you not but by 1pm that day I had 50 orders for this new unadvertised pizza. When I asked how they heard about it (as in that time – social media didn’t exist and texting food pics wasn’t a thing) the response was “Chuckie said you made this genius new pie and everything you make is awesome so we have to try it!”.
So I whipped up a couple more pies and kept them on the oven for folks to try when they came in. Almost every person added this to their order. Again, all the while my brother had no clue what I had done or what to charge. I, honestly, guessed what to charge and kept it in align with our other specialty pizzas. During the day, I kept my drivers so busy with tons of orders. Every time they would come back they’d have another piece of this pizza. Seriously it’s so good!
Fast forward to 4pm when my brother and sister in law came into the shop for work. They walked in and immediately went to answer the phones (which were ringing off the hook). All of a sudden I heard my brother say “Hold on a second please.” and yell back to me “Lori Ann, what did you do today and what is this Pittsburgh Pierogi Pizza everyone is wanting???”
I just looked up at him all doe-eyed and said, “I love you and you’re welcome”. As Cindy, my sister in law, came to take over the table because she was a true pizza master she stopped dead in her tracks as there were hundreds of orders on my table. Almost everyone had this new pizza on it. I said, “it’s on the oven, give it a try.”
One bite is all she needed. She took that bite, came over and gave me a huge kiss telling me I was a genius and that I did it again. Of course my brother came back saying, “I’m the owner you just can’t…” and before he could finish Cindy shoved the pizza in his mouth and told him to bite. His eyes said it all. He said, “Okay you can create anytime. Damn lil sis, this is fantastic!”
I wish Dave and Cindy were still with us to read this post as I know they would get a huge kick out of it and knowing my brother he’d say that he should have charged more.
So if you want one fantabuloulsly AMAZING pizza and one that is perfect for Lent Fridays or Meatless Mondays, then this is your pizza! Let me know if you want the sauerkraut version of this, k?
Now I have to laugh as even though this is kind of considered a “Lent” meatless pizza I cannot tell you how many folks ordered this and had bacon put on top. I’m going to be completely honest here – I have had this crispy bacon and broccoli (outside of Lent) and OMG! Seriously it’s like the Mac Pizza Daddy folks!
- 1 batch homemade pizza dough (2-10” round pizzas)
- 2 lbs red potatoes, cubed (skin on or off, your choice)
- 8 Tbl butter, unsalted – divided
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (plus more for taste)
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 2 cups shredded cheddar
- 4 whole green onions, chopped and divided
- 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- Crispy fried onions
Make the Potatoes
- Place the potatoes in a deep pot and cover with cold water. You want the potatoes to be covered with 1-2” of water. Place the pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and add 1 tsp salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until a fork easily pierces into the potatoes with no resistance. Drain the potatoes in large colander. Place in a large bowl and add the cream cheese. Add 7Tbl butter and milk to the now empty potato pot and heat up til the butter is melted and the mixture is warmed. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and cream cheese. Mash the potatoes until they are creamy. If they appear a bit thick add in a few Tbl of milk until desired consistency. Add in the pepper and stir in. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set to the side and allow to cool for about 25 minutes.
Make the caramelized onions
- In a large, heavy bottom skillet while the potatoes are cooking add 1 Tbl of butter and 1 Tbl of olive oil. Once melted add in the onions and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt on top and stir on. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. The onions should wilt down and start to turn a deep caramel color. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 25 minutes.
Assemble & Bake the pizza
- Preheat the oven to 550F. Place 1 rack in the middle and 1 rack bottom position (only do this if using a pizza screen and also do not put the rack on the oven floor). If you’re using a pizza stone or inverted baking sheet, add that to the middle rack.
- While the oven is heating up, to the potatoes add 1 cup each of mozzarella cheddar, half of the onion mixture and 2 chopped green onions. Mix to combine. It should be thick and but able to be spread out.
- Stretch out each dough ball (unless you’re making one large pizza) on a very lightly floured surface (trying not to work it too much as you want the ‘gas’ left it in – that’s what causes the bubbles and crispy airiness of the dough). * The dough ball will make 1 very large 18-20″ pizza. If you want smaller, split the dough ball in half. If using a pizza screen (2-10″ or 18″ screen), place the stretched dough onto the screen. If not, place the dough on a cornmeal or semolina dusted parchment paper before topping.
- Divide the potato filling and spread half out onto the dough, leaving a 1/2” space all the way around. Next add half of the remaining cheese over top of the potatoes and then half of the caramelized onions on top of that. Place the pizza into the oven. If using a pizza screen, place on the bottom rack for 7 minutes and then transfer to the middle rack (with or without screen) to finish off the baking (2-3 minutes). To do this use a Pizza peel as it’s easiest! If using a pizza stone or pan bake for 8-10 minutes (a pizza paddle is crucial here!), checking the crust as it should be slightly charred and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes before cutting. Garnish with remaining green onions and crispy fried onions before serving.