People rarely agree on anything about pizza, except that people should probably not try to make Thanksgiving stuffing out of it. Pizza is delicious, and so is stuffing, and while they’re both made of crispy bread and flavored with vegetables, herbs, and meats, one is usually never confused for the other, unless you’ve spent an interesting night in 18 specific US jurisdictions, plus DC and Guam.
However, if you think about the constituent parts of a well-topped pan pizza (minus the mozzarella) it’s basically 80% of the ingredients you need for truly excellent stuffing. If you’ve got the right pantry staples, some celery, and access to decent delivery pies, you can make this Thanksgiving tradition happen for yourself and your friends and family without an additional trip to the store. (You don’t want to have to yoink the last bag of pre-dried bread cubes away from some kindly senior citizen, do you? Wait, do you, you sociopath?)
I’ve been cooking my family’s Thanksgiving turkey and sides for the past 20 years, and I can honestly say this is one of the best I’ve ever made—even better than the time I got my fast-food-hating grandma to eat my take on White Castle stuffing.
The key to this recipe: ordering a large Detroit-style pizza with sausage, mushroom, and pepperoni with extra sauce the night before Thanksgiving (or even the morning of). If flavored crust is an option, go with garlic. While I normally recommend this pizza joint for all things Detroit-style-pizza related, a more widespread chain like Jet’s Pizza will definitely suffice, as will Pizza Hut’s Detroit-style pie. If no Detroit-style is available near you, a standard pan pizza will do in a pinch, but make sure it’s airy, floofy-ish pan crust and not deep dish, which is a different thing.
After you’ve picked the pizza clean of its toppings and cubed and toasted the crust, it’s a pretty straightforward stuffing recipe, featuring traditional Thanksgiving stuffing flavors. The pepperoni and Italian sausage also lend a little pizza-ness which, incredibly, matches up really, really well with stuffing’s usual umami-fest. Plus, ordering extra sauce on the pizza means more tomatoey, umami goodness that gets baked on during toasting.
This is the point where I tell you that, in developing this recipe, one batch featured... pineapple. PLEASE STOP YELLING.
In total, the pizza included ¼ cup of cooked-down pineapple, and in the final dish, it was chopped up so finely as to be nearly indistinguishable. Still, it lent that touch of sweetness and acid that a lot of stuffings need. Remember, this isn’t a pizza, but a stuffing made from pizza. If the addition of pineapple bothers you, you can totally leave it out and it will be fine. But I think you should keep it in. I was skeptical too. My dear friend Natalie, who was instrumental in helping me create this dish, said she could take or leave the pineapple, and she has better taste in food than friends. But I liked it with the fruit. You do you.
- 1 large Detroit-style pizza, ordered to the following specifications, if possible: extra sausage, extra mushroom, extra sauce, Parmesan cheese, no mozzarella, pineapple (NOTE: THE PINEAPPLE IS COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, SERIOUSLY, STOP YELLING)
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped sage OR 1.5 Tbsp. dried sage
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for baking
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 eggs, whisked
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Accept delivery of pizza while taking a good, hard look at some of the choices you’ve made in your life. Realize that you’ve definitely made worse and less interesting choices than this.
- Remove all toppings from the pizza, but leave the sauce on the crust. Chop up toppings so they’re at about a ¼-inch dice, if not smaller. You should have approximately 1½ cups of chopped mushroom, 1 cup of sausage, 1 cup of pepperoni, and ½ cup of (COMPLETELY OPTIONAL) pineapple.
- Cut up the crust into 1-inch cubes and toast on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven (or 375-degree convection oven) for about 40-50 minutes until completely dry and a little golden brown. Check after 35 minutes. Cubes can be toasted one day ahead.
- Either put onion and celery into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, or finely chop it all by hand on your cutting board.
- Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, then add about ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper (or to taste) and cook onions and celery until soft, about 10-12 minutes. Add in sage, stir, then set aside.
- Grease a large casserole dish or 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter and preheat oven to 350 degrees (375 degrees if using convection oven).
- Put chicken stock in large bowl. Soak a handful of the bread cubes in the broth for about 3-4 minutes. Remove cubes with hands, then, in your best Monty Python voice, holler “wring out your bread!” (joke courtesy of Natalie) as you squeeze the excess broth back into the bowl. Place moistened cubes in a large work bowl. Repeat until all cubes are soaked through.
- Add the eggs, all the toppings, and the cooked vegetables to the bowl and stir until all the bread is coated with the mixture.
- Add salt and pepper. Stir. Take a large tablespoon of mixture and microwave for 30 seconds. Taste, and add more salt and pepper to stuffing if necessary.
- Gently press the mixture into your prepared pan (the pressing will ensure maximum crustiness on the bottom.) Bake for 35-45 minutes until cooked through and crispy on top.
- Serve to guests, and don’t tell anyone what you’ve done until they’ve tasted it. Then cackle.