Welcome back to another round of Fandom Foodies!
I won’t lie. My experiences playing the Mario games are severely outdated. It goes all the way back to the original gray box Nintendo System with Super Mario Brothers. It then evolved to a slightly newer gray box Super NES for Super Mario World. And it finally ended with a smaller, slightly newer gray box Gameboy with Dr. Mario and Yoshi’s Cookie. I was horrible at all of them except for Yoshi’s Cookie. You try getting decent at video games while sharing systems with an older brother during the early 90s!
That aside, I suppose it would make sense that my brother would be better at the games. He, like Mario, has a fondness for stomping on mushrooms while I have a fondness for eating them. That said, I suspect I would be the true terror of the Mushroom Kingdom were I ever to visit. I would pick off all the residents one by one, casually cruising through the best, umami-laden all-you-can-eat buffet ever, armed with a frying pan and a bottle of soy sauce.
Since I’ve not played many of the games where food was a prominent factor like Paper Mario, I wanted to create a dish based on the older parts of the franchise that I feel a bit of a stronger connection to.
As I was doing a little bit of research into the games, I discovered that the first Mario Brothers game (not first appearance, mind you) actually took place in New York City rather than the Mushroom Kingdom. The Italian American plumber brothers Mario and Luigi battled creatures coming up the pipes of NYC’s sewers. It made me also remember The Super Mario Brothers Super Show, a cheesetastic live-action tv series taking place in Brooklyn and the Mushroom Kingdom, as well as the show’s Luigi’s obsession with pizza.
It all makes sense, though. Hand-tossed thin-crust pizza is iconic to New York culinary history. Traditionally this is made with shredded hard mozzarella, but I decided to use the fresh variety in favor of its look and flavor. Besides, the traditional recipe also uses tap water from the region. Do you want to spend an extra $400 on authenticity? I didn’t think so.
So with pizza as a starting point, I then decided to keep what Mario “eats” in all the games – Mario’s Power-Ups.
Mario & Luigi's Power-Up Pizza
Equipment: 14-inch pizza pan, food processor, mesh strainer, gas stovetop, aluminum foil, tongs, two paper lunch bags, star-shaped vegetable cutter, toothpicks or fine nose tweezers, oven.
- 16 oz. bag of fresh pizza dough or a premade 12-inch pizza shell
- 2 red bell peppers
- yellow bell pepper
- 12 oz fresh sliced mozzarella
- 10 oz pineapple, sliced into 1/2″ rings
- Six shiso, perilla, or large basil leaves
- toasted sesame seeds
- 3-4 large button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- kosher salt
- all-purpose flour
- cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground cornmeal
- Remove the bag of dough from the refrigerator and let sit for at least an hour under an inverted bowl to allow the gluten to relax. Use this time to start prepping your ingredients.
- If you have a gas stovetop: Turn on a burner of your stove top on a high fire and place the bell peppers, one or two at a time, on the burner grate over the flame. Turn peppers with a pair of tongs periodically until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers into the paper bags and close to steam and cool while preparing the other ingredients. If you don’t have a gas stovetop: Preheat your oven to 400 F. Roast the peppers whole on a rimmed baking sheet, turning them periodically until browned on all sides. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Place the peppers into the paper bags with a pair of tongs and close to steam and cool while preparing the other ingredients.
- Cut at least a dozen or more stars using the vegetable cutter from the pineapple slices. Apply the toasted sesame seed “eyes” to the stars with a toothpick or fine point tweezers.
- Cut the sides off of all the bell peppers. Discard the stems and seeds. Slice an oval of red pepper 1 1/2″x 3/4″. Using that oval as a pattern, slice ten more ovals. Slice an oval 3/4″x 1/2″ of yellow pepper and use it to make ten more, and then make a 2″x”2 square with the same pepper.
- Pulse the remaining peppers with two of the shiso leaves in the food processor into a rice-like pulp and then strain, pressing most of the liquid out. Pour the pulp into a separate container and stir in sesame oil, garlic powder, and kosher salt to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F if you have not already. Prepare your pizza pan with foil, a coat of cooking spray, and a light scattering of cornmeal. With lightly floured hands, remove the crust dough from the bag and press it evenly, center to outside to fit the pan.
- Spread a thin layer of sauce on top of the crust, leaving about a 3/4″ inch margin. Place a ring of sliced mushrooms on top and along the edge of the sauce.
- Distribute the mozzarella slices except for two on the sauce. Dice one slice into eleven blobs. Cut a question mark into the other, reserving all of the remaining cheese.
- Place a ring of red pepper ovals just below the mushrooms, and top each one with yellow oval, then a blob of mozzarella. Arrange the remaining 4 shiso leaves in the center, points outward. Top with the reserved mozzarella in the center of the leaves, then yellow pepper square, then the cheese question mark.
- Arrange the remaining mushrooms and stars in rings on the pizza to your preference.
- If using fresh dough: bake at 400 F 18-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown. If you are using a premade pizza shell: bake according to package instructions.
- Let pizza cool at least five minutes. Take this time to add sesame seed eyes to the fire-flowers. Slice up and serve.