Though it may sound like a viral social media cliché after the recent return of the fast food Mexican pizza, first introduced in the 1980s — that then sparked a clap back by chain pizza with an Italian taco — there is something to be said about fusing Hispanic and Italian cuisines that hits taste buds in the best possible way.
In this case, opposites definitely attract, inspiring a variety of cross-over flavors that not only fit together but can translate into a variety of dishes across the board.
What’s in a Crust?
We’re talking about similar ingredient profiles here: dough, cheese, and tomato-based sauces, so the fusion is not as far-fetched as some restaurants may think. Of course, tortillas provide an ideal delivery for many Hispanic ingredients, but a traditional pizza crust amps up the stability factor to load up on items that guests love: savory stewed pinto or black beans, melty cheese, spicy salsa, and tangy sour cream.
But to step back for a second, consider using Mexican cheeses which have gained massive popularity recently, and don’t have to be simply run-of-the-mill shredded cheddar on these menu items. Mexican cheeses are versatile yet have pronounced flavors that can take dishes in fresh directions.
Chihuahua is one of the most popular Mexican cheeses in America today. This soft white is like Monterey Jack, in that it works in any dish that requires something melty. The mozzarella of Mexican cheeses, Oaxaca, is chewy and stringy with a rich flavor and works great in several Hispanic-Italian dishes. Cotija has a dry texture and salty flavor and is recommended in any application that would typically use Parmesan. Looking for something a little lighter than sour cream? Crema, with a high fat content, drizzles like crème fraiche and can work as an all-purpose cheese sauce.
Taste of Italy
But pizza is only a jump-off point. Lasagna can be translated into a festive fiesta when layered with corn tortillas. Consider stuffing enchiladas with ravioli or pull a reverse and fill jumbo shells with enchilada mixings. Spaghetti and meatball tacos? Not as radical as one would think! Pastas can also go next level with taco ingredients which are always insanely delicious no matter what carb they are served with. Bucatini? Why not! Quesadillas stuffed with Italian sausage? The only limit is the chef’s imagination.
Finally, don’t forget a beverage or two to capitalize on these dishes and nail an upsell opportunity. A shot of limoncello can complement a variety of aqua fresca flavors, as can a splash of Prosecco on top of a margarita. Seek out refreshing and citrus-driven Italian whites like Sauvignon, Soave, Pinot Grigio or jammy reds like Sangiovese or bottles from Montepulciano. All will have your guests’ mouths watering and proclaiming Viva Fusion!