Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Specially Selected Stone Baked Pizza - Spinach and Goat Cheese (ALDI)

Frozen pizza. It's a go-to fun meal or snack for anyone short on funds or time. Most of us grew up enjoying frozen pies, even with the knowledge that it generally falls well short of the experience at our favorite pizzeria.
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Historically, frozen pizza was pretty bad stuff, no matter how much I loved the rectangular slices of Ellio's in my youth. DiGiorno claims that it was the originator of the rising-crust frozen pie more than twenty years ago, and that was a quantum leap forward for frozen pizza. For this blog, our standard for any pizzeria is when we ask "Is it better than DiGiorno?"  Truthfully, a lot of the mass-sourced floppy pies sold across America are not.

After DiGiorno, the next leap forward (in my experience) took place with the imported Trader Giotto pizza in the freezer section of Trader Joe's stores. Those pies are made in Italy, and the crust has both a flavor and texture that exceeds just about any other frozen pie.
Out of the box, before baking
Almost in the same league are frozen pizzas from the discount grocer ALDI, but only if the pies are imported from ALDI's home base in Germany. Yes, the land of lager and lederhosen makes a better frozen pizza than the typical American version.
Out of the oven
We've reviewed ALDI's frozen Mama Cozzi's Caprese imported-from-Germany pizza before, and it was top-rank for frozen pizza. More recently, we found "Specially Selected" stone-baked pizza in the freezer case. Once I saw that it was made it Germany and on sale for just $2.29, I figured it to be a worthy gamble.

The uncooked pie is 16.5 ounces and has 1,050 calories, which is modest by frozen pie standards. It's big enough for two adults to share as a meal, but a big guy could eat the whole thing pretty easily. Before I baked it, I added some ALDI-sourced pepperoni. In addition to the goat cheese, the pie was made with emmentaler cheese, which did pair nicely with the other toppings.

Package directions called for 12-14 minutes at 400 degrees "until cheese is melted." After 15 minutes, the cheese showed no sign of melting and the cornicione remained pale, so I finished the pie with 3 minutes under the broiler. Looking back, I had done the same thing with the Mama Cozzi's pizza, too.
Golden brown underside, crisp yet chewy
I cut it into six smallish slices. The crust was firm, easily supporting the toppings. Crunchy throughout, it also had an almost-airy chewiness closer to the cornicione. This imported crust is just more like authentic pizza than most other frozen stuff. The mix of tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes was about perfect; on the Mama Cozzi's pie, the same type of cherry tomatoes had put out too much moisture, but not here.
Nice hole structure near the cornicione
While the spinach was more decorative than substantive, the round wheels of goat cheese were surprisingly redolent with umami and a "never-frozen" texture. I love goat cheese, even though I have mixed feelings about it as a pizza topping. Here, it worked perfectly. And of course, the entire pie was enhanced by my addition of the pepperoni, even as it inflated the calorie count.

Bottom line - this pizza won't make you forget any of the great pizzas found in the real world, but it's good flavor and a balanced texture at a modest  price in dollars and calories. Another win for ALDI.

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