When I was a teen, my after-school pizza bagel went straight from a box in the freezer to the toaster oven and bore little resemblance to either bagels or pizza. Now that I assemble them myself with pantry-friendly ingredients, pizza bagels remain a welcome snack, whether at midnight or midday. Here, I’ve layered a bagel with a riff on the concentrated flavors of a traditional Puttanesca sauce, with lots of umami to make a sandwich that’s grown-up and unapologetic. I included pepperoni because I love the way the slices “cup” when sizzled and the way its spicy, orange-colored grease slicks the cheese. You should take a pizza bagel in any direction that satisfies your own craving or refrigerator contents: Caponata pizza bagel? Why not? Pizza bagel bianca? Naturally. Quattro formaggi? Go for it. I once made a version with fresh figs, leftover roast potatoes, and blue cheese, and I would do it again.

Reprinted from Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow with permission from Chronicle Books, 2022. Photographs © Linda Xiao.

Makes 2 open-faced sandwiches

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 anchovies, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon drained capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bagel, split and scooped (See "Secrets for Better Sandwiching," below)
  • ½ cup (56 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 16 small pepperoni slices, optional
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. Set the oven rack in the uppermost position and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the anchovies and smash them with the back of a spoon, cooking them until they dissolve into the oil. Lower the heat to medium and use a Microplane to grate the garlic directly into the skillet. Cook until fragrant, less than 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and use a whisk to stir it into the fragrant oil. Whisk and cook the sauce until smooth and emulsified, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the capers and crushed red pepper and cook for another 30 seconds to form a sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

3. Place the bagel halves cut-side up on the foil-lined baking sheet. Divide the sauce between the bagels and fill the scooped-out tunnels. Cover with the mozzarella, then the pepperoni, if using. Sprinkle the oregano and Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the tops.

4. Slide the baking sheet under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown, no more than 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven.

5. Let the bagels rest for a minute or two before digging in or risk that sorry burn on the roof of your mouth.




It’s disheartening mid-bite to have the filling slide out from a bagel sandwich into your lap. To help avoid this messy moment, I like to scoop out some of the bagel’s insides and use its emptied space to trap messy condiments or slippery sauces.

The act of scooping, or removing the bready center from a split bagel, first started during the Carb Craze of the 1990s. Since then, for calorie counters and the carb-averse, it’s de rigueur. And for some others, it’s a reason to side-eye and declare the act an abomination. I’ve learned that a scooped bagel makes a tidy sandwich that’s less likely to slide apart than a non-scooped bagel. And I’m going to leave it at that.

To remove the center portion of the bagel, first split it, then use a grapefruit spoon or a melon baller to scoop the center crumb away from the firm shell. The center portion can be toasted and ground in a blender for bread crumbs.