GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA
SOMETIMES CHANGE IS GOOD
I have found that sometimes change is a good thing, and sometimes we just need to be flexible and “go with it”. Outside of the Ten Commandments, nothing is written in stone, and that includes pizza. After making literally scores of pizzas over the years, I have discovered that making PIZZA ON THE GRILL is just my favorite new thing. Of course, this means another excuse for eating On the Patio – which can’t be too bad. I spent years of cranking my oven up to 500 degrees and heating up the whole house – including in the middle of Hot-Lanta summers. I even cracked the inner glass on my oven door when I inadvertently let the pizza stone rest against it while making one of the Linda’s Italian Table specials. I experienced major appliance envy while visiting our good friends, Barbara and Steve, who had installed an authentic state of the art pizza oven, and I lamented my inadequate “equipment”. (Read about this amazing “gadget” in our January blog post. FIRE IN THE HOLE! Well, times they are a-changin! You, too, have a pizza oven in your outdoor grill, and I bet many of you didn’t know it.
Thanks to the prodding of my husband, Tom, who is always game to try something new – I grudgingly agreed to try making pizza on the grill – something he had heard and read about. After a little research – we tried it. OMG!! Once again, Tom rocked my world – or so he says! Gone are the days of maneuvering the pizza in and out of the oven, turning the kitchen into Dante’s Inferno in mid-July, and sweeping cornmeal off the floor afterward. I am about to change your pizza-making ways forever. Follow my lead and you’ll never cook another pizza indoors.
The keys to the kingdom – the tools: Nothing new here – you’ll use all the same things I recommended in my Pizza Post “THAT’S AMORE” : Cornmeal, pizza stone, large spatula, a pizza peel, the best ingredients – good dough preferably homemade (we’ll chat about this later) fresh mozzarella, good sausage, fresh herbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, good olive oil. Last but not least – scissors! My mother, Loretta, always cut her pizza with scissors and did not use a pizza cutter. Thank goodness, or I’d still be sitting in her little kitchen waiting for the pizza to be cut. I’ve never seen a pizza cutter beat the scissors. I have seen people hack away repeatedly at a pizza trying to get a quick and good cut. Some morsel always seems to remain attached. If you like your pizza cutter, by all means use it, but I will continue to use my scissors. Truce declared!
The Secret – HEAT: An actual pizza oven heats up to about 900 degrees. What we realized was that by heating up your grill ahead of time like you would do with your oven – and adding wood chips if you want to achieve the real wood-fired effect – you actually turn your grill into a pizza oven with temperatures way above the 500 in the kitchen oven – or around 800 degrees. This, of course, means that your cook time will be far less than cooking the pizza indoors which is usually about 15 minutes. You’ll want to heat that sucker up with the lid down and with the pizza stone on the grill for about 15 minutes. This pre-heat time is what it’s all about.
The path to enlightenment: While you’re heating up the grill with the stone inside, get all of your ingredients together and be ready to go. Put some cornmeal on the pizza peel. Stretch or roll your dough out to the desired size, and place it on the prepared peel. Now to construct your masterpiece! Always start with a sprinkle of olive oil, and spread it all over the dough with your very clean fingers. This helps to seal the crust and prevent the toppings from making it soggy. Then place your ingredients on top usually ending with the cheese. A last drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil is nice. Do not leave your pizza sitting there waiting for peace in the Middle East. Get that puppy to the grill as quickly as possible.
Stairway to heaven: Open your very hot grill,and then sprinkle the stone with some cornmeal. Ease the pizza off the peel with a large spatula and a little shake. The cornmeal on the peel makes it slide off easily. Quickly put the lid down. Your cook times will vary, as your grill may take longer or less time than mine. The cooking time I will offer is only a guideline, and yours may be different. However, I’ll testify – experimenting is fun! Once the pizza is on the grill, I cook the pizza for approximately 3-4 minutes, then I peek at it by raising the grill lid and lifting the edge with a spatula. You should look for a golden brown and crisp bottom. Now you are operating like a true pizzaiolo (the guy who cooks pizzas in Naples). Peeking is good. Here is a peek at the crust of one of my pizzas:
If almost there, let it go another minute. Keep peeking. You may want to rotate the pizza a little with the spatula to get an even bake. Usually 5-6 minutes total will do it. Here is one that is almost there:
This is totally according to the heat level in your grill. Depending on your grill – going beyond this time may burn the bottom. Watch it!
When you have the desired “doneness”, gently slide the peel under the pizza, and lift it off the stone and onto the plate. DONE! Pizza in 5-6 minutes – see the lovely “fired” edge – Troppo bella!
A word about the dough: I make my dough using my mother’s recipe which calls for regular flour. I know that many like to use the Italian flour referred to as Double Zero. This is traditionally used in Italy for pizza and pasta making. I always use it for making my pasta fresca. I do not use it for pizza, as I like my mother’s recipe, using all purpose flour, which I offer in my post, “THAT’S AMORE”. It is easy and delicious, and I think more folks would be inclined to make their own dough if they could use ingredients that would be found in their pantry. I have made some adjustments to that recipe recently that I have found to make a better and thinner crust. You might want to take a look on the post!
It Ain’t Heavy: Pizza isn’t always laden with the worst of the worst for you. I am offering you a look at my GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA. You know this one. It’s the one given the nod by Queen Margherita “just a few years ago” – in 1889. Back in the old days in Binghamton, my grandmother used to refer to my mother as La Regina Margherita. I can only imagine why! This pizza is light, fresh, quick and easy. There are many variations of this recipe, but I like this one as most of the ingredients are fresh and healthy. Some of these ingredients can probably even be found in your garden!
GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA
Makes: 1 large pizza
Prep for grill: 15 minutes
Prep for pizza: 7 minutes
Cook: Approx. 6 minutes
Dough: Follow the instructions for the dough in the post, “THAT’S AMORE”. Suggestion: Make the dough ahead and store it in the freezer, if you like. One recipe will make 4 loaves of dough for a thinner crust. Each loaf is perfect for this recipe. If you like a thicker crust, just make 2 loaves, and use one of those for this recipe.
Several Fresh Campari Tomatoes sliced. I like Campari’s which are in season right now because they are soooo sweet. If you can’t find Campari Tomatoes, use the freshest tomatoes you can find.
Salt and Pepper
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Fresh Mozzarella – sliced thinly not grated
Fresh Basil Leaves –at least 1/2 cup – more if you like. Leave the leaves whole.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Follow the instructions in the preceding text for tools and preparing the grill.
As instructed above, place the dough on the peel topped with cornmeal.
Rub the surface of the dough with a little olive oil.
Lay the Tomato Slices on the top of the dough.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Top with sliced Fresh Mozzarella.
Add the fresh Basil Leaves.
Drizzle with a nice Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Follow the directions in the portions of the above text called The Path to Enlightenment and Stairway to Heaven for grilling the pizza. See it here on the grill – not quite ready:
The long and short of it is: In approximately 6 minutes total - you’ll be eating it!
VINO: With this one, I’d say go alla Napoletana, as they know the most about pizza in any form. For white – I’d suggest Fiano di Avellino or Falanghina. For red – try an Aglianico. Just sayin…
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography