Hello. My name is Michelle, and I am addicted to grilled pizza.
I could have totally cheated, you know, and used this as this week’s Cheap Ass Monday, but I was just too excited. It’s pizza! On the grill! That we made! In our backyard!
We’ve already had it for dinner three of the past five nights.
The dough pictured here was homemade using The New Best Recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen folks, but you can also take the lazy woman’s way out – as I did last night – and stop by your favorite pizza joint to buy a few hunks of their dough for a coupla bucks.
I was so excited, I didn’t even take the time to photoshop.
See this dough? I threw it! In the air! And caught it again! And it totally worked! I mean, no, it’s not a circle, but that’s the charm of homemade, is it not?*
I wish I had some action shots for you; I’ll try to get some the next time we do this, which will probably be, oh, 2 hours from now. For now, you’ll just have to use a rolling pin or stretch it by hand on the counter.
With a couple kinds of cheese, a head or two or three of garlic and some fresh herbs and veggies, you can make a dozen variations that are cheap, easy and delicious.
*Not a hypothetical question. Answer: Yes.
And it’s sorta kinda good for you…sorta.
Like swiss chard, which, if you live in the northeast and have a CSA, you most likely have now. Quickly wilted down with copious amounts of garlic and then sprinkled over a pizza that’s been dolloped with creamy ricotta cheese, drizzled with a good assertive olive oil and sprinkled lightly with sea salt, it’s heavenly.
Olive oil is a GOOD fat. GOOD.
Or pesto, especially pesto made from enormous, fragrant bunches of basil you pulled from the earth not five minutes ago.
But cheese is a BETTER fat.
It takes less than two minutes to whizz garlic, parmigiana, pine nuts, basil and olive oil in the ol’ fo-pro. It also takes less than two minutes to eat the resulting pizza.
Other delicious and versatile toppings include thinly sliced fresh tomatoes, sharp provolone, fresh herbs and of course, fresh mozzarella. And while grilled pizza requires a lighter hand with the toppings, this is amply made up for by the brash, utter freshness of the toppings and the fantastic, smoky char the grill produces.
Simple, flavorful, grill-friendly combinations include:
- Chard, garlic, ricotta and olive oil (Brian’s favorite)
- Pesto and sharp provolone (My favorite)
- Fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, garlic and olive oil
- Ricotta, sharp provolone, garlic and olive oil
- Pesto and fresh tomato, with or without mozzarella
- Fresh tomato, olive oil and fresh thyme or basil, with or without a sprinkling of grated parm.
Thinly-sliced grilled veggies, like summer squash or eggplant, would also not be remiss; nor would caramelized onion. You could get fancier and toss on some diced pancetta or pears and brie, but there’s something about the pure, simple classic Italian flavors that is just unbeatable.
Oh. My. God.
You can put a pizza stone on the grill, in which case the risk of having your pizza sink between the grill grates is much reduced and you can be a bit more heavy-handed with the toppings, but the flavor of pizza cooked directly over the coals is unbeatable. After some trial-and-error, we determined that a lower temperature – around 300-325 degrees – produces a tastier, better cooked pizza than a scorching hot grill; longer, slower cooking gives the dough a chance to bake all the way through and the toppings the time to melt and meld before the bottom of the dough scorches and blackens. Use a pizza peel if you have one, or just sprinkle some cornmeal on a wooden cutting board and use that to slide the pies effortlessly onto the grill.
Even if you screw up the dough, the grilling, the toppings, or all three – as we did – this will still be light years better than anything you could have delivered. And when you don’t screw it up, it may well be the best pizza you can have this side of Naples.*
*Where, by the way, I’m going in September, along with Rome and a week on the coast in Puglia. Which I am telling you purely so I can gloat. Ha ha.
A Very Pungent Pesto
4-5 good sized garlic cloves
3 c. loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 c. pine nuts
4. oz. good parm, broken into hunks
1/3 – 2/3 c. good olive oil – something cold pressed with a nice olivey flavor
pinch kosher salt
With the fo-pro running, drop in the garlic and cheese; process until finely ground. Add the basil and pine nuts and process until finely chopped. Keep the fo-pro running and drizzle in the oil, adding it until you have a smooth paste; it shouldn’t be dry or chunky, nor should it be runny or liquidy. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed; I added a pinch of salt but no pepper, since I like a garlicky pesto and thought the garlic and peppery olive oil were punchy enough.
Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.