Monday, July 18, 2011

Grilled Pizza Margherita

Grilled Pizza <span class=

I grilled pizza for the first time the other day and love it already! It was a bit intimidating at first because you need to have all your toppings ready and waiting since you top the pizza while it's on the actual grill. After you cook one side of the pizza for a minute, you flip it over and put all the toppings on, then close the lid until it's done. It was a little nerve-wracking because my grill is really hot. There is no cooler part in which to move the pizza while I put all the toppings on. I was in race with time to top it and let it cook before the underside burned. It worked out though. It's amazing how quickly it comes together.

Grilled Pizza <span class=
Feta cheese is pictured, but was only used for my husbands "special" pizza

What I love, love, love about the grilled pizza is the dough puffs and creates pockets like you get with a wood fired pizza. That kind of magic doesn't happen in my oven.

I have made a few pizzas in my day and I have learned some things along the way. One being, the sauce is always simple. Some recipes call for whole tomatoes that you crush with a little salt and pepper, which I found to be a bit watery. Some call for tomato puree, which is thicker and what I found to work the best. Don't get hung up on making and cooking a sauce. When you use fresh dough and good cheeses, the sauce should be a subtle accent, not the main attraction. Second, use good quality ingredients. When you make a recipe with only a few ingredients, make sure they all taste great on their own. If you put a bland tasting tomato on top of a mild and processed pre-shredded cheese, guess what your pizza is going to taste like? Third, the cheese. There is no rule for which cheeses to use as it should be based on your personal preference. I like to use fontina because it's mild and melts like a dream into the sauce, but I counter it with a bit of Pecorino Romano for sharpness. You could use a bit of fresh mozzarella in place of the fontina if you would rather, but I do find fontina to melt better.
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The reason a simple pizza like this tastes so great is because it's layered with flavor. You brush the dough with a garlic oil first, then dollop the sauce on sort of haphazardly (it does not have to be evenly distributed over the entire surface) then the cheese, and finally the tomatoes and basil, salt and pepper. Every flavor melds into everything else. I am loving this recipe.

I rolled my pizza dough really thin and that's why it looks like flatbread. Less crust=happy husband. You can leave yours as thick as you'd like, though.

Grilled Pizza Margherita
adapted loosely from, Robust Trattoria Cooking From Al Forno

makes 1 large pizza

1 recipe Pizza Dough (recipe below)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup loosely packed shredded fontina
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
6 tablespoons canned pureed tomato
6 thin tomato slices, optional
8 basil leaves, torn
Kosher or sea salt

Make the garlic oil: In a small sauce pan or skillet, place the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flake and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.

Shred all cheese and place on a plate with the tomato slices and torn basil so all the ingredients are ready to go when you are. Open the can of pureed tomatoes, and have that handy as well along with a tablespoon.

If you use a gas grill, heat on low. If using a charcoal grill, it is hot enough when you can hold your hand over the coals for 3 to 4 seconds at a distance of about 5 inches.

Roll the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface in a free form circle or rectangle to the thickness of about 1/8-inch. The shape is unimportant but try to maintain an even level of thickness. When grill is hot use your fingertips to lift the dough gently by the 2 corners closest to you, and drape in onto the grill. Catch the loose edge on the grill first and slide the remaining dough into place over the fire. Within a minute the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear.

Using tongs, immediately flip the crust over, onto the coolest part of the grill. Quickly brush the entire surface with the garlic oil. Spoon dollops of the tomato puree over and smear slightly, then scatter the cheeses, tomato, basil and salt.

Slide the pizza back toward the hot coals, but not directly over them. Or if you have a gas grill, check the underside frequently to see if it is burning, and with either grill, rotate if possible so that different sections receive high heat. The pizza is done when the top is bubbly and the cheese melted, about 5 minutes. Serve at once.

Mambo Italiano Pizza Dough

makes enough for 1 large pizza

1 .25 ounce package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast into the water and let sit for about 10 minutes until foamy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, sugar, white pepper and olive oil. Add in the yeast mixture and mix on low for 3 minutes once all ingredients are incorporated. Take the dough out of the mixer (if the dough is too sticky, add some more flour a tablespoon at a time and knead with your hands on the counter top until smooth). Place the dough in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to an hour. Punch dough down and use or, if making in advance, seal in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use, but i'd say no longer than 4 hours.

If you like breadier dough, cut the flour down to two cups total and use 1 cup bread flour and one cup all purpose flour. I say to cut the flour down because usually bread flour soaks up more water than all purpose, but if you need more flour, go ahead and use it.


  1. Margherita pizza is my absolute favorite! We typically make it on fridays in our house during the summer. I need to try grilling it though...great idea.

  2. About dang time you posted that MI recipe!!! I have been WAITING!!!! can't WAIT to make this!

  3. Woo hoo! The dough recipe! I have been wanting this. What a treat. I like grilling pizza, too.

  4. I love grilling pizza. I always use a ball of mozzarella but will have to try fontina. Your tomatoes look perfect, by the way. We are having some tomato issues here in the East. Even from the farmer's market they aren't great.

  5. oh my gosh, yum. this looks so good. i am going to try making this :)


  6. I'm going to give fontina a try the next time we make pizzas!