With Summer winding down and temperatures dropping, I’ve been thinking about our charcoal grill–and getting a few more runs out of her before it’s time to close her down for the season change. We’ve made plenty of sliders and kabobs, but for some oddball reason, we never tackled grilled pizza this Summer. Armed with Stew Leonard’s store-made whole wheat pizza dough and regular white pizza dough, we had a grilled pizza party. To get things started, we kept it basic with a classic–Pizza Margherita. Other variations were Zucchini, Mozzarella, Pine Nut, and Pecorino pizza + Shiitake, Cremini, Garlic, and Parmesan pizza. I will share them in my next post. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I give you Pizza Margherita–made with love by my #1 love, Nick and my best friend, Lauren, visiting from Vermont.
A quick comment on the pizza dough. I’ve made pizza dough from scratch before, with mixed results. I never seem to be able to get the right amount of airy bubbles when I do. Instead, I save myself the trouble by buying fresh pizza dough at Stew Leonard’s or Whole Foods. I started by cutting the packaged dough into thirds, so that I could make super thin-crusted pizzas for 2-3 people to share. Ultimately we made 3 pizzas with different toppings–and that was the perfect amount of food for 3 of us. Once the dough was cut, I rolled it out gently (I must emphasize GENTLY, as you don’t want to kill the air in the dough), sprayed both sides with Pam, and threw it on a hot charcoal grill. As I watched the bubbles start to rise, I checked the bottom for color. This process happens quick, so don’t walk away! Once one side was browned, I removed the dough from the grill and started adding toppings to the browned side.
For the toppings, I cheated again by buying Stew Leonard’s store-made marinara sauce. I normally would make sauce from scratch, but jeez… the Stew’s kind is so yummy! I really encourage you to pick some up for your next pizza or pasta party. I spread the sauce on the browned-side of the dough, then sprinkled it with mozzarella cheese, diced and de-seeded tomatoes, and sliced fresh basil.
Next, I threw the pizza baby back on the grill. A learning experience here–if you’re cooking on a charcoal grill and you find it slightly difficult to control, temperature-wise, you will find that the bottom of the dough browns/blackens too fast… not giving the cheese a chance to melt properly. If this happens to you, I would recommend finishing the pizza under a broiler in your oven OR placing a metal rack on your grill in order to elevate the pizza above the coals (thus stopping the browning of the crust but allowing the cheese to melt.) After 2-4 minutes, the pizza was cooked and served. The flavor from the coals was awesome… the crust was perfectly thin and bubbly, and the toppings were sweet and sang of the end of Summer. Smiles were all around.
Grilled Pizza Margherita
Ingredients (to make 3 thin-crust pizzas)
1 store-bought prepared pizza dough, cut into thirds
1-2 cups prepared marinara sauce
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, seeded
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Cooking Spray (Pam) or olive oil
1. Cut store-bought dough into thirds and roll into balls. Gently dredge 1 ball of dough in a bowl of flour to coat, then transfer to a lightly floured work surface. GENTLY roll out dough, careful not to kill the air bubbles in the dough.
2. To prepare charcoal grill: Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a heaping chimneyful of charcoal and pour it evenly over 2 opposite sides of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of charcoal), leaving clear a 9-inch-wide strip in middle (for grilling over indirect heat). Charcoal fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds.
To prepare gas grill: Preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate.
3. To grill pizzas by either method: Lightly brush dough with some oil or spray with Pam (cooking spray.) Carefully flip dough round, oiled side down, with your hands onto middle of lightly oiled grill rack and brush top of each with oil. Grill crust, uncovered, until underside is golden brown (rotate if 1 side of grill is hotter than the other), 2 to 3 minutes on grill.
Flip crust over with tongs and a spatula and top crust with a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, spreading evenly over dough and leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over sauce and top with chopped tomatoes and basil and grill pizzas, covered with grill lid, until undersides are golden brown and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes on grill.
4. Repeat with other pizza dough balls with toppings of your choice.
Cooks’ note: Pizzas can also be cooked in a well-seasoned 10- to 12-inch ridged grill pan. Heat pan over high heat until hot, about 5 minutes, then cook pizzas 1 at a time over moderately high heat, following grilling instructions in recipe above, covering pan after sprinkling with cheese, and using cooking times for charcoal grill.