Ever since were were kids, my sister and brother and I have loved making homemade pizza. Back in the 70’s it was the Chef Boyardee box, then our neighbor’s home-ec recipe for “bambinos” made with whatever toppings we liked on an English muffin and broiled until bubbly and golden. As we’ve aged, so have our pizza techniques, but you just can’t beat a pizza made at home for kitchen fun. Everyone can join in with selecting and prepping toppings, rolling dough, spreading sauce or olive oil, and arranging toppings. It’s a full-participation meal which makes it taste so much better! If you have finicky eaters or dietary constraints, let diners make their own mini-pizzas.
Listen: Anything by Lucinda Williams, but if you’re new to her, you may want to start with the 1998 Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album.
Sip: A rosé on the dry side with a balance of fruit and minerals is lovely with grilled pizza on a hot day; try the Francis Ford Coppola Sofia Rosé made in California from a blend of Syrah and Grenache…mmmmmm. A bubbly, low-sugar soda like Dry is also delicious.
When you’re about 30 minutes out from actually constructing the pizzas, let dough come to room temperature on the counter, place the pizza stone(s) on the grill, and heat the grill to 400 degrees (stone must come to temp with the grill).
You’ll need to whip up a batch of pizza dough if you have time, or pick up a few packages of fresh dough at your local pizzeria, Whole Foods, or Trader Joes.
Greek-theme: olive oil, Feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, pitted Kalamata olives, fresh oregano leaves
Margherita-theme: tomato sauce or olive oil, fresh basil leaves, fresh tomatoes, sauteéd onions, sauteéd portobellos or other mushrooms, grated mozarella cheese
Others: bell peppers, red pepper flakes, kale, cauliflower, soyrizo or chorizo, beets, zucchini, salami, prosciutto, arugula, black olives, sundried tomatoes, pesto, you get the idea!
When the grill is up to 400 degrees, and you’re ready to bake the pizzas, do the following at a fairly good clip as the pizza dough is easiest to transfer from paddle to stone if it doesn’t sit for too long:
- coat a thin cutting board or pizza paddle with a thin layer of cornmeal;
- spread a thin layer of flour on a counter and a rolling pin;
- dump the dough onto the floured surface and lightly and lovingly roll it from the center out until you create the desired thinness and shape;
- sling the dough gently over the rolling pin and transfer it to the cornmeal-coated paddle;
- spread a light layer of olive oil for “white” pizza or pesto or sauce as a base;
- then begin sprinkling toppings and cheese as you wish.
Ask a buddy to open the grill cover so that you can use a large spatula to gently transfer the pizza to the hot stone. The pizza will be done in about 10 minutes. Keep checking until you get to know your grill or oven.
While the pizza bakes, set the picnic table with a cotton cloth and napkins, bottles of water and wine, a spice plate, and some crudite or a light salad, and enjoy!