As the summer winds down and hints of cooler weather set in, the palate and the parties of the season follow suit. We start to crave warm and toasty comfort food. I love to transition to fall with a ‘pizza on the grill’ party.
The key to pizza on the grill is to be careful not to burn the crust. This is easily avoided by elevating the pizza with a stone or a pan. Heat the grill on high before putting the pizza on it, then cover immediately to cook for 8-10 minutes.
Thin crust pizza is the way to go, as it cooks in a matter of minutes, and you can get creative with your toppings. First, you can place either a sauce, like marinara, or a paste, like garlic or olive on your dough. You can also start with a ricotta cheese spread and make a white pizza. There are so many options.
The traditional pizza toppings never fail to please, but pizza has evolved to include just about any topping you’d like. I like to vary the cheeses and vegetables and include a variety of herbs like rosemary and thyme. For example, a Gorgonzola cheese pizza with grilled pears and chicken sausages, or a kale pizza with Kalamata olives, grilled onions, and feta cheese. Use your imagination. I once served a pumpkin puree pizza with turkey sausage, sweet potato, and kale!
Experimentation with pizza has come so far as to make dessert pizza a highly reliable menu item. Figs, pears, apples, pineapples, blueberries, and strawberries are paired with a mascarpone or sweetened ricotta cheese. You could make an entire evening’s menu out of pizza!
Above: cauliflower crust.
If thin crust pizza isn’t a good choice for your carb-conscious or gluten-intolerant guests, you can create individual sliced pizzas out of vegetables as the base, such as portobello mushrooms or eggplant slices. Other options are quinoa-based pizza crust or cauliflower dough.
For my party, I created a pizza buffet by placing different styles of pizza inside cast iron skillets atop a metal sheet rolled into a tube. Inside the tube was a sterno (canned heat), which kept the pizza warm. I added another dimension to the setting and placed individual toppings in bowls which sat atop fireplace inserts (we often use them as candleholders) showcasing the creativity involved in putting such a party together.
1 premade pizza dough, room temperature Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 1 clove minced garlic 1/2 cup ricotta 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend 4 cups arugula tossed in a little lemon juice 4 ounces thin sliced prosciutto di Parma
Stretch the pizza dough and place directly on the hot grill or on a pizza stone. Brush with EVOO and minced garlic. When the dough looks almost fully cooked without burning the bottom, add the ricotta, arugula, and prosciutto. Then top it off with the shredded cheese. Cook a little bit longer until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Pizza
1 premade pizza dough, room temperature 1 thinly sliced tomato 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend Bunch of fresh basil ½ cup tomato sauce Extra virgin olive oil 1 clove minced garlic
Stretch the pizza dough and place directly on the hot grill or on a pizza stone. Brush with EVOO and minced garlic. When the dough looks almost fully cooked without burning the bottom, spread tomato sauce over the dough, add sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese. Place basil leaves around the pizza. Cook a little bit longer until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.