A Sacramento margherita pizza

According to my wife Stephany, this was one of the most exciting and delicious meals I’d ever prepared. I’m glad to say that this does a little better with local ingredients as well, but let’s start from the beginning. Being that this is summer and with high costs of energy, I like to grill when possible to keep the heat outside of the house (and, you must admit that the idea of a grilled pizza sounds awesome – I had never had one).

I’ve always strayed from making “homemade” pizza because I know that a really successful pizza relies on very HIGH heat during cooking, something that conventional ovens usually cannot attain. With the grill though, I can achieve higher heat to quickly cook the pizza. What ultimately helps a lot though is a pizza stone! I didn’t know what a pizza stone was until looking online – it is a ceramic stone that spreads and retains heat evenly while reducing excess moisture. This stone reaches very high temperature which helps a lot with the pizza crust.

Now, the classic margherita consists of the following toppings: basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes (resembling the colors on the flag of Italy, yup that’s on purpose). I’m proud to say that ALL 3 of these toppings that I used are LOCAL, the basil and tomatoes purchased at the Sunday morning Farmer’s market at 8th and W Street, and the mozzarella from Trader Joe’s and marked from Sonoma County. Also from Trader Joe’s came the pre-made pizza dough (garlic + herb) and the marinara sauce. While I’m unsure where some items at TJ’s come from, I do like this specialty grocery store and feel ok shopping there.

The beginning of the pizza

First, I took out the dough, let it set for about one hour before powdering it with flour and rolling it up some. During this time, I also poured out the marinara sauce and added a lot of juice from a fresh lime, cut up some garlic, and added some red pepper flakes. I don’t think the lime and pepper flakes adhere to any sort of margherita tomato sauce recipe, but it is my own little twist. After the sauce simmered a little while, I just let it sit in the pot.

Olive oil covered pizza dough

The dough is supposed to rise a little bit after exposure to the air – I did not notice a significant difference after about one hour, so I went ahead and moved on to the next step – forming the pie! I used foil to cover a cutting board and made sure I had access to flour just to reduce the stickiness. I thought I would need a rolling-pin, but everything actual was pretty smooth with just my hands. I then took some olive oil and massaged it onto the dough surface. This was looking good.

Mozzarella, basil, and tomato toppings ready!

Now it was time to prepare the grill, just to do the “pre-warming”. After lighting the coals, I set the pizza stone into the grill just to warm it up – apparently, this is a key step so that your pizza quickly warms. While that happened, I took our three local toppings and cut them as show in the picture. I was thinking about shredding the mozzarella, but cutting them into slices seemed more than sufficient.

Toppings on pizza just before entering grill

For the next step, I had trouble deciding whether or not to pre-cook some of the dough before adding toppings or to add everything together. For fear of having dough that was too soft in some areas, I decided to set the dough onto the grill for about 2 minutes in the grill. Wow it cooks fast! What resulted was a more toasty and rigid surface on one side of the pizza dough, the other side was still soft and pliable. This turned out to be a great idea. I brought in the pie, placed the sauce and toppings on the more rigid side before taking the pizza back to the grill.

My first homemade pizza

Back into the grill, voila! The pizza cooks SO quickly, make sure to keep an eye on it. I did want the crust to be nice and crispy, a little blackened, but not burned. For my first pizza, I don’t think it could have come out better. Using the pizza cutter, it was great hearing the cracks in the crust as the slices broke off of each other. Stephany had a big smile on her face 🙂 !!! Doing this same pizza again, I’d probably add a little more sauce (I went lighter on the sauce because I had heard that was a fatal flaw of homemade pizza) and a little less cheese. This was definitely the most fun meal I have done. It took me a little more than an hour, but I could see this taking closer to 30 or 45 minutes with the pre-made dough.

Do you have any homemade pizza secrets? Any thoughts?


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