After the long bike ride my husband, Clif, and I took yesterday, our minds quite naturally turned to dinner, and as our refrigerator and pantry are overflowing, we decided to make use of the food on hand. We had bought pizza dough for grilled bread for our Sunday get together, but there were so many great appetizers that we decided to forgo the grilled bread.
This meant we could use the dough for what it was originally intended—pizza. Now for the sauce. I had plenty of ripe tomatoes—Juliet is the variety I grow—from my own little garden, and it only took me two seconds to decide that a roasted tomato sauce would be just the thing for this pizza. In the refrigerator, I had a very mild soft cheese that came from Wholesome Holmstead. Not exactly mozzarella, but I thought it would be an acceptable substitute. For a topping I had leftover pancetta that Shannon had brought for appetizers on Sunday. (In my post about the Sunday barbecue, I mistakenly referred to it as prosciutto.)
The sauce takes a bit of time, but most of it is hands-off as the tomatoes roast in the oven. I took two pounds of tomatoes—the fair Juliet with a few romas mixed in. I cut the Juliets in half and quartered the romas. I put them in a bowl then tossed them with a few splashes of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Next I spread them, cut side up, on an oiled cookie sheet and baked them for about an hour at 375°. (The tomatoes are done when they are very soft and a little brown here and there.)
After the tomatoes had cooled a bit, I put them in the food processor and pulsed a few times until I had a nice saucy mix. Into a large skillet, I heated two tablespoons of olive oil and added two cloves of garlic, chopped fine. I let the garlic sizzle for a minute or so and then added the sauce, which was very thick. I simmered the sauce for about a half hour, adding a bit of water occasionally to get a texture I liked. Not too thin, of course. I didn’t want a runny sauce, but neither did I want a thick gloppy sauce.
While the sauce was simmering, I crumbled the soft cheese, cut the pancetta into little clumps, and set both aside in small bowls. I also chopped 1/3 cup of basil leaves, which I added to the sauce when it was done simmering.
The time had come for the pizza dough. Someday soon, we hope to provide a picture tutorial for grilled bread as there really is a knack for stretching it and grilling it. But for now I can give just the barest outline because Clif is the grilled-bread master. He stretches the dough by hand, puts it on a floured board, brushes the top with olive oil, and puts it on the grill oiled side down. He immediately oils the top and cooks it with the cover down for a few minutes—until it is brown underneath. Then he flips it, cooking it until it is brown. He flips it one more time, adding the sauce, cheese, and toppings. He turns off the heat underneath, but leaves the other side on, so the cheese is heated by the indirect heat. Clif closes the cover for this phase, too.
The results? The best pizza there is outside of a wood-fired brick-oven pizzeria. This particular pizza, with the roasted tomato sauce, the soft cheese, and the smoky pancetta, was especially good.
Combined with a green salad, the pizza made for a very satisfying meal after a long bike ride. Best of all, there were enough leftovers for another meal.