ROMAN PIZZA: THE NEXT BIG THING

People like to discover things before they become mainstream – it makes you feel like you’re in on a secret by being ahead of the trend. We want to hear a song before anyone else does and see that band right before they hit the big time. The same is true with food – chefs are always trying to discover the next big thing. Whether it’s a health-centric product like quinoa and fro-yo or an indulgent like cronuts or the bacon craze, chefs want to be out in front of any new food trend. And to that point, I’m offering my prediction of the next big thing in food – Roman pizza!

Roman pizzas ready for the oven.

There are two pizza styles in the city of Rome (which also happen to be easy to produce at home): pizza al taglio and pizza al metro. These are essentially Rome’s versions of pizza by the slice and are a popular take away food in the city.

Now, when people think of Italian pizzas, they tend to envision Pizza Vera Napoletana. This style of pie was all the rage for many years (and still is one of my favorite styles of pizza). These pizzas are typically baked very quickly in blazing hot ovens and are characterized by charred bottoms and edges; these are knife-and-fork pizzas, and aren’t conducive for sale “by the slice.”

Roman pizza, however is more recognizable to Midwestern sensibilities. The crust is thicker than our typical Midwestern tavern style pies and are sturdier and chewy in comparison; this heartiness makes them great candidates for crazy toppings. In fact, I’ve been preparing Roman pizzas for our special Osteria Centro events (using crust made with a 25-year-old starter I developed back in the early days of my career); be sure to stay tuned for more Osteria Centro events this fall.

Roman pizzas can be cooked in home ovens on stones or black steel pans. Try these at your next get together and by the time this new trend hits the media, you’ll already be an old Roman pizza pro!

Crust Recipe
2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 tbls olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
6 cups of bread flour, or high gluten flour. Substitute up to 2 cups wheat flour if desired

In a large mixing bowl combine the water and yeast and let yeast start to work. Add olive oil.

Slowly add flour (not all at once). Add salt. Keep working in the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5 -10 minutes, adding flour as needed until a smooth dough forms. You may not need all six cups.

Cut dough into two (or more) pieces depending on the size pizza you want. Roll divided dough into tight balls. Place on greased cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Once dough has doubled in size, stretch out pizza dough in an oval shape. Dust the bottom of each dough with semolina and place dough on greased cookie sheet.

Top pizzas with a few of my suggestions below, or create your own masterpiece! These pizza recipes are enough for two pizzas (or one large pie).

A seafood pizza from a recent Osteria Centro event.

Broccoli, Cheese and Mortadella with Pistachio Pesto
6 ounces Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
2 cups cooked broccoli, cooked in salted water and seasoned with garlic and olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella, sliced or shredded
8 ounces very thinly sliced Mortadella to be added when pizza comes out of the oven
Pistachio pesto – add desired amount on top of the mortadella.

Pesto recipe
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cups packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup toasted unsalted pistachios
8 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1.5 cups virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a food processor, add basil, parsley, pistachios, garlic and salt. Turn on processor and add 1.5 cups of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Process to make a smooth paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl

You can freeze half of the pesto for future use, just pack it in a plastic container with a thin film of olive oil.

White Sauce, Gorgonzola, Toasted Pecan and Caramelized Onion
6 ounces Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
1 cup pecans toasted with olive oil and salt
1 large onion sautéed until caramelized, seasoned with salt
1.5 cup whole milk mozzarella sliced or shredded
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

White Sauce, Gorgonzola , Toasted Pecan and Arugula
6 ounces GWM Alfredo sauce
1 cup pecans toasted with olive oil and salt
1 and 1/2 cup whole milk mozzarella sliced or shredded
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Top with 2 cups arugula tossed with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt

Sausage, Potato, Olive Oil and Garlic
6 ounces Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 gold fleshed potatoes cooked; once done, remove skins and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt
8 ounces Gateway Market garlic sausage, crumbled raw on top of pizza

White Sauce, Mushroom, Cheese and Herb
6 ounces Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
4 cups assorted mushrooms (shiitake with stems removed, crimini, domestic) sautéed in 3 tablespoons olive oil and seasoned with salt. Cook until all liquid is absorbed and evaporated, then cool to room temperature or refrigerate
2 cups whole milk Mozzarella, sliced or shredded
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic

White Sauce, Mixed Mushrooms, Fontina, Taleggio, Garlic and Thyme
6 ounces Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
4 cups assorted mushrooms(shiitake with stems removed, crimini, domestic) sautéed in 3 tablespoons olive oil and seasoned with salt. Cook until all liquid is absorbed and evaporated, then cool to room temperature or refrigerate
1.5 cups taleggio, sliced or shredded
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic

Sweet Potato, Bacon, Taleggio, Caramelized Onion and Balsamic Reduction
6 oz Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
1.5 cups taleggio, sliced or shredded
6 slices bacon cooked and chopped
1 large sweet potato cooked until tender (not mushy) and diced, seasoned with salt
1 large onion, sliced and sautéed in 2 tablespoons butter and cooked until brown; seasoned with salt and pepper
Drizzle baked pizza with balsamic reduction

THROW ANOTHER PIZZA ON THE BARBIE

Pizza comes in many styles and I love them all. As I have said in previous posts, the pizza style of Naples is a difficult one to replicate. But the grilled pizzas of more recent times are a great substitute for those from wood fired ovens and can be easily replicated at home.

Grilled pizzas can have that crisp crust that appeals to Midwestern sensibilities, and you can hold and fold them. Whether you throw them directly on the grill or use a pizza stone, you can still get that authentic flavor and texture at home. Like anything, it may take a little practice, but it’s well worth it to perfect your process.

Heat half of the grill. If you use a gas grill, set the other half to low. If it’s a charcoal grill, make sure all the coals are on the “hot” side.

Flatten and roll one package of Gateway Market premade dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Spray both sides of the dough with olive oil. Place dough on the grill over moderate heat until you reach the desired color. You want some dark brown and even some black spots.

Flip the crust over and grill the other side. Do not let this side get as dark, but you want it to get nice and golden brown.

Flip dough back to the first side and begin building the pizza with your desired toppings. Move topped pizza to cool side of the grill and close grill. When toppings are hot and cheese has melted, the pizza is ready to serve.

Here are a few topping pairings that will make world class pizza on the grill or in the oven:

Bacon, Cheddar, Caramelized Onion & Fried Egg
4 oz Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 onion, cooked over low heat to caramelize
6 strips Niman Ranch bacon cooked and chopped
1 egg fried sunny side up

Funghi Misti, Fontina, Taleggio & Thyme
2 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in 2 tablespoons olive oil and salted to taste. Cook until all liquid has evaporated. Cool.
1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup shredded taleggio cheese
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Fontina, Mozzarella, Sottocenere, Sage & Sausage
1/3 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/3 cup shredded sottocenere (truffle cheese)
1/3 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
5 ounces Gateway Market breakfast sausage shaped into tiny balls, cooked thoroughly and slightly cooled
6 leaves sage tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt.

Goat Cheese, Leeks, Scallions, Garlic & Bacon
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1.5 cup leaks and 1/4 cup scallions cooked in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cooled slightly and seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed together with 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped raw garlic
1/2 cup cooked chopped bacon

Mozzarella, Fried Egg, Bacon, Yukon Gold Potato & Bermuda Onions
1 cup whole milk mozzarella, sliced or shredded
2 small yellow-fleshed potatoes that have been cooked, scooped from their skins and immediately smashed. While still hot, toss with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic and season with salt. Cool slightly before using.
1/2 cup sweet onion sautéed in 2 tablespoon olive oil and seasoned with salt.
1/2 cup cooked bacon, chopped
2 eggs, fried over easy
Extra cracked black pepper to top

Taleggio, Parmesan, Mashed Potato, Vidalia Onion & Chive
1/2 cup shredded taleggio
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 small yellow-fleshed potatoes that have been cooked, scooped from their skins and immediately smashed. While still hot, toss with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic and season with salt. Cool slightly before using.
1/2 cup sweet onion sautéed in 2 tablespoon olive oil and seasoned with salt.
1 tablespoon fresh cut chives sprinkled over the pizza after removing from heat

Béchamel, Mozzarella, Pork Sausage, Garlic, Onion, Banana Pepper & Jalapeño
1/4 cup Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
1 cup cubed Gateway Market mozzarella
5 ounces Gateway Market breakfast sausage shaped into tiny balls, cooked thoroughly and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup sliced mild banana peppers
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño pepper

Smoked Ham, Corn, Grape Tomatoes & Mozzarella
1/4 cup Gateway Market Alfredo sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella
5 ounces Niman Ranch ham, sliced and diced
1/2 cup corn (frozen or raw, fresh cut from cob)

Bacon, Fontina, Mozzarella & Red Onion
4 oz marinara sauce
1 cup Fontina
1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
8 slices bacon (cooked a little over half way for best results; crispy if you must)
1/2 cup diced red onion

Sausage, Ham & Bacon
4 oz marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup Fontina
5 oz sausage shaped into little balls and cooked
4 oz sliced ham
6 slices cooked Niman Ranch bacon, chopped