Jalapeño Popper Pizza

Most pizza lovers would agree that there’s never a bad day for pizza. But someone somewhere decided that February 9th should be “National Pizza Day,” and I am here for it with a pizza that is not only delicious, but also especially appropriate for snacking during Sunday’s Super Bowl, er, “Big Game!”

Everything you love about a jalapeno popper, on a pizza!

This pizza, which is built on my go-to homemade sourdough crust, is a fun interpretation of the classic jalapeño popper, which is usually a hot pepper, stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar, then wrapped in bacon and baked.


We focused on those same ingredients, spread them out onto a pizza crust and turned it into a delicious slice. Two game day favorites, one tasty bite!

Arrange the ingredients so that every slice has all the flavors!

If you aren’t into making your own pizza dough, choose a store-bought dough from the deli department, preferably one that is about 11 ounces, and shape it by hand into a 14-inch round. There’s no sauce on this pizza—it doesn’t need it. Only mozzarella on the base, but also multiple cheeses in a homemade pimento cheese mixture (don’t worry, I’ll share that recipe, too), thumb-size pieces of smoky, salty bacon and fat chunks of fresh jalapeño, which I blistered in the same skillet I used to par-cook the bacon. You know what else would’ve been great on this pizza? Sautéed onions. Next time!


The pizza is surprisingly not all that spicy, despite having those two enormous jalapeños scattered all over it. If you desire more heat, keep some of the seeds on the jalapeños or consider adding some crushed pepper flakes at the table. Personally, we thought the pizza was just right.

The pizza steel has been a total game changer for our home pizzas. I highly recommend it!

We bake all our pizzas on a thick pizza steel, preheated for an hour at 550°F, the hottest our home oven will go. At this temperature, and with the steel, the pizza takes only 6 minutes to achieve blistered, bubbly perfection. If you’re using a stone or a pan, adjust temperature and baking time accordingly.


Jalapeño Popper Pizza

  • Servings: 6 to 8 slices
  • Difficulty: Average
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All the flavors you love in a jalapeño popper, tossed onto a homemade pizza dough. It's two game day favorites in one delicious bite!


Ingredients

  • 1 ball pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup low moisture mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 slices thick smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pimento cheese (see recipe notes about this)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

Use a sturdy pimento cheese that does not have a lot of mayonnaise. If it drips or slides off a spoon, it is too runny for this recipe. Look for an artisan brand or make my Roasted Poblano Pimento Cheese for this recipe.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 550 F, with a pizza steel on the oven rack about 8 inches from top heat element. From the time the oven reaches 550, set a timer for one hour. If using a pizza stone or pan, adjust heat and baking time accordingly.
  2. Cook bacon over medium heat in a cast iron skillet, until most of the fat has rendered but the bacon is just shy of crispy. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain off excess grease.
  3. In the same skillet, toss jalapeño chunks until they are slightly softened and the skins are somewhat blistered. Transfer to the same plate as the bacon.
  4. Shape pizza dough by hand into a 14-inch round and transfer it to a floured, cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Drizzle or brush olive oil onto the crust, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Scatter mozzarella all over dough, then arrange the jalapeño and bacon pieces. Place small dollops of pimento cheese onto the pizza, so that every bite will have a little bit of every flavor. Sprinkle minced garlic onto the pizza.
  6. Slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza steel and bake for about 6 minutes, until crust is blistered and golden and the cheeses are melted and bubbling. Serve at once.

Roasted Poblano Pimento Cheese

  • Servings: About 10
  • Difficulty: Average
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The joy of making your own pimento cheese is that you can spike it with any flavor you like! Here, I've used oven-roasted poblano chiles to complement the tangy pimentos.


Ingredients

  • 2 medium poblano peppers, cut in half and seeded
  • Olive oil spray (or 1 tsp. olive oil)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese or neufchâtel, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • A dash or two of hot sauce, to taste
  • A few quick shakes onion powder or garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp. total)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. drained jarred pimentos
  • 3 packed cups shredded or grated cheese (see recipe notes)

For best results, mix all the ingredients and adjust seasoning before blending in the cheese. Purchase whole blocks of cheese and shred it yourself, as the bagged varieties have a coating to prevent sticking and they won’t blend as well. Several varieties of cheese work great in pimento cheese, and I used a mix of Monterey Jack, American, Colby jack and extra sharp cheddar.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven on low broil setting. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (not parchment) and use the heel of your hand to press and break the poblano halves until they’re flat. Arrange them, skin side-up, on the foil. Brush or spray them with oil, and then broil until the skins are blistered and peppers are softened (about 10 minutes). Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover for 20 minutes until they’re cool enough to handle. Peel as much of the skin from the peppers as possible and then chop fine.
  2. In a fairly large bowl (you’ll need plenty of room to stir), blend together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and onion powder. Mix until smooth. Stir in pimentos and chopped poblanos. Season to taste with salt and pepper, perhaps a bit saltier than you like because the cheese will dull those flavors somewhat.
  3. Stir in the shredded cheese, one cup at a time, blending really well each time until all cheese is mixed in. Cover and refrigerate a day for best flavor.


Italian Deli Sub Pizza

If you’re looking for new ways to enjoy pizza in the new year, you don’t need to look any further than your favorite sandwiches. Ingredients that are delicious on a sandwich are usually very adaptable to pizza. After all, it’s just a rearrangement of some kind of meat, cheese and bread.

The last time we reimagined a sandwich into a pizza, my husband and I were inspired by one of our favorite hot sammies at Jersey Mike’s, the Big Kahuna, and it turned out pretty dang delicious.

All that steak, mushrooms, jalapenos and cheesy sauce could only be contained in a deep dish, and it was awesome!

Wouldn’t you know it? Jersey Mike’s has inspired me again, but this time with a classic Italian deli sub— and as I gazed down at my half-eaten sandwich, I thought, why wouldn’t these ingredients be great on a pizza?

Of course they would!

Salty cured meats and cheeses, thin-sliced tomatoes, onions and peppers, and a shredded salad topping, finished with a zesty Italian oil-and-vinegar dressing. This was so right!

We kept it thin crust this time, which means we started with my favorite sourdough pizza dough. If you haven’t the time or patience to make your own dough, check the deli department of your favorite supermarket, as many of them sell fresh dough balls. And who doesn’t love a shortcut?

All our homemade pizzas are baked on a steel, at the highest temperature our home oven can handle (550 F), so having things in order first is a must because the baking only takes six minutes. It’s best to slice and season the tomatoes and make the shredded lettuce salad before you begin building the pizza, so it’s ready to pile on as soon as the pie emerges from the oven. Green leaf lettuce has a bit more body than iceberg, but romaine would have been another good choice. A small splash of oil and vinegar dressing added the perfect finishing touch, and I used Good Seasons because it was already made up in the fridge.


For the other toppings, we cut up thin slices of pepperoni, salami, spicy ham and smoked provolone, and shredded a block of hard mozzarella.


Those were layered onto the sauce with a few shakes of oregano and red pepper flakes, then we arranged very thin slices of onion, bell pepper and pickled pepperoncini, and into the oven it went!


Six minutes later, our kitchen smelled so amazing that we debated enjoying the pizza just as it was, but the shredded lettuce salad is what made it sub-like, and that was a good call. Les sliced it first for easier serving, then we scattered on the salad and sliced tomatoes and sat down for a very tasty dinner!


This pizza had all the flavors of a classic Italian deli sub, so it was a winner! Only one thing left to say (or perhaps to ask) is, “What sandwich will be next??”


Italian Deli Sub Pizza

  • Servings: 6 slices
  • Difficulty: Average
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If you love Italian subs, this pizza will satisfy all your cravings for salty cured meats, cheese and even the oil-and-vinegar dressing!


Ingredients

  • 1 ball fresh pizza dough
  • 1/3 cup favorite tomato pizza sauce
  • 3 slices smoked provolone, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
  • 3 slices spicy deli ham, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup spicy sliced pepperoni, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced Genoa salami, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickled pepperoncini, thinly sliced on an angle (and blotted dry with paper towels)
  • A few shakes of dried oregano
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper
  • A few leaves of green leaf lettuce or Romaine, thinly shredded and tossed with 1 Tbsp. oil and vinegar dressing or prepared Italian dressing
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, thinly sliced and seasoned with sea salt and pepper

We bake our pizzas on a 3/8″ steel, preheated for one hour at 550F. If you are using a stone or pan, adjust temperature and baking time accordingly.

Directions

  1. Shape pizza dough into 14-inch round; transfer to a flour- and cornmeal-dusted pizza peel for easy transfer to pizza stone or steel.
  2. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto pizza dough, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Scatter mozzarella evenly over dough, and then arrange cut-up pepperoni, salami, ham and provolone onto pizza.
  4. Sprinkle with dried oregano and crushed red pepper to taste, and then arrange slices of pepper and onion and about half of the pepperoncini.
  5. Slide onto pre-heated stone or steel and bake at 550F for about 6 minutes, or until dough is blistered and cheeses are melted and bubbly.
  6. Transfer pizza to serving pan. Cut into slices, then top pizza with dressed shredded lettuce and remaining pepperoncini.


Eggplant Parm Pizza!

It’s been a long time since we’ve talked about pizza here on Comfort du Jour, but this one deserves a mention because it is a beautiful marriage of two classic Italian foods we love in this house. Every bite had a little bit of everything we love about eggplant parm—the crispy coating, meaty eggplant and gooey cheese—and a little bit of everything we love about pizza, especially the blistery crust and tangy tomato sauce.

This mouthwatering pie also deserves a mention because its star ingredient was grown in the first genuinely successful garden we have had in several summers. I shared a lot of tomato recipes this year but didn’t get in as many raves about the beautiful Japanese eggplant we enjoyed.

Homegrown produce rarely looks perfect. This one had a funny shape because it grew against the trellis that supported the plant! 🙂

Japanese eggplant tastes virtually the same as a typical “Italian” eggplant you’d see in the supermarket or farm stands, but its long, slender shape is distinctive and makes it suitable for smaller versions of things. My husband, Les, and I nibbled on miniature eggplant parm bites as an appetizer at least twice over the summer until he finally said, “hey, why don’t we put these on a pizza?”

Well, heck, yeah!


If you saw Les’s Veal & Eggplant Parm post a couple of weeks ago, you know that we achieved the perfectly crispy, cheesy exterior on the eggplant rounds with a careful breading—first flour, then egg wash and finally a seasoned panko crumb and Parm-Romano mixture before a dunk in hot oil. We did exactly the same with these mini eggplant slices, beginning with a 20 minute salt-and-rest time.


The crispy eggplant had plenty of flavor on its own, but we wanted to pair it with some complementary flavors, including soft, sauteed onions and a little bit of spicy sausage that I had left over from another recipe. I laid those down on a layer of shredded mozzarella, over our usual pizza sauce, with a few sprinkles of our Parm-Romano blend.

Then, the eggplant parm layer, and I spooned a bit more sauce right on top of each little medallion, then another good pinch of mozzarella to keep it nice and cheesy.


Into the 550° F oven on our beloved pizza steel, and six minutes later, we had this delicious Italian hybrid masterpiece!


This week, the temperatures in our area finally dipped below the frost point, and what was left of my summer garden is now history. I went out yesterday and plucked all the remaining green tomatoes (yep, we still had them coming in) and a whole bunch of jalapenos. This was a banner year for us in the garden department.

I can’t wait until next year! 😊


Eggplant Parm Pizza

  • Servings: One 14-inch pizza
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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This pizza was very fun to make, and a delicious marriage of two of our favorite classic Italian comfort foods.


Ingredients

  • 1 Japanese-style “millionaire” eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • Kosher salt (for sweating excess moisture from the eggplant)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with black pepper and garlic powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parm-Romano blend cheese (or regular, grated Parmesan)
  • Neutral vegetable oil, such as canola (for frying eggplant)
  • 1 ball pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling on dough
  • 2/3 cup favorite pizza sauce, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced and sauteed until soft
  • 1/2 cup cooked, crumbled Italian sausage
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided

We bake all of our pizzas on a heavy pizza steel, pre-heated in a 550° F oven for one hour. If you bake on a pizza stone, use the highest temperature recommended for your stone, and adjust baking time accordingly.

Directions

  1. Arrange the eggplant slices on layers of paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for 20 minutes, then use clean paper towels to wipe off the salt.
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Set up breading station, with one container of seasoned flour, a second with beaten eggs and a third with the panko crumbs, mixed with Parm-Romano.
  3. Dip each eggplant slice into the flour, then shake off excess and dip into the egg. Let excess egg drip from the slices and lay them into the panko crumb mixture, pressing panko onto each side for full coverage.
  4. Carefully place the breaded eggplant slices into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Turn the eggplant when the first side is golden and crispy. When both sides are done, transfer the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
  5. Shape pizza dough into a 14-inch round. Drizzle with olive oil, then swirl half of the pizza sauce onto the dough. Top with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella, reserving the rest for the top of the eggplant rounds. Scatter the sauteed onions and cooked sausage crumbles over the cheese layer.
  6. Arrange the crispy eggplant rounds onto the pizza, then divide the remaining pizza sauce and mozzarella over each round.
  7. Bake on pre-heated pizza steel for about 6 minutes, until crust edges are golden and blistered and cheese is melted and bubbling.



Zucchini & Yellow Tomato Pizza

We are turning a corner on our side-yard vegetable garden, and I am finding myself a bit flummoxed because for the first time in years, we actually have a tomato harvest! When I made the decision to plant this year—and it was definitely my decision, given that I’m the one who is home more during the day to tend to it—I swore that I would pull out all the stops in repelling the deer that reside in the woods behind us. Nothing I had tried in the past worked for more than a week, and dammit, I wanted tomatoes this year! If you have a similar problem, stop playing around with sprays and wind chimes (they don’t work anyway) and stop scattering human hair and soap shavings and whatever else you’ve tried, and just go get one of these—order it now, I’ll wait.

Here’s me, pretending to be a deer approaching from the woods…

The yard enforcer motion-activated sprinkler is by far the smartest thing I’ve bought this year, and friends, we are about to reap the benefit of so many tomatoes!

I planted an heirloom variety this year, called “Brandywine,” and they are large, sweet and juicy—perfect for tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. I am fond of the color of the Brandywine tomato—it’s sort of a blushy pink-red color, rather than the orange-red that is typical. They have a pleated sort of appearance, and a few wrinkly lines on the skin, but I don’t mind it and it certainly doesn’t affect the quality.

There’s nothing better than a simple tomato sandwich for a summer lunch!

Right next to those is a grouping of four Roma tomato plants, and I have been astonished to see how many fruits developed on these plants. They are extra-long fruits, compared to the wimpy Romas at the grocery store, and we are planning on canning a few things with those when they are ready—mainly homemade pizza sauce, I suspect. The Roma tomato is a determinate plant, which means they will likely overwhelm me by ripening all at once. I hope we’re ready!

Our sunbathing beauties!

Finally, the luscious, yellow “Lemon Boy” tomatoes, which were the first ones to ripen, and I love the slight tang they bring to my plate, despite being lower acidity than many other tomatoes. Lemon Boy is a hybrid variety, and it is indeterminate, so I’ll have plenty of fruit to harvest for a few weeks, which I love.

These Lemon Boys are the tomatoes I’m excited to share today, and of all the dishes I’ve made with them recently, this pizza stands out as a favorite because it really speaks to the transition of my garden. To date, I had struggled to keep up with the zucchini yield, and you can bet I won’t ever plant four of those again! It was about three weeks ago that I noticed vine borers had attacked my vibrant squash plant, and you know what that means—game over. I hate those things!

But we had a few squash that were near-ready, so I let them mature before I yanked the infested plants out of the garden. And just about the time I did so, I spotted this perfectly ripe, ready-to-enjoy Lemon Boy.

Hello, handsome! 🙂

I wanted to slice it on the spot and savor it with nothing but a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper, but I restrained myself and made it a co-star with one of the last zucchini of the season on this summer pie. This dish felt like a passing of the baton in my garden. As my summer squash takes its final bow, the tomatoes are right on cue for center stage, and they were terrific companions on this fresh pizza. I just love this part of summer!


This is a thin crust pizza and it begins with my favorite sourdough base. The sourdough starter and the long, slow ferment in the refrigerator gives my dough a deep, complex flavor and the texture is always just right, thanks to our beloved pizza steel. If you want to level up your pizza game with only one move, this is the thing, right here. It takes the hottest temperature your home oven can put out and intensifies it to make the most beautifully blistered crust that is crisp on the bottom and chewy on top. It’s the closest you can get to brick oven at home.


The zucchini was cut up into bite-sized bits and lightly sautéed in a bit of olive oil, and I salted the yellow tomato slices a few minutes ahead, giving the juice and flavor plenty of time to bloom. I didn’t bother taking pictures of these steps because it’s simple enough to figure out. The rest of the pizza is also straightforward, including a store-bought sauce that we love (at least until our Romas are ready), plenty of freshly shredded hard mozzarella, some thinly sliced spring onions that I picked up at the farmers’ market and a scattering of basil leaves, which have also been good to us in this year’s home garden.

Here’s how it goes, beginning with shaping the ball of sourdough. As always, thanks to my dear husband for his photography skills for this part of the show.


Zucchini & Yellow Tomato Pizza

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: average
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This dish felt like a passing of the baton in my garden. As my summer squash takes its final bow, the tomatoes are right on cue for center stage, and they were terrific companions on this fresh pizza. I just love this part of summer!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into small wedges
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling onto pizza
  • 1 large yellow tomato, sliced and salted to release excess moisture
  • 1 small spring onion (or sweet onion), thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup favorite pizza sauce
  • 1 cup shredded, low-moisture mozzarella
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan or parm-romano blend
  • Small handful of fresh, small basil leaves

Note that my method uses a heavy pizza steel, preheated at 550° F for one hour. If you don’t have a steel, use a pizza stone at the highest temperature recommended for your product. At lower temperature, baking time will require adjustment.

Directions

  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil and saute zucchini until tender. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Use a paper towel to blot excess moisture from the tomato slices.
  2. Shape pizza dough into 14″ round, and place on a flour and cornmeal-dusted peel for easy transfer to the oven. Drizzle on a small amount of olive oil and season the dough with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread on the sauce, keeping it at least 1/2″ inch from the edges of the dough. Scatter shredded mozzarella over the sauce
  4. Arrange the vegetables on the pizza, beginning with the fresh tomato slices. Follow with the zucchini bits, sliced onions and garlic.
  5. Finally, tuck in the basil leaves for a fragrant bite of summer. Sprinkle the parm-romano blend over the pizza and finish it with a quick zig-zag of olive oil.
  6. Slide onto the preheated pizza steel and bake for 6 minutes, until crust is golden and blistered and cheese is bubbly all over.
  7. Transfer to serving pan, slice and enjoy!


As a side note, it looks like I will be purchasing a second yard enforcer for next year, to keep the squirrels out of the low parts of the garden!

At least the squirrels have smaller mouths! 🙂


Steak & Potato Pizza

At our house, we have our share of classic, pepperoni-and-cheese style pizzas. But I really enjoy bringing unexpected toppings to a pizza—to shake up the pizza, yes, but also to enjoy other favorite food combinations in a new way. Just about any meal can be transformed into a pizza, and if you have any doubt, peek at my Pizza Party page to see some of the other fun combinations we’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years. Even I was surprised to see how easily Buffalo wings, oysters Rockefeller or jambalaya can be transformed into a perfect, tasty slice.

My goal with this pizza was to recreate the experience of dining at a classic steakhouse, but without the heavy, overstuffed feeling that always seems to follow a glorious meal of steak and potatoes. I knew that balsamic roasted onions belonged on this meat and potato pie, and definitely a touch of bleu cheese, but I needed a minute to figure out the sauce. A typical red sauce wouldn’t do, but I found a few things in the door of the fridge and whipped up an easy steak sauce that was tangy, spicy and just slightly sweet.

A thin crust is right for this pizza and lets the steak and Yukon gold potatoes take center stage. If you have leftover steak, slice it really thin for this pizza. Or follow my lead and use half a package of shaved steak—the kind you’d cook up for a Philly cheesesteak.  I used mozzarella on the base, but Monterey jack or any other mild, neutral cheese would be a good choice as well.


The result was just right, with enough meat to satisfy but not so much to overwhelm. The Yukon gold potatoes were soft and creamy, and the accent of bleu cheese reminded me of a real steakhouse dinner. Except, of course, for the belly bloat or the outrageous steakhouse price.


Ingredients

1 ball sourdough pizza dough

3 Tbsp. homemade steak house (recipe below, or use your favorite)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 lb. thinly shaved steak

1 large Yukon gold potato, boiled until fork-tender and sliced thin

1 medium sweet onion, roasted and drizzled with 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 oz. bleu cheese crumbles


Steak Sauce

2 Tbsp. natural ketchup

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. dark balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. hot sauce (any kind you like)

1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Thin with a little water if needed


Instructions

Prepare the onion by slicing it into thin rounds. Arrange the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Roast at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until onions have softened and the rings slide apart evenly. Drizzle with balsamic and roast another 10 minutes, taking care not to burn the onions. Set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile, boil the Yukon gold potato until it can be pierced with the tip of a knife, but not to the point of being too soft. Let the potato cool completely, then cut it into slices about 1/4” thin.

Sear shaved steak in a small amount of olive oil just until lightly browned. Shred steak into smaller, bite sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to make the pizza.

Shape pizza dough into a 14” round and transfer to a floured and cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Season the dough with salt and pepper, then swirl on about 1/4 cup of the steak sauce. Scatter mozzarella all over the sauce. Arrange the shredded steak over the cheese, followed by the potato slices and the balsamic onions. Place dots of bleu cheese crumbles over the top of the pizza.

Slide the pizza into a very hot (550° F) oven, preferably onto a pizza steel or stone. Bake for 6 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown.




Hot Italian Sausage & Cherry Pepper Pizza

Anybody who doesn’t get excited about pizza has, well, never had a good one. That’s my philosophy, and it’s one of the many reasons my husband, Les, and I are so darn compatible. Our tenacity in searching out the best foods is another. It is not possible for me to pass on reading an article about food—whether it relates to a trend, a signature dish or a hot new restaurant. Les is the same. So when we found ourselves at Modern Apizza in New Haven, Connecticut, near the end of our summer vacation, it was pretty much heaven for both of us.

You have to say it like the locals do… it’s Modern “Ah-Beetz!”

Our visit was not by chance; it was intended to be a highlight from the very start of our vacation planning, and we worked other aspects of our trip around it. That’s how seriously we take our pizza. And we had a big inside connection that won me a behind-the-scenes tour of the place, through the kitchen and prep spaces, and all the way down to the basement where they make more sauce and dough than I have ever imagined.


How did I have such an opportunity, you might wonder, to be invited into the heart of this business that is 650 miles from my home? Easy. Les knows the owners! During what seems like a lifetime ago, when he lived in the New Haven area, Les owned a home two doors down from Bill and Mary Pustari, who bought Modern Apizza in 1988 and continued the long tradition of excellence there that had begun in 1934. After a few years owning the place, they expanded the dining room and added a second, oil-fired brick oven to their kitchen to keep pace with the popularity of their amazing pizzas.

When Les reached out to his old friends to inform them of our plans to visit New Haven, they were gracious to offer me a tour of the restaurant, to witness the magic up close and personal. For me, it was as exciting as many of the backstage events I had experienced during my radio years and one of the biggest highlights of our entire trip, and I’m excited to share my experience, and the pizza it inspired me to make at home. But first—lunch!

Oh, YUM!

Our server, Arianna (who also happens to be a daughter of the owners), didn’t hesitate when we asked which pizza is most popular with their customers.

“Hands down, the Italian Bomb,” she said. Well, sure, the one with sausage, bacon, pepperoni, mushroom, onions, peppers and fresh garlic, of course! That sounded like a lot to chew on for lunch, and we decided on a half-and-half pizza (kind of amazing they are willing to do that), with artichoke hearts and eggplant on one side, and Italian sausage with hot cherry peppers on the other. Both combinations were delicious, but what I could not get over was the complex flavor and chewy-but-crisp texture of the crust, and I was about to come face-to-face with the signature ingredient that gives Modern Apizza a culinary edge over its competitors.


When it was time for my “backstage” tour, Bill took me first through the kitchen, and then to the original oven, which they still fire up when business is booming. An oil-fired oven is an incredible sight, and when Bill informed me that the coolest spot in the oven is 700° F, I couldn’t resist asking what the hottest temperature in the oven was. Care to guess?

Modern Apizza’s original brick oven, still in action after all these years.

“The temperature of fire,” Bill answered. Wow!

From there, Bill led me downstairs to the basement of the restaurant and to a very special, very old refrigerator that is home to a very old resident—and the secret to their flavorful dough—a sourdough starter!

They call this glorious culture “The Bitch.”


Despite her unbecoming name, The Bitch is a beloved member of the family at Modern Apizza. They feed her every day, and if there is ever a weather emergency or power outage, she goes home with someone for safekeeping. Bill told me that several years ago, he wanted to take Modern’s pizzas to a new level, so he got a bit of a 100-year-old starter from a local French bakery, and that ushered in a whole new chapter in Modern’s history. This revelation thrilled my sourdough-loving heart to pieces and connected the dots on why our lunch pizza reminded me of home.

I got more confirmation about my pizza-at-home techniques when we went back upstairs to the kitchen, where William (also a Pustari) and George worked in harmony with Jesse, the oven guy, preparing pizzas to order for their customers, at an astonishing rate of two pizzas per minute. Honestly, I wanted to throw on an apron and jump in on the action!

They have this down to a science!

From the shaping of the dough, the order of topping ingredients, the high-heat baking and the natural leavening of the pizza dough itself, I left Modern Apizza feeling that I was doing something right—or, really, doing a lot of things right, at home. All my research, trial and error had put me on the right pizza path, and that is a very good feeling. Before I share my home pizza that was inspired by this visit, can you stand just a little more bragging on Modern Apizza?


Despite the extra time it takes his prep crew, Bill is committed to doing right by his community. All those cans for the tomato sauce get recycled. He purchases sausage from a local butcher, serves local Foxon Park soft drinks, and Modern’s mozzarella comes from Liuzzi’s, the same Italian market Les and I had visited earlier in the week. Just before he arrived at the restaurant, Bill had met with a farmer to purchase local tomatoes to be used on the fresh tomato pizza which is, of course, a New Haven classic. All these neighbors supporting each other and finding great success—kinda makes me want to live in New Haven!


Ingredients

1 ball sourdough pizza dough* (see notes)

2 hot Italian sausage links, casings removed

1/2 medium onion, chopped

About 1/2 cup pickled hot cherry peppers

1/3 cup pizza sauce

1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella*

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

A handful of parm-romano blend cheese

Extra virgin olive oil


*Notes

Sourdough was the key to the great flavor we experienced at Modern Apizza, and it’s my go-to pizza dough at home. My favorite recipe is linked in the ingredients list, and I recommend using a pizza steel and the hottest temperature your home oven can handle. My dough ferments in the refrigerator, but I bring it to almost-room temperature when I’m ready to shape and bake it.

Use firm, whole milk mozzarella for best results—and yes, you absolutely should shred it yourself rather than using pre-shredded, pre-bagged cheese. Pre-bagged cheese may be convenient but it is coated with a powdery substance that prevents clumping in the bag, which unfortunately for use on pizzas also prevents even melting. So please shred your own; it’s worth it.


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 550°F, with the oven rack positioned about 8 inches below the top element and a pizza steel in place for a solid hour at temperature.
  2. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Crumble up the Italian sausage and brown it until some of the edges are just developing a crust. You want it to hang onto its moisture for the most part, as it will cook again in the oven. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until they are softened. Transfer the meat and onions to a bowl and cool completely.
  3. Drain the cherry peppers and pat them dry on layers of paper towel. Chop them into bite-sized pieces.
  4. When the oven is ready, shape the dough into a 14” round and transfer to a flour- and cornmeal-dusted pizza peel, which will make it easy to slide the pizza into the hot oven.
  5. Swirl pizza sauce over the dough, then scatter parm-romano and mozzarella evenly. Arrange the cooked sausage and onions over the pizza, and follow that with the cherry peppers.
  6. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the toppings and quickly transfer the pizza to the hot oven for about 6 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and bubbly and the edges of the crust are browned and blistered.

We love having a taste of New Haven at home!


New Haven-style Fresh Tomato Pizza

Right here in the middle of gray, dull, Dry January, I think we could all enjoy a warm-weather trip down memory lane, and a taste of sweet summer tomatoes like the ones on this pizza. I’ve been waiting many months to share this story with you, and because this month is such a drag, I’m actually thankful that it took me so long to get to it. Life has been busy since we wrapped up our kitchen remodel, but now that the holidays are behind us, I’ve been looking at these pictures again and remembering the sweet time my husband, Les, and I had on our vacation through New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Our road trip presented a unique opportunity for me to do one of my favorite things—research of famous local foods—and this time, I was studying different but not necessarily opposed pizza styles. And after my extensive research (which was essentially just eating a lot of pizza), I have a confession. More of an announcement, really. For all the times I have claimed victory in the challenge to make homemade pizza that rivals my husband’s memory of his beloved N.Y.-style pizza, I stand corrected. My pizza at home does not at all rival the pizza of New York. It rivals a completely different style of pizza.

New York pizza is, of course, known for its gigantic slices and an ultra-thin and crispy crust that is easy to fold for eating on the run as you dash off to catch the subway or, if you’re lucky, a Broadway show. We had a taste of this N.Y. pie on our day trip into the city last August, as we stopped at one of the more acclaimed pizzerias, Bleecker Street Pizza. A friend of ours who is a native New Yorker (like my hubby) swears it is the best, so we put it on our “must do” list.

Legendary pizza slices, served up daily!

Notice their media props outside? Those are well-deserved, and the pies looked great, with the seasoned tomato sauce swirled out onto the dough (as I’m still learning to do at home, with hubby’s coaching) and, of course, all that cheese. It was good, but the crust didn’t feel or taste like the one I have developed at home—the crust that Les says is “just right.”

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect the Bleecker Street dough was dusted with rice flour. This is a simple trick that puts a crackling-crisp texture on the bottom crust and it’s good for reheating the slices, as they do to order, but it does not add flavor. Our research into pizza excellence would continue the next day, because we had plans to visit another legendary pizza town—New Haven, Connecticut. And that’s where I had my epiphany.

Greetings from New Haven, home of a whole different kind of pizza.

Les spent 19 years in the New Haven area, and I have heard plenty from him about various food joints he loved there, and especially about the white clam pizza, which we have worked to perfect over the past few years and now serve at home every New Year’s Eve. A random internet search for this unusual seafood pizza will lead you directly to New Haven, and particularly to Frank Pepe Pizzeria, which has been making white clam pizza since 1925. My mouth was watering from the time we arrived just before noon, and for the entire 30-minute wait, as there was a line of hungry pizza lovers wrapped all the way around the restaurant. We had waited so long for me to have a taste of real Frank Pepe’s pizza, we ordered three of them!

The crust on the first pizza—roasted red pepper with pepperoni—seemed instantly familiar, with more of the character I had been making at home, and Les agreed it was superior to the pie we had enjoyed the day before on Bleecker St. And there was something different about the flavor of the dough as well, something more complex, and we supposed it had to do with the higher heat ovens than what is used in the N.Y. pizzerias.

Frank Pepe’s uses an enormous coal-fired oven with a brick floor, and the pizzaolo has a pizza peel with a handle that is about 7 feet long—giving him access to load and spin the pizzas in the oven, but at a safe distance from the intense heat.

The coal-fired oven at Frank Pepe’s must be enormous inside, because they are churning out pizzas every few seconds.

My interest was piqued when the other two pizzas arrived at our table. First, there was a fresh tomato pizza, which is a limited-season thing and quite a big deal in New Haven, and it was very fresh and bright, exactly like summer. Finally, the legendary white clam pizza, and I was certain it would be pure nirvana for my taste buds.

Sometimes your imagination (or even your memory) of something can outrank the real thing and maybe that’s what happened, but it wasn’t until I finally dared to lean across the table and whisper the words, “I think ours at home is better,” and Les instantly agreed, that the reason occurred to me. As quickly as they were churning out specialty pizzas at Frank Pepe Pizzeria, there is no way they can manage using freshly shucked clams, as we do at home every New Year’s Eve. Nope, these clams had to be from a can. Still, the crust was very good and more like the one that Les has encouraged me to emulate. What I didn’t like was the dusty black char that was prevalent across the bottom of the pizzas, and even a bit on top of my white clam slice—it was the stuff we avoid at home by scraping off the hot steel before sliding another pizza into the oven. But I get it, they are slammed busy with a line out the door even as we left. Overall, it was still a great experience, and we boxed up our leftover slices to continue our journey through New Haven.

We had one more pizza joint to experience and it turned out to be the best of the bunch, not only for the pizza but for the overall experience. So much so, in fact, that it deserves its own post—tomorrow!

Until then, please enjoy this recipe—my own—for fresh tomato pizza, which I created at home the first weekend after we returned from our trip!

We don’t have a huge, coal-fired oven, but we are still getting it done at home!

My version used farmers’ market, late-season heirloom tomatoes and some fresh basil I plucked from a plant that was growing on my kitchen counter. It was post-Labor Day, but we were technically still in the final days of summer, and this pizza captured all the beautiful freshness of that.

The base, of course, is what I have long called My Real N.Y. Pizza Dough, but obviously I will have to update that because my careful, ahem, “research” proved my dough more closely resembles what the locals in New Haven call “apizza.”


Ingredients

2 heirloom tomatoes, cut in 1/4’’ slices

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ball of pizza dough at close to room temperature

1/3 cup simple tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. parm-romano blend cheese

About 3/4 cup freshly shredded whole milk mozzarella

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Extra virgin olive oil


*Notes

As always, the oven should be as hot as a home oven goes—550°F.  and heated for an hour with a heavy pizza steel for the best-ever, crispy texture. If you do not have a steel, use a pizza stone and preheat to the hottest temperature possible for your particular stone. This combination of steel or stone and very high heat will emulate the brick oven baking that makes this style of pizza so special.


Instructions

Spread the tomato slices out onto a large plate and sprinkle kosher salt over them. Be generous with the salt, as it will draw out excess moisture, concentrating the flavor of the tomatoes. Let this rest 20 minutes while you enjoy a cocktail (or whatever you do before dinner). Transfer the tomatoes to layered paper towels and pat dry. I actually poured the salted tomato juice from the plate right into my martini for a savory twist. When Dry January is over, I may do that again! 😉

Shape the dough into a 14” round and place it on a flour and cornmeal-dusted peel. Swirl on sauce, then sprinkle parm-romano evenly, not minding if some of it lands on the dough edges. Scatter the mozzarella on top, give it a few quick twists of freshly cracked black pepper, and arrange the drained tomato slices and basil leaves. Lightly drizzle the top of the pizza with olive oil and dash it off into the screaming-hot oven for about six minutes.



Ultimate Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza

“Live, from Leftover Land!” Wouldn’t that be a fun name for a game show featuring contestants presenting their most creative effort with post-Thanksgiving overflow? At our house, we tend to go all out on Thanksgiving, regardless of whether we have a houseful or a handful of guests. This year, it was the latter, but that did not stop us from cooking a 17-pound bird. It was my year for the turkey, and I broke one of my own cardinal rules in my decision to try a new method, dry brining. My leap of faith paid off, big time, with a juicy, extremely flavorful bird. And now, there’s a bunch left over.

They say “don’t experiment on Thanksgiving,” but this risk paid off in a BIG flavor kind of way.

No matter who cooks the turkey (we alternate years, as part of our pre-marital agreement), the question of how to use the leftovers is always a big one at our house. I adore a good turkey sandwich on homemade bread, but I hardly ever have fresh bread at Thanksgiving, which probably seems strange to anyone who knows my love for sourdough. Despite my best intentions, I did not even save enough time to make the soft dinner rolls that I thought would be so perfect for miniature turkey sandwiches. But I am working today on a loaf of my favorite sourdough sandwich bread to remedy that situation. And Les is pitching in, too. He has all the ingredients he needs for one of his favorite Thanksgiving leftovers—a turkey shepherd’s pie, which also makes excellent use of our leftover garlic mashed potatoes (another of his recipes, and one that we don’t ever seem to make in small quantity). I intend to use up more of the leftover bird in some spicy turkey enchiladas, using handmade corn tortillas, at some point over the next two days before the leftover police come knocking. Food safety experts recommend using the leftovers within a few days, so time’s a ticking and I’ll be on top of it.

In the meantime, we brainstormed ways to bring all the favored flavors of Thanksgiving to a pizza, and this was our result—a deep-dish crust that tastes like sage and onion dressing, with sausage, turkey, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, all topped off with a quick drizzle of spiced cranberry mayonnaise. The best thing about this pizza (other than the fact we enjoyed it with friends we haven’t spent quality, sit-down time with since before COVID began), was that prep was minimal. Everything was already done on Thanksgiving itself, so it gave us more time to relax over cocktails and simply enjoy the company.

Whether your favorite thing is the turkey or the sides, it’s in there!

If you are struggling with leftovers, give this a try, even if your leftovers look different from ours. This pizza does not rely on traditional Italian ingredients, so you can skip the mozzarella. We used shredded gouda cheese in the base of the pizza, then arranged the other toppings in a way that afforded us a good, balanced bite in every thick, delicious slice.

The holidays are coming at me fast this year, as Hanukkah began last evening and that can only mean one thing. Latkes! Stay tuned…

Coming soon…

Ingredients

1 batch deep dish pizza dough* (see notes)

8 oz. gouda cheese, shredded

1/2 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, crumbled and cooked just until no longer pink

3 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped

1/2 sweet onion or leek, trimmed and chopped

1 generous cup leftover cooked turkey (we used mostly dark meat)

3 spinach balls, torn into bite-sized pieces

A few dollops of leftover garlic mashed potatoes

1 generous cup roasted sweet potato cubes

1 cup cut green beans, drenched in vegan mushroom gravy

Several spoonfuls leftover turkey gravy

1 handful French-fried crispy onions

Cranberry mayo:

Combine 1/2 cup leftover cranberry sauce and 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise in a smoothie blender. Or flip the ratio if you want it creamier and less tangy. What you don’t use on the pizza will be fantastic on sandwiches!

I considered putting cranberries on the pizza, but decided a cranberry mayo was a better way to go. Whip it up in a smoothie blender.

*Notes

For the dough this time, I used the basic recipe from my post for Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza, but with a few Thanksgiving flavor additions—I added a teaspoon Bell’s seasoning (similar to poultry seasoning) to the flour ingredients and kneaded in about two tablespoons re-hydrated minced onion. These simple adjustments gave us a crust that had all the flavors of Thanksgiving stuffing, a great base for our pizza.


Instructions

Preheat oven to 450° F with rack in center position of the oven.

Stretch the risen dough into a 14-inch deep dish pan. If it springs back too much, cover and rest it 15 minutes, then proceed.

Scatter cheese over the entire bottom of the dough, then layer on the sausage, celery and onions. Follow that with a scattering of leftover turkey, sweet potatoes and a few dollops of leftover mashed potatoes. Top it off with the green bean casserole mixture and a few spoons of turkey gravy here and there.

Bake for 25 minutes, then sprinkle the fried onions on top and bake 10 minutes more. Allow the pizza to rest for 10 minutes before transferring to a flat pizza pan and slicing. Drizzle with the cranberry mayonnaise just before serving.

Do you notice how Nilla is never far away when the food is being served? ❤


Cheesy Stuffed Crust Supreme Deep-Dish Pizza

Every so often, I get a kick out of looking at the National Day calendar, which reminds me of the non-official occasions I can choose to celebrate on a given day. For example, yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I didn’t mark the occasion because that felt ridiculous.

Perhaps it is a bit of serendipity, or just coincidence (which my husband, Les, does not believe exists) that I discovered today, Sept. 20, is both National Pepperoni Pizza Day and National String Cheese Day. The two seemingly separate “events” are both going to be recognized with this insanely over-the-top deep-dish pizza that we made at our house a full three months ago. Sometimes, in the rush to get something else posted on the blog, I end up putting some delicious thing on the back burner. In this instance, it worked out, because this pizza, which I dubbed “Go Big or Go Home,” happens to be perfect for this day. The toppings included pepperoni, but also sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and a ton of cheese, and the Chicago-style crust had a circle of string cheese strips enclosed all around the edges.

So much Italian flavor in here and soooo much cheese!

We had been dreaming about a cheesy stuffed crust pizza for a while, but I had a hard time imagining how to keep thick mozzarella sticks secured inside the dough without making a square pie. My solution was to tear the string cheese into strips and then overlap the strings in layers all the way around. Why didn’t that occur to me sooner? It resulted in a perfectly cheesy, ooey-gooey pizza experience, and made it one of the most fun versions of a deep dish that we have made (so far 😉).


Ingredients

1 recipe deep dish pizza dough (see my previous post for Chicago Deep Dish or use your own)

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

5 sticks of mozzarella string cheese, pulled apart into about four strips for each

1 packed cup shredded whole milk mozzarella, divided

1/2 cup cooked Italian sausage (we used a spicy variety)

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped and sauteed

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped and sauteed

About 20 pieces thinly sliced pepperoni

1/2 can San Marzano tomatoes, drained and squeezed by hand

A few spoonfuls of your favorite prepared pizza sauce

Several shakes of your favorite Italian seasoning blend


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F, with oven rack in center position.
  2. Add olive oil to a 14-inch, deep dish pizza pan and swirl it around. Shape the pizza dough, leaving as much extra dough around the edges as possible.
  3. Arrange the strips of string cheese, overlapped so there is plenty of cheese thickness all the way around the edges of the pizza dough. Gently stretch and pull the edges of dough over the string cheese strips and press to seal it to the base of the dough. Portion half of the shredded mozzarella onto the base and use your hands to press it firmly into the base of the pizza and also to cover the stuffed crust seam.
  4. Layer on the cooked Italian sausage, then the peppers, onions and mushrooms. Arrange slices of pepperoni generously all over the pizza. Scatter the crushed canned tomatoes randomly over the pepperoni, and then drop a few spoons of pizza sauce in-between the tomatoes and spread it lightly.
  5. Sprinkle the pizza, including the dough around the edges, with your favorite Italian seasoning blend. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella, along with any remaining strips of string cheese, on top of the pizza.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. The cheese will be lightly browned and bubbling also. Let the pizza cool in the pan for 8 minutes before transferring it to a pizza tray. We use a large pancake turner and a wide fish spatula to get under the pizza to move it. Alternatively, cut the pizza right in the pan and serve up the wedges.

See? Go big or go home!


My Big Fat Greek Pizza

If this were a normal year, the Greek Orthodox church in our city would not have had a long line of cars snaking around it this past weekend, with drivers waiting to purchase prepared food in white Styrofoam take-out boxes. It would not have been nearly so quiet, and it would not have been the impersonal experience my husband, Les, had when he picked up our Saturday night meal. The string of taillights ahead of him and the line of vehicles in his rear-view mirror were a stark contrast to a “normal” mid-May visit to the church’s annual fundraiser.

The Greek Festival should have been a noisy, three-day celebration for all ages, packed with singing, music, dancing, eating, drinking and intermittent yells of, “Opa!!!!” There would be authentic heritage costumes and colorful art for sale and scheduled history lessons inside the Orthodox Church sanctuary. But this has not been a normal year, nor was it last year, when the Greek Festival was cancelled altogether for safety reasons. This year, at least, the church gave it a go by offering drive-through pickup of its most popular food items—some prepared and some frozen. Sadly, the take-out box did not do my hot meal any favors, but I have higher hopes for the spanakopita we tossed into the freezer.

The food is one of the things I usually love most about the Greek Festival, and you can bet I will be there next year when things (hopefully) look more normal. The flavors of the Greek culture are so bold and fresh, and I cannot resist applying them to foods that don’t necessarily speak Greek, including this inspired pizza.

This pie has all my favorite Greek flavors in one bite!

Les and I enjoyed this one a couple of months ago, and I am finally sharing it here on Comfort du Jour. We have a regular tradition of Friday night pizza at our house, and though we do enjoy a classic Italian sausage or pepperoni pie, you know I also love to twist them up with other flavors. Visit the Pizza Party page for a quick review if you are looking for some new topping ideas.

For this tantalizing “Big Fat Greek Pizza,” I started with my own N.Y.-style pizza dough and a simple tomato sauce base, the same as I would use on a traditional Italian pie. Next, I crisped-up bits of “Greek God” sausage, an offering of one of our local butcher counters. The sausage is full of bright herbal flavors—oregano, basil, garlic and rosemary—and I had been imagining it on a pizza for quite some time, though I’m quite sure this pizza would be just as good with no meat. I piled on spinach, red onions, Kalamatas, fresh cherry tomatoes and a whole bunch of feta, and that should have been “Greek” enough. But my favorite part was the dollops of cool cucumber-garlic tzatziki that went into place after the pizza emerged from the oven. The combination of all these ingredients was like a flavor explosion, giving me my very own Greek festival, all in one delicious bite.

Opa!!!


Ingredients

Tzatziki:

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, stirred

2 Tbsp. half and half

1/4 cup diced cucumber, seeded and patted dry

1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tbsp. fresh dill leaves, chopped (chop some extra for sprinkling over the finished pizza)

Combine ingredients and keep refrigerated until ready to serve pizza.

Pizza:

1 ball pizza dough (here’s a link for My Real N.Y. Pizza Dough*, if you’d like to try it)

About 1/4 cup pizza sauce or fresh tomato sauce

A few shakes of grated parm-romano blend

1/2 cup shredded firm mozzarella

1 link cooked and sliced Greek God sausage* or similar product (see notes)

1/2 medium red onion, sliced

1 fat handful baby spinach leaves

Handful of pitted Kalamata olives*, roughly chopped

6 or 7 cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and halved

3/4 cup fresh feta, crumbled*

Additional chopped fresh dill, for serving


*Notes

If you decide to try my version of N.Y. pizza dough, note that it takes a few days’ time in the fridge, so plan accordingly. This recipe is intended for a thin-crust pizza, and my heating and bake time instructions are specific to baking on a pizza steel or stone. If you prefer to bake on a pan or at lower temperature, adjust your baking time to your preferred method.

The “Greek God” sausage I used for this pizza is a specialty product from a specific local grocery. It is a fresh pork sausage, seasoned with basil, oregano, garlic and rosemary, and we cooked (actually, smoked) it prior to using it. Any mild pork, chicken or turkey sausage would make a fine substitute, or you could easily omit the sausage altogether. The other flavors on this pizza are more than enough to elevate your happy.

Kalamata olives are specifically grown in the Kalamata region of Greece, and they are not the same as inexpensive, canned “black” olives. They are more oblong than round, and they are usually packed in a briny liquid with wine or olive oil. It’s easy to find them in jars or on specialty olive bars, if your supermarket has one. They can be a little pricey, but as far as I’m concerned, they are worth their weight in gold. Be sure to select pitted olives for this recipe, unless you find it exciting to crack a tooth.

I prefer to use fresh blocks of feta, as it has better flavor and texture than most crumbled feta. If the feta block is packed in brine, be sure to pat it dry with paper towels before crumbling, to minimize excess moisture.


Instructions


  1. Preheat pizza steel for one hour at 550° F, or the recommended temperature for your pizza stone, with oven rack about 8 inches from the top heat element. If using a metal pan, place rack in lower third of oven.
  2. Prepare toppings: sauté red onion just until softened, then sauté spinach until wilted. Transfer both to a dish to cool.
  3. Shape pizza dough into a 14-inch round and transfer to a floured pizza peel that is dusted with cornmeal (or place on a greased pizza pan). Brush or spray dough with olive oil, and season with kosher salt and a few twists of black pepper.
  4. Spread tomato sauce evenly over the dough, all but 1 inch around edge.
  5. Distribute the shredded mozzarella, then the cut-up, cooked sausage pieces (if using), onions and spinach, Kalamatas, tomatoes and feta cheese.
  6. Transfer pizza to preheated steel or stone, and bake for about 7 minutes, until crust is golden brown and toppings are bubbling.
  7. Arrange small dollops of tzatziki sauce over pizza, sprinkle with remaining dill leaves.

Interested in more delicious, Greek-inspired recipes?