I want a brick oven in my backyard. The fire pit is nice but I am looking to replicate one of my most incredible evenings in Rome. In 1994 I arrived from the States to work as a tour leader. I was jet lagged and green, but was under the care of some incredible colleagues who taught me great things and made sure that I was included in their circle of friends. After a quick nap and a couple shots of espresso, I was invited for an evening out. I was whisked away to the family home of the hotel owner where I would be introduced to a cast of characters who would be my family for the next 5 years.
We sat in the garden on a gorgeous May evening under a pergola and waited while the brick oven warmed to the perfect temperature. While we waited, bottles of the family wine were opened and passed around and the conversation - lots of Italian with some English thrown in - was spirited and entertaining. Pucci was in charge of the oven and he pulled pizza after pizza out of the oven, topping them with arugula and prosciutto or serving the plain margherita piping hot. We had our fill but there was still dough left over so at the end of the night it was thrown into the oven to make bread balls that were then slathered with Nutella or peanut butter (one of the son’s had married an American so JIF was ever-present - very unusual in an Italian home).
While I wait for my pizza oven, I make do with the grill. Grilled pizzas are the perfect option for a gathering of friends. I put out buckets filled with beer and chilled wine, par cook the pizza shells and then fill a table with fabulous toppings (this is where you have to splurge): prosciutto, grilled artichokes, pesto, roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms, arugula, buffalo mozzarella. Everyone takes turns making and grilling pizzas and while they wait they enjoy music, play bocce and take the time to catch up. It is a perfect formula for a summer get together. Just make sure you have a jar of Nutella on hand for the leftover pizza dough.
Here is my recipe for great grilled pizza dough:
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ cups semolina flour
2, ¼ oz packages of dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups warm water
3 T. olive oil
1 T. honey
In a large bowl combine the flours, yeast and salt. In a small bowl whisk together water, 1 T. oil and honey then stir the liquid into the dry ingredients. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Shape dough into a ball and transfer into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until dough doubles - about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Divide dough, make rounds and cook on baking sheet for about 5 minutes until just dry and set. Finish on grill. (Makes enough for about 6 individual pizzas)