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With the last days of summer wrapping up, I’m doing everything in my power to avoid thinking of the polar vortex that inevitably approaches, no matter how hard we will against it. Along with the endless hours spent on patios and general sense of cheeriness that fills the city, one of my favourite things about the summer is the food! No matter how lazy you’re feeling, with a hot grill, you can make an amazing summer feast out of basically any ingredients you have, and you get to cook it all while enjoying the great outdoors (preferably with a nice cold brew in hand). This summer I took huge advantage of my grill and tried cooking just about everything I could think of over the open flame. While most were quite successful, my absolute favourite grilled dish of the summer was grilled pizza! Pizzas are traditionally cooked in about 90 seconds surrounded by a flaming hot wood burning oven that reaches 600+ degrees Fahrenheit. Though our home barbecues don’t quite reach those inferno level temperatures, they are by far a home cook’s hottest (and easiest) tool. Tonight, I’m going to savour these last days of summer and have myself a pizza grilling party, and you should probably follow along and do the same (because this grilled pizza is so crispy and delicious I promise you will not regret it).
Making your own pizza can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. If you’re saving this for a weekend project, you may want to go all-out and make each ingredient from scratch. If you’re looking for a quick mid-week meal to enjoy in the backyard, no problem! There are plenty of shortcuts to take with grilling pizza that seriously cut down on prep time, but hardly sacrifice the finished product.
Let’s start with the dough. I’ve tested both the homemade and the store-bought doughs multiple times, and they both have their pros and cons. For the homemade dough, I use an instant or quick-rise yeast packet (such as Fleischmann’s that is available in most grocery stores). Just follow the directions on the back for pizza dough. I’ve had the best results when I let the dough rise in a large bowl covered with a tea towel in a warm place (turn the oven on for 2 minutes to warm up and then turn it off, keeping door closed to maintain residual warmth) for about 30 minutes. The dough will get very soft and airy, which makes really wonderful crust. I also like homemade dough because you can season it well with salt and extra virgin olive oil, making for a more flavourful crust. The downside to homemade dough is the time it takes (about 15 minutes to prep, and then 30 minutes to rise). If you’ve got an extra 15 minutes though, prepping the dough is quick and then you just let it rise while you prep the rest of the toppings and ingredients. Homemade dough is also much softer than store-bought dough, yielding a very crispy (not chewy) crust, but it also makes it more delicate to work with, especially for first time pizza grillers.
Store-bought dough is usually sold in the bakery section or sometimes in the frozen food section. It usually comes frozen so leave yourself a bit of time for it to defrost. It is a bit tougher than homemade dough, and thus it’s quite elastic and harder to roll very thinly (but it can be done!). It is more durable and less soft than homemade dough, which makes it easier to handle when placing on the grill, but yields a crust that is slightly chewier than the homemade stuff. All in all, both are great options.
Next is the sauce…and the jury’s out on this one too! I’ve tried the homemade tomato sauce starting from sweating down onions and garlic, adding homemade canned tomatoes, and then cooking the whole thing down with a number of flavourful additions such as chillies, red wine, basil, etc. Blending this yields a punchy, flavourful tomato sauce. However, I’ve also tried using very basic canned tomatoes with just a bit of basil, salt, olive oil and garlic…and the results are also amazing! There’s something so fresh and bright about this simple sauce that I’ve transitioned to pretty much only ever using this simple sauce now. But, again, if this is a weekend project (with lots of music, wine, and gossip involved in the cooking process), I say opt for option number 1 and add your flare to a sauce that will be the focal point of your pizza pie.
Finally, you’ve got to settle on the toppings. Now this is where I really can’t decide for you! If you’ve ever read any of my recipes ever, you know I usually opt for maximum flavour (kick up the spice, salt, sweet, acidic, more spice, etc. etc.). However, a well made margarita pizza with just tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil over a crispy crust (topped with hot chili flakes of course) is a beautiful thing. Below I’ve included the recipe for three different pizzas, plus a deluxe pizza which included all of the leftover toppings from the first three (and happened to be the crowd favourite). Pizza toppings are a personal thing, and I’m pretty open to most (so long as they don’t involve mixing tropical fruit with meat products, or anything related to chicken or BBQ sauce), I’ll let you decide!
Like I said, grilling pizza can be as easy as a 30-minute weeknight affair yielding a simple but delicious margarita pizza, or as complex as a weekend cooking party in the backyard resulting 12 different types of pizzas, lots of empty wine bottles, and very, VERY happy bellies. I’ll let you take the reigns. Enjoy! And please comment below with your favourite toppings, comments, and questions!
The grill is a home cook's best tool for making crispy, thin crust, delicious pizza in just minutes.
- 1 pound pizza dough (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 32 can crushed tomatoes (about 3.5 cups, or 800ml) ensure the tomatoes are unseasoned
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 basil leaves
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 250 g fresh mozzarella
Toppings for Pesto Pizza with Grilled Tomatoes
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 handful fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 handful basil
- 1 small bunch of arugula leaves
- 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- zest and juice of of 1/2 lemon
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
Toppings for Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Arugula and Prosciutto
- 1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 /2 tsbp butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 handful of arugula*
- 5 slices of prosciutto
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the sauce, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, olive oil and vinegar in a food processor, with a hand blender, or with your hands (crushing the tomatoes between your fingers). Taste and adjust for seasoning, and set aside for at least 1 hour before using to allow the flavours to meld.
Before preparing your dough for the grill, it is essential that you have all of your toppings complete and laid out on a portable tray to bring with you to the grill
Preheat grill to high heat. Just before placing the dough on the grates, clean the grate very well with a steel brush and then oil the grill by rubbing paper towel dipped in oil over the grill grates (hold the paper towel between long tongs to help you will this).
Divide the dough in 4-6 different sections (depending on how big you want your pizzas, remembering that the smaller they are, the easier they are to handle). Flour your surface and roll the dough out to desired thickness (about 1 cm). Slide the rolled dough out onto a flat, floured surface (the back of a baking sheet is perfect) and bring to the grill. Slide the dough onto the flat grill, allowing it to bubble up and cook until the underside is crisp and has nice grill marks, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip the dough (it should remove easily. If not, leave it on a bit longer) to cook the other side. While on the grill, add your sauce, cheese, and toppings to the grilled side up. Once the pizza is topped, the underside of the pizza should be almost crisp and have grill marks. Reduce the heat directly under the pizza to medium, while maintaining other burners on high. Close the grill lid and let cook about 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove the pizza from the grill, top with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil, and serve your margarita pizza immediately!
For Pesto Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes
Preheat the grill to high heat. Slice the cherry tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have) in half and place on a grill-proof baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with salt, pepper, and plenty of fresh oregano leaves. Reduce the heat directly under the tomatoes to medium, while keeping the rest of the grill very hot. Close the lid, and allow the tomatoes to cook until bubbling and roasted, about 20 minutes.
To make the pesto, combine the garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese in the food processor until combined but still a little chunky. Add the basil and arugula, and taste. Add salt accordingly.
Top your pizza with just pesto as the sauce (instead of tomato sauce), or top first with a thin layer of tomato sauce and then drizzle with pesto afterwards. Add the mozzarella cheese and roasted tomatoes, and cook with the BBQ top closed for about 3-5 minutes. Garnish the pizza with fresh basil leaves and chili flakes.
For Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Arugula and Prosciutto
In a pan over medium heat, add butter and olive oil and let melt (30 seconds). Add the sliced onions and garlic and stir to ensure everything is coated. Let the onions cook gently, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and caramelize (about 15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper, and add a dash (about a teaspoon) of balsamic vinegar if you want a little acidic kick to your pizza.
Top your pizza with a layer of tomato sauce, add the mozzarella slices, a thin layer of caramelized onions** and some prosciutto. Close the BBQ lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
While the pizza cooks, gently toss the fresh arugula leaves with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, and salt and pepper.
Garnish the pizza with fresh arugula, basil leaves, and chili flakes. Buon appetito!
*Add arugula, spinach, or parsley to your pesto to keep a bright green colour, as basil bruises and turns brown-ish quite easily (my pesto photographed does not have an extra green in it, and you can see it's colour is not very vibrant!)
**Do not add too many toppings to this pizza. Onions are heavy toppings, and you want to ensure you can pick up your slice of pizza without it being weighed down by too many toppings!