One thing I was hoping we’d be able to do following our vacation was to make one last jaunt to our local beach, and thankfully this past weekend gave us two picture-perfect days to choose from. While everyone else in New England descended upon their favorite orchard in which to go apple picking (or so it seemed based on my Facebook feed), we spent a few hours on Saturday enjoying the unseasonably warm day—warm enough to even make a quick dip into the Sound. Even with these little heat snaps though I am only too aware that we are in a new season, as daylight is slowly becoming less and less prevalent in the evening and the notion of turning on our oven isn’t completely abhorrent anymore. So what better way to mark that shift than by cranking it to full blast in order to make some pizza?
Inspired in part by a menu from a 2013 issue of Saveur, we kept things pretty simple: Negroni cocktails, arugula-tomato salad, prosciutto and mint-wrapped figs, and the Joey Special—two pizzas. Michael had the idea for the first one—a simple tomato-onion pie that I then topped with Grana Padano—while we took some inspiration from Franny’s for the second and made a meatball pizza. I cannot account for why we had yet to make it ourselves in the many times we’ve made pizza in the past, because whenever I order it I’m always really pleasantly surprised by how good it is and between the two of us we can make some really tasty meatballs. Maybe we thought it was going to entail more work since you do make the meatballs ahead of time, but all told it really didn’t take much extra effort. The key is making a well-seasoned but otherwise unfussy meatball so it will balance out the tomato sauce and the cheese, and roasting them in the oven first gives them a nice brown crust that is then finished off when the final pizza is assembled and baked.
The tomato-onion pie worked not only because of the cheese, but also in part to Michael’s decision to slice the tomatoes and onions really thinly ahead of time and letting them leach some of their liquid into paper towels instead of onto the dough. The Grana Padano (on sale and a slightly less-expensive alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano) was able to get some good browning despite not being placed under a broiler and the resulting pie was so savory and satisfying that I had to stop myself before I was too full to have any of the meatball pizza.
The prosciutto and mint-wrapped figs proved to be a perfect appetizer: small, savory, and even autumnal, but the mint added the right note of freshness that kept things interesting. I was inspired after seeing a similar crostini in Polpo but I didn’t want to add more bread to a pizza-filled meal.
The meatball pizza needs a bit of work (I really want to try it with mozzarella di bufula) but here are some recipes from the rest of our meal.
The salad can be found here, save for the fried dough pieces. I’m sure they are delicious, but so not worth the effort for what are basically croutons.
- ½ recipe of pizza dough, proofed twice
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced and left to dry on several paper towels
- 1 onion, sliced thin into half-moons (preferably with a mandoline) and left to dry on paper towels
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 4 sprigs of oregano, chopped
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- 1 ½ cups Grana Padano, grated
Turn oven to its highest setting possible. Warm up a baking stone in the process or use an upturned half-sheet pan.
Take the ball of dough and stretch it out on a cutting board, and transfer to the upturned pan lined with cornmeal. (Add the cornmeal to the baking stone right before adding the dough if using said stone.) Use a fork to fleck the middle with dots in order to minimize the crust from puffing up too much in the middle, and blind bake for about 5 minutes. Remove and drizzle with olive oil and then sea salt and then add onions, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and top with cheese. Bake for another 5-8 minutes until cheese and crust are golden brown and delicious; remove from oven and let rest before serving.