Grilled Margherita Pizza

Grilled Margherita Pizza
Grilled Margherita Pizza

According to legend, Margherita pizza—a simple, beautiful pizza made with crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and basil—came into being in Naples, Italy, and was so named in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito and his wife Giovanna, who owned Pizzeria Brandi in the heart of Naples. The primary ingredients represent the colors of the Italian flag, and Esposito cooked his pizza in honor of an official visit by the Italian monarchs, King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita. There are some things that contradict this story; this sort of pizza was written about in a book published in 1866, and a royal letter of commendation for their pizza has been called into question. The word margherita means “daisy” in Italian, and it’s been speculated that the name reflects the white slabs of mozzarella spreading out like petals across the dough. But, Pizzeria Brandi is still in operation today, owned by the very same family, and their story of royal beginnings endures.

The beauty of Margherita pizza lies in its simple aesthetic. It doesn’t require a sauce cooked for hours or vigorous additions of assorted meats and cheeses. It celebrates the sweetness of ripe tomatoes, the lush creaminess of fresh mozzarella, and the aromatic, pepper-mint herbaceousness of delicate basil. While we adore the Margherita, we thought that it could use one more thing, to add an earthy element to the overall balance of the dish. We decided to add a bit of Porcini Mushroom Powder.

Porcini mushrooms are found through Europe and the US, growing at the base of pine trees. They are rich, meaty, fat little mushrooms—the name porcini means “little pigs”—and they add a hearty, umami meatiness to dishes. While they’re not found anywhere in a traditional Margherita pizza, when we mixed them into the pizza dough we were rewarded with a depth of flavor that provides an exciting contrast to the brisk tomatoes and creamy cheese. Use type 00 flour to make the dough whenever possible; this very finely ground flour is made from soft durum wheat and has a lower protein content than other flours, so it creates a dough that’s crispy and not heavy or chewy. Bread flour is an acceptable substitute for 00, but it has more protein and can create a puffier, chewier product. Knead the dough until it is smooth and soft and not shaggy or sticky, then set it aside and let it rest.

San Marzano tomatoes are a type of Roma tomato that originated in the small town of San Marzano sul Sarno, grown in the volcanic soil at the base of Mt. Vesuvius, not far from Naples. This tomato has thin skin and thick flesh, and has less acidity than other tomatoes, so it’s naturally sweeter than other tomatoes. They’re canned at peak ripeness, so they consistently provide simple, rich flavor that needs little embellishment.

To add even more depth to this pizza, we decided to grill it. Grilling adds a striking smokiness that allows the flavors of the sweet tomatoes and creamy cheese to soar. You want the grill to get nice and hot to crisp the crust and cook it through before it starts to burn, and if your grill allows for zones, remember to cook over the “direct heat” zone. Then assemble all your toppings by the grill because after you put the pizza on to cook, you need to move quickly.

Once the dough is rested, roll it out on a piece of parchment so it’s beautifully thin and brush with just a bit of oil. Is the parchment paper absolutely necessary? No, but it makes it much easier to transport a piece of rolled-out dough without having it stick to itself. Carry it to your waiting grill and put it, oil side down, on the grill. Peel off the parchment paper and let the dough cook for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on if you put the cover over the grill or not. You should see the bottom of the crust start to turn brown and develop grill marks, and perhaps even a little bit of charring. Once it’s firm enough to flip without it folding on itself, oil the second side of the pizza and turn it over. Start topping right away, first with a thin coat of sauce, because too much sauce makes a soggy pizza. Add the slices of fresh, ready-to-melt mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and add a hint of smoke with Smoked Hickory Flaked Salt. Check the doneness after another 2 or 3 minutes and again, the bottom crust should be firm and golden, with grill marks and a bit of charring.

Pull the pizza off the grill and put on a cutting board. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, and take a moment to enjoy basil’s verdant aroma as it rises off the hot pizza. Cut into slices when you’re ready to eat and dig into a pizza that’s fit for a queen.  

 Print Recipe

Prep Time: 30 min.
Cooking Time: 10 min.
Cuisine: Italian
  • 1 1/2cups of warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups type 00 or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Porcini Mushroom Powder
  • 28 oz can San Marzano whole plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons Smoked Hickory Flaked Salt
  • 1 bunch fresh basil

1. Combine water and yeast and whisk to combine. Let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Add flour, Kosher Salt, and Porcini Mushroom Powder to a large mixing bowl and stir well.

3. Pour water-yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands. Once the dough comes together, knead dough. If using your hands, knead for 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead for 5 minutes.

4. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, form into balls, and wrap in plastic film. Allow to rest and rise for 2 hours.

5. Start your grill and get it nice and hot; you’re going to grill your pizza over direct heat.

6. Roll out the dough on parchment paper into 8-inch rough circles. Brush one side of rolled-out dough with olive oil.

7. Assemble all topping ingredients near the grill so they are ready to use quickly.

8. Lay the oiled side of the dough down on the direct heat part of your grill and pull off parchment paper. Cook for 3 minutes if the lid is off, or 1-2 minutes if you put the lid on your grill. Brush the top part of the dough with more oil.

9. Once the bottom side of the pizza is browned and can hold together firmly, flip the dough to cook the other side of the dough.

10. Immediately top the pizza with chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil, and Smoked Hickory Flaked Salt.

11. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the crust starts to brown and the cheese is melted.

12. Remove from grill and top with fresh basil.