My absolutely favorite pizza is arugula pizza, something I’ve never seen anywhere but Italy. When my mom came to visit us in Italy recently, I decided to introduce her to arugula pizza””on the grill. (If you don’t have a grill, you can make the same types in the oven.)

Like you, I ate pizza while growing up. But let’s just say that pizza made in Africa in the 1970s was not exactly what it is today. My mom made it on days when she was making white bread and had some leftover dough; the tomato sauce was probably made using tomatoes she canned herself. Our cheese was certainly not mozzarella and had to be purchased in a large city which was at least a four-hour drive away from our home. Almost like Little House on the Prairie, right? No, rather it was the edge of the desert in Burkina Faso!

We made our own pizza dough, using the recipe for Italian Bread out of O Taste & See Some More! (p. 44)  Since I’ve shown in several blogs how to make dough by hand, I decided to make it in my mixer this time. Of course if you don’t have one, you can knead it by hand. Or, if you prefer, skip over the first few photos and buy some Italian dough if it’s available to you.  All you need for the dough is:

  •     2 1/2 C. (625 ml) warm water
  •     1 T. active dry yeast or 1 small cube of fresh yeast
  •     1 T. sugar
  •     2 tsp. salt
  •     6 1/2 – 7 C. (800-875 g) bread flour

So here’s how you make the dough using a Kitchen Aid mixer. First, dissolve some yeast in the lukewarm water. I crumbled up a cube of fresh yeast (see inset) as I’d run out of the dry yeast and haven’t found where they sell it here in Italy. If you use dry yeast, just sprinkle it in the warm water and stir it for a minute to dissolve it.

“¦then we added the sugar and salt to the mixer.

I like to leave the mixture to set for a few minutes so the yeast has time to activate, though I found that the fresh yeast didn’t really bubble up as much as dry yeast does. We poured the yeast/water into the mixer”¦

And then added 3 cups of bread flour”¦

“¦now, using the paddle attachment”¦

“¦we beat it for 3-4 minutes. The reason for using this attachment first is to incorporate the water and flour, developing gluten. Gluten gives the mixture the elasticity necessary to trap the air which you’ve helped to incorporate by beating. If you don’t have bubbles, guess what? It’s harder for the gluten to expand.

Next, we removed the paddle and attached the dough hook.

Now comes the kneading phase and the dough hook works to knead the dough around in the bowl without it getting stuck in the paddles of the previous attachment.

Then we added the remaining flour, about 1 cup at a time, kneading after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

If you’ve made dough before, you know you don’t have to precisely measure each cup…the idea is to just add enough flour to form a dough that’s stiff enough to shape, but you don’t want it so stiff that the bread or pizza is too dense.

When the dough was stiff enough, I covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise until it’s doubled in size. Some people cover it with a clean dish towel, but I’ve had the dough rise and stick to the cloth one too many times. And of course if you oil the top of the dough””which you can do””that will get oil on the cloth. I think cloths were used back before plastic wrap was invented. I’m sure my mom couldn’t even get plastic wrap in Africa during my growing-up days”¦

While the dough was rising, we prepared our toppings”¦simple tomato sauce (Sautè 1 clove of garlic in olive oil, add a medium can of tomato sauce, salt and basil””fresh or dried. Simmer for 10 minutes.)

Another topping ingredient is shaved Parmesan (or Grana Padano, the poor man’s substitute). Be sure to shave this with a vegetable peeler. It’s just  not the same thing sprinkling on the grated stuff”¦especially the stuff in the green can!

With the Parmesan we will use Arugula leaves”¦washed and cut with scissors into smaller pieces. If you’ve never eaten arugula before, it is a bit peppery and the leaves are usually shaped a bit like an oak leaf. I find it a bit too strong to use by itself as a salad, but mixed with other greens, or on top of our pizza, it’s amazing! Arugula is finding its way into more and more stores, and is extremely common in Italy. If you can’t find it where you live, consider trying young spinach leaves””and let me know how it comes out.

Our last ingredient to prepare is Caramelized Onions.

The specific instructions for these are also in O Taste and See Some More! (p. 6) or at the end of this blog. We sautèed up four large sliced onions in some olive oil, added some Balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar and cooked them until very sweet and tender.

Now, back to our rising dough”¦

Voila! After about two hours, this is what the dough looked like. We dumped it out on a floured surface”¦

“¦and sprinkled it with additional flour”¦

“¦before pinching off a piece to roll out for the pizza crust. You can pinch off any size you want, using your thumb and first finger to separate it from the larger lump of dough. Remember that smaller pieces are easier to work with, especially on the grill. And of course you’ll want to know that you can fit the crust on your grill, or your pizza pan.

My mom taught me most of my basic knowledge about cooking, so I let her show me again how she rolls out the crust. Actually, when grilling pizzas, you can make them any shape you want. Have fun with it! I’ve often made them about the size of a dinner plate, like they do in Italy, but then I found people wanted a piece of this one and a piece from that one, so now I tend to make them oblong, so we can fit more on the grill together and then cut them into manageable pieces for eating.

We put the rolled crusts onto a cookie sheet sprinkled with flour, and then I brushed both sides of each crust with lovely yellowish-green olive oil. I must say, inexpensive olive oil is one thing I’ll miss when we go to the States in August for a few months.  The olive oil gives it a wonderful flavor on the grill.

When lifting the rolled crust onto the hot grill, you have to work quite quickly so that the crusts don’t tear or spread out too much.

I think I almost burned Mom’s arm as she was helping me! But we managed to get them on the grill and cooked them for about 3 minutes, with the lid closed. You want to use a medium flame on your grill, or sufficiently cooked-down coals. If it’s too hot, the crusts will burn it quickly””I’ve done that before! But if you have the flame too low, the crust gets dried out, like a cracker.

Just lift the edge and peek underneath occasionally, flipping them over when they’re browned.

 

As soon as you flip them over, spoon on some simple tomato sauce”¦we made ours (above) but you can use a jar of purchased sauce if you prefer. My Italian friend told me that for arugula pizza, you shouldn’t even use basil, as you don’t want to compete with the flavors of the pizza. But I still put in a little”¦but no onion, etc. Just simple sauce with garlic and salt. You want to cook the second side just until it’s done, but not burnt”¦a bit of a challenge. Here’s a peek underneath our second side”¦

You might think it looks a little burnt…but I actually prefer it with that grilled flavor. Better to err on the side of over-done than underdone, I think. See what you think.

We set these first two pizzas aside on our cookie sheet to cool a bit, before dropping on some dollops of mayonnaise and spreading that around, mixing it into the tomato sauce. I know this sounds like an odd combination but trust me! It’s delicious! The mixture will be your “œglue” to keep the next ingredients attached to your crust.

Then, we sprinkled on our arugula and shaved Parmesan and tried to keep from sampling them until we finished the next pizzas!

Next we grilled the crusts for the Caramelized Onion pizza”¦after turning the crusts to the second side, we spread them with goat cheese, a soft, spreadable cheese with a tangy flavor.

It’s a bit pricey, but you don’t need a lot.

If you don’t want to use goat cheese, consider using hummus or any soft, spreadable cheese. (I’ve also used a simple white sauce (Bèchamel) and then just put dollops of goat cheese on top of the onions.)  As with the tomato and mayo mixture above, you need something to act like the “œglue” on this crust to hold on the caramelized onions, which we sprinkled on after removing the crusts from the grill.

Wow! Were they delicious! Wish I could give you a sample piece!

My mom is pretty amazing! Can you believe she’s 82 and still has folks over for a meal in her home regularly? She’s an amazing example to me. We had a great time making the grilled pizzas together”¦

…and even more fun eating them! We even shared them with the photographer! We often fold them in half to help keep everything “glued” on, like this:

When you grill pizzas, you need to just use your creativity and the ingredients available to you. Unlike baked pizzas, you can’t leave them on long enough to melt a lot of cheese, but why not try some other types like BBQ chicken and Provolone, or take a Greek twist and use black olives and Feta on a tomato sauce. Maybe even mayo with BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato). But even if you don’t have a grill, you can make a great pizza right in your oven. We tried a few the next day, using the leftover dough from our Grilled Pizzas.

Arugula and Parmesan Cheese Pizza baked in the oven. You don’t have that grilled taste…but they’re still yummy!

To make the Caramelized Onion pizza, I put the caramelized onions right on the uncooked dough, added some sun-dried tomatoes and some Asiago cheese. It was amazing!

I hope you’ll try some new pizzas this summer””maybe on the grill! Thanks, Mom, for helping to make ours!

Ciao!

Debbie

Italian Bread & Pizza Dough Recipe Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe Caramelized Onion Recipe

 

 

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