Ingredients are Everything
Chefs say, "Ingredients are everything." Try to find the best ingredients you can and you will be rewarded with even better flavors for your pizza. The wines should be as delicious and carefully made as your pizza. I'd recommend two of the Marchese di' Frescobaldi's Tuscan red wines; Remole and Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG. The Marchese calls Remole his t-shirt wine and what a wine it is for quaffing with all kinds of pizza whether you're wearing Versace or just hanging out with your friends in a t-shirt.
The Nipozzano is a bit more refined and totally rocks with every pizza I?ve tried it with. You could serve both and have a Pizza and Wine Pairing Party where you and your guests can explore the pleasurable differences of each of these wines paired with pizza. If you can, open your wines an hour or so before you plan on sipping and let them open up or breathe. This easy action will increase your pleasure when you taste the really great pairing of pizza and wine. You could also sip the wine while your pizza is baking to notice how the wine evolves while it breathes
The Pizza Crust
I'll begin with the ultra easy - frozen pizza crust. The one I love is Pizza Romana Frozen Hand Stretched Pizza Crust that's imported from Italy by Alex Palermo. All you need to do is place your toppings on the frozen crust and throw the pizza in the oven for 6-7 minutes at 450 degrees. And your pizza creation is ready to enjoy with a glass of Italian red wine.
Go ahead, cut your pizza and serve it with pride. With just one bite you?ll know you succeeded in making your very own pizza. Now take a sip of Remole or Nipozzano Chianti Rufina and enjoy the ride down The Cheese Highway!
We'll start with a mix of hand-grated cheeses. The amount of cheese you place on your pizza is really up to you but I don?t like to fill it up with too much. Grate two handfuls of Mozzarella on the large part of your cheese grater. Then on the same grater size grate up a heaping handful of a combination of Fontina, Asiago, Parmesan and Provolone. Mix these five cheeses together and you will have made your own Five-Cheese Blend.
I went to my local farmers market and brought home some fresh oregano and fresh sweet basil. I chopped up a small handful of these and when the pizza was almost done, I opened the oven and sprinkled them all over and put it back in for a minute or so. You can also use dried herbs if you want.
When I can, I use San Marzano canned plum tomatoes for my tomato pizzas. Chefs love these because of their thin skins, thick flesh, robust taste and low acidity. I can usually find the San Marzanos that are grown with Italian seeds but farmed here in the United States. Their flavors are quite spectacular.
I take the tomatoes out of the can and cut the stem part off and squeeze out the seeds. I then drain these on paper towels as you don't want so much liquid on your pizza or it will be soggy. I cut the drained tomatoes in to 1/2 or 3/4 inch pieces.
The right equipment will make a better pizza. I chose a pizza stone that I can also use for baking my homemade breads and cookies. The stoneware actually absorbs moisture so your pizza will come out with a wonderful uniform crisp crust. I highly recommend this investment. The pizza stone I bought was the relatively light weight Sassafras Superstone Baking Stone.
- Place your pizza stone into the oven
- Pre heat oven to 450 degrees
- Take your pre-made pizza crust out of the box and wrapping
- Place the tomato pieces all over the pizza but leave the crust naked about 1 inch all around the outside
- I squirt San Marzano Tomato Paste around the pizza and mush it around a bit with my fingers to distribute it evenly - about three tablespoons of the tomato paste
- Handfuls of your own Five Cheese Blend are liberally sprinkled...remember to leave 1 inch of the outside of the crust empty
- Brush the naked part of the crust with a robust Tuscan olive oil
- Place your pizza creation on the pizza stone that's been getting really hot in the oven and wait about 6 minutes until the cheese is bubbling but not brown
- When the cheese is bubbling take your fresh herbs and scatter them on top of the cheese. Close up the oven, wait about a minute, take your pizza out and dig in. You could sip your Italian red wine while you're watching your pizza bake. This helps make the wait much more enjoyable.
Now, you know you can execute The Cheese Highway with pizza. Take a nice sniff of your wine...roll the wine around in your glass to release more flavor bursts for your Snozz to enjoy. Take a sip of your wine. Notice the nuances of the wine. Now take a bite of your pizza and make The Cheese Highway or Pizza Highway on your tongue. Take nice sip of your wine again and it will ride down The Highway. You have now experienced the pleasure of pairing red wine and your very own gourmet pizza.
Have a blast and enjoy!