If there’s one indelible piece of wisdom fourth grade instilled in us, it’s that pizza parties are the only parties that matter. Want to teach a bunch of 10-year-olds the joys of reading? Bribe them with a pizza party. Want to convince a bunch of teenagers to set their apathy aside for a moment of school spirit? Bribe them with a pizza party. Want your adult friends to show up at your home with some really nice bottles of wine? Bribe them with a pizza party.
In the heat of the summer, a grill in your backyard can act as the centerpiece of a great pizza party. Guests can help stretch the dough, customize their pies, and delight in the novelty of an ongoing, relaxed, off-the-cuff dinner menu. It will taste so much better in your backyard than at an expensive, hip restaurant. As Ken Forkish, author of The Elements of Pizza, writes, “The hidden reality of pizza is that you can easily make better pizza at home than you can buy at any but the best independently owned, quality-focused pizzerias.” With just the tiniest bit of ingredient prep and a hot fire, you will be ready to roll.
Whether you’re picking some pizza dough up from the store or making your own, it’s a good idea to have your dough ready for action. Form the dough into softball-sized mounds, and set them on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover them with a dish towel until you’re ready to use them.
The best pizza sauce takes about 30 seconds to make. Open a large can of good-quality (like San Marzano) crushed tomatoes. Stir in a healthy few tablespoons of good olive oil and a few pinches of kosher salt.
To keep omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans all happy, it’s a good idea to have a balance of great meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Prosciutto, coppa, and sopressata are all great meat options, and they tend to come pre-sliced and ready to go. It’s smart to have a balance of soft and hard cheeses — a few rounds of fresh mozzarella, some grated Pecorino Romano, and maybe some fresh ricotta for white pizzas.
To add some seasonal summer ingredients, consider sprinkling some asparagus shavings or thin slices of grilled eggplant or zucchini. You might try some pickled onions or peppers for a little bit of crunch and acidity, or olives for a briny saltiness.
Finish with some chili flakes, honey, or some fresh arugula or basil for a burst of green freshness. Ken Forkish’s “Brooklyn Hot Honey Pie” combines coppa, pickled onions, honey, and chili flakes in a sweet-hot-crunchy tribute to Paulie Gee’s Pizzeria in Greenpoint.
Throwing it on the Grill
When your grill is hot and ready, stretch a ball of pizza dough on a lightly floured surface into a thin circle. Brush the top generously with olive oil, and then pick up the dough, flipping it carefully onto the grill, oil-side down. Brush the exposed side with olive oil, and after about 2 minutes, flip the dough over, using a set of tongs. Working quickly, add your sauce, cheese, and other toppings, and put the lid on the grill. After about 5 minutes, your pizza should be ready to eat.