As much as we wanted to experience the countryside and wineries of Greve, Italy, the wood fired pizza was an equally memorable part of our excursion there. Anyone who has had the pleasure of sinking their teeth into the crisp crust, rich tomatoes, handmade cheese, and olive oil appreciates the glorious simplicity of classic Italian pizza. It is easy to see how this basic dish inspired an international culinary phenomenon.
While the classic flavors are hard to beat, Five Pies in Five Days demands ingenuity and variety, something to draw us in with the familiar yet delight with the unexpected. Italian Sausage, Prosciutto, Peperoncini & Smoked Cheddar Pizza is our second installment in the series. Beloved flavors of Italian sausage, crisp prosciutto, and spunky pepperoncini might sound more like a deli sandwich than a pizza, but you’ll forget all about sandwiches when you taste it under a smoky blanket of Seaside English cheddar.
Yes, and not to be confused with smoked cheddar that is soft or gummy—too soft to grate for pizza. Aged English smoked cheddar will be more firm with a drier texture making it easier to grate. We found Seaside English Smoked Cheddar at Whole Foods with nice smoky notes that didn’t overpower the oak-cheddar flavor. The specialty cheese section of larger grocery stores should carry something similar and there are on-line sources to check as well. A gentle squeeze will let you know if the cheese is too soft for grating; it should be firm to the touch.
Italian sausage is an anchor to this pizza, complemented beautifully by the salty prosciutto and vinegar bite of peperoncini, but we start with a jar of whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand as they are scattered on a pre-baked crust (baking the crust for a few minutes before placing the toppings prevents soggy spots). A combination of whole milk mozzarella (part-skim will work too) and smoked cheddar bring it all together, but you could easily use only smoked cheddar or add-in a smoked mozzarella if the cheddar is too dry.
Any way you slice it, this Italian pizza coupled with smoky English cheddar is a beautiful union.
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