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 Lucini 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.
- 1 sprouted wheat pizza crust
- 1 jar San Marzano, drained (save juices)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ cup Romano cheese, grated
- 1½ cup whole milk mozzarella grated
- 1½ cup English smoked cheddar, grated
- ⅓ pound Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
- 4 ounces prosciutto, sliced into cubes and fried semi-crisp
- 4 whole peperoncinis, stem removed, sliced thin
- extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450°. Roll out dough or press into an oiled pan creating a slight rolled edge. Pre-bake crust for 5-6 minutes until set but not browned.
- Using your hands, crush the tomatoes between your fingers as you place them on the crust. Sprinkle with oregano and salt. Sprinkle with half the Romano.
- Mix the mozzarella and smoked cheddar together and sprinkle on a little less than half.
- Add the browned sausage, using your hands to break into smaller pieces, if desired. Then add the cooked prosciutto and peperoncinis.
- Add the final layer of the mozzarella and cheddar on top of everything. Finish with Romano and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 12-15 minutes of the middle rack until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly.
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