Growing up in New York, I'd never eaten a meatball pizza. Pizza is for eating out, meatballs are home cooking. It wasn't until I tasted the meatball pizza at Motorino and then at Best Pizza in Williamsburg that I discovered how great the idea is. It's two Italian-American favorites, all rolled into one spectacularly comforting dish. But like all mashups, there's a bit of finesse to getting it right. Here's how I make mine.
Why this recipe works:
- Small meatballs distribute more evenly over the pizza surface than large meatballs.
- Sautéing part of the meatball mix to flavor the sauce brings meaty flavor into every bite.
- Yield:Makes 3 pizzas, serving 4 to 6
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:1 hour, plus time for pizza dough to rise and proof
- 1 recipe Italian-American Meatballs in Red Sauce, prepared through step 5, including sauce
- 1 recipe New York-style Pizza Dough, divided into balls, proofed, and ready to stretch and top
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Medium bunch fresh basil leaves, divided
- 1 pound grated full-fat dry mozzarella cheese (about 4 cups)
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Set aside 1/2 cup of meatball mixture. Form remaining mixture into small balls roughly 3/4 inch in diameter. Set aside on a plate in the refrigerator.
Place a Baking Steel on the top rack of the oven directly under the broiler and preheat oven to highest temperature possible.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add reserved meatball mixture and cook, breaking mixture up with a spoon, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add sauce and half of basil, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.
Add meatballs, dropping them into the simmering sauce one at a time. Cook without moving until meatballs are starting to set, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn the meatballs in the sauce and continue to cook, stirring gently and occasionally, until meatballs are fully cooked, about 3 more minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a bowl or plate, taking along as little sauce as possible. Discard cooked basil.
Turn single dough ball out onto lightly flour surface. Gently press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1-inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough by draping over knuckles into a 12- to 14-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to pizza peel.
Switch broiler on to high. Spread approximately 2/3 cup of sauce evenly over surface of crust, leaving 1/2- to 1-inch border along edge. Evenly spread 1/3 of cheese over sauce. Add 1/3 of meatballs. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with basil leaves and salt. Slide pizza onto baking stone and bake until cheese is melted with some browned spots and crust is golden brown and puffed, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, sprinkle with 1/2 ounce Romano or Parmesan cheese, slice, and serve immediately. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with remaining two dough balls, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.