Why It Works
- The burst cherry tomato sauce is cooked quickly in a skillet right in the outdoor pizza oven as it heats up for baking the pies.
- Using a dough specially formulated for high temperature outdoor pizza ovens produces perfectly baked pies with a crisp bottom and tender crust.
One of the many things I love about my outdoor tabletop pizza oven, aside from its compact size and blazing hot running temperatures, is that it is ready to rock in less than a half hour. I've had two previous backyard pizza and bread ovens, and each of them took hours to heat up, which meant I used them only when I had enough time to set aside. Having one that's ready in a matter of minutes means I can make pizza whenever I want, so long as there's dough in the fridge.
Another great thing about having an outdoor pizza oven is that you can do your cooking al fresco, which is especially nice when temperatures make working in a sweltering kitchen untenable, and generally nice whenever the weather is pleasant. Which is why when I started working on these composed pizza recipes, I decided to look for ways to make the most of the excess heat generated by the oven as it heats up, in the name of efficiency and minimizing post-pizza party kitchen cleanup.
For this particular recipe, my goal was to make a classic burst cherry tomato sauce for the base of the pies in a skillet set right in the oven while it heats up. To amp up the sauce’s sweetness, I add sliced shallots, sizzling them in olive oil along with sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes before I add the cherry tomatoes. And for added depth of flavor, I turn to woodsy herbs—thyme and rosemary—which complement the fresh acidity of the tomatoes. It’s important to cook the sauce just until the tomatoes begin to burst and char; it should be saucy, not over-reduced. In the time it takes to get yourself set up for stretching and topping your dough, the pectin from the tomatoes will help tighten the sauce up to the perfect consistency as it cools slightly. Paired with Parmesan and fresh mozzarella, this is a fresh spin on the most iconic of pizza ingredient combinations.
- 1 recipe pizza dough for an outdoor pizza oven
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium shallots (40g), thinly sliced crosswise into rings
- 4 medium garlic cloves (20g), thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; if using table salt, use half as much by volume
- 2 pints (1 1/2 pounds; 675g) cherry tomatoes, halved if large
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces (340g) fresh mozzarella, torn into 3/4-inch pieces and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to rest in proofing containers, covered, at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before baking. Dough temperature should reach 60°F (15.5°C) before stretching and baking; exact timing will depend upon ambient temperature.
Heat pizza oven to 800°F (425°C). While oven heats, in a 10-inch stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel skillet, combine oil, shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Set skillet in pizza oven and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, and 1/4 cup (60ml) water to skillet and toss to combine. Return to oven and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes burst and are lightly charred on edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and set aside to cool slightly (sauce will thicken as it cools). Remove and discard herb sprigs.
When ready to bake, coat one dough ball generously on both sides with flour and place on well-floured surface, seam side down. Gently press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1-inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough into a 10- or 12-inch circle (final dimension depends upon the size of your oven) about 1/4-inch thick by draping over knuckles and gently stretching. Transfer to floured wooden or perforated metal pizza peel.
Working quickly, spread an even layer of tomato sauce over pizza, leaving outer 1/2-inch rim untopped. Spread Parmesan evenly over sauce, followed by mozzarella.
Transfer pizza to oven and bake, rotating pie regularly with a metal peel for even cooking, until rim is lightly charred and bottom is crisp, 90 to 180 seconds total. Retrieve pizza with a metal peel and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley, slice, and serve immediately.
Repeat steps 3 through 5 for remaining pizzas.
Be careful not to over reduce the sauce in the skillet; it should remain “saucy” before it goes onto the pizza.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The pizzas are best enjoyed immediately. Because the sauce is made in the pizza oven as it heats up for baking the pies, there's no real advantage to making it in advance. That said, it can be made in advance, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.