Living in Southern California, I use my grill more than I use my oven. I love cooking with fire. Fire roasting adds to the flavor complexity of almost anything you cook. There is something primal about it. We're spoiled with gas grills -- mine is even connected to the house and is ever ready to be fired up with a simple turn of the dial, which is great and convenient, but there's still something missing there. So, when I cook certain things, like a fresh piece of fish, I often choose to go the extra step and light up some lump charcoal and a little smoke wood on my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and use it like a charcoal grill. The smoke and fire together bring even more flavor in a way that the gas grill just can't (of course, you can always add a little smoke and wood to the gas grill with a smoker box; I've had pretty good results doing my "Gas Grill, Wood Fired" pizzas this way).
And now, there is an explosion in the use of wood fired pizza ovens. Sure you can make a great pizza in a gas-fired brick oven too - I do it all the time even in my brick-lined home oven, or on my grill. There is a difference, though, when you get one out of a wood fired oven. The heat can be the same, but the fire and the smoke, together, coax unique flavors out of a pizza that won't necessarily be there in a traditional oven. The cooking speed is another aspect. I love watching a pizzaiolo work the pie in a wood-fired oven. Each oven has to be played like a musical instrument to bring out the pie properly charred on all sides - cooked evenly and, often, just in the nick of time!
Okay, I know this is a recipe post -- I got lost in rumination there for a minute -- but at least we were on subject talking about fire. This post is about Fire Roasted Tomatoes, so let's just say fire is good and move forward to the pizza.
I had been wanting to make a pizza sauce with the DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomatoes for some time. I picked up a small can of the stuff at the Vegas Expo when I met Rob DiNapoli for the first time. I had previously been lucky enough to receive a few cans of their Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomato product as well as some of their other amazing tomato products. That's one nice perk having a pizza blog!
We had been fans of Rob a long time before he became an actual sponsor of our website. He exemplifies the type of artisan we chronicle here on Pizza Quest. He is a third generation farmer and is dedicated to bringing the best product he can to his customers. He, and others like him, are that first step in the process of bringing great food to our tables. Serious chefs know their producers, or have an intimate working relationship with them. They rely on people like Rob to start the food chain with a top quality product in order to bring the best food to their tables.
So I made a couple of pizzas to see how I liked these fire roasted tomatoes. I did! I do. Here's the first...
Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza:
Peter's Classic Dough
Can of DiNapoli Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (14.5 Oz)
Thinly sliced Pancetta
Fresh Wild Arugula
Shape your dough.
Build the pizza by placing fire roasted tomato solids on the dough. I left the juice in the can.
Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Tear the mozzarella into pieces and place them around the pizza.
Cover with slices of the pancetta
Into the oven…
Special touch: When it came out of the oven, I took some more tomatoes and the juice from the can and crushed them in my hands and sort of drizzled them over the pizza. I wanted to really taste the flavors of these tomatoes and loved the idea that the first layer is baked and the second is cool. The cool tomatoes will begin to warm right away, but the varying temperature of the first and second layers of tomatoes present slight nuances in flavor.
Top with chopped fresh arugula
Cut and dig in!
That looks pretty good - and it tasted amazing.
The fire roasted tomatoes were sweet and delicious, but had another element participating in the flavor dance. The charred bits can be seen right when you open the can and the charred flavor is just a little bit of a deeper note on top of the otherwise sweet and juicy tomato. There is an earthy burnt flavor that almost comes off as "meaty". It's interesting.
Oh, and the salty pancetta with it's own crispy bits from baking, and the somewhat peppery arugula, goes so well with the sauce!
Stay tuned for my next Fire Roasted Tomato pizza - I did a few variations!
*To purchase DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomatoes online, you can go to Gourmet Sleuth - *Link