Summer is here so I wanted to share great wood-fired-oven pizza recipes from my book,  Soirée Entertaining with Style, that would please even the most discerning palate and make for great conversation for a fun summer night.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

1 (28-ounce can) San Marzano (whole, peeled without Basil) tomatoes

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a large container. Using an immersion blender, blend until tomatoes and oil are combined. If you do not have an immersion blender use a traditional blender or even a food mill. This sauce should be silky and thoroughly pureed, not chunky.

Pizza Dough

4 cups “Caputo 00” Pizzeria Flour (or all-purpose flour)

4 teaspoons Kosher Salt

1/2 tablespoon dry active yeast

1 1/2 cups ice cold water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and then add water and olive oil. Make sure not to pour the cold water directly onto the yeast. Mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes and then on the highest speed for 5. If you do not have a mixer, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and work them by hand until a loose dough ball forms. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead aggressively for 7 to 10 minutes, adding flour when dough seems to wet. Please note this dough by nature is wet and can be difficult to handle.

2. Cover dough and let rise for 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Punch down dough and form into a large ball, then cut into 4 equal pieces.

3. Form dough balls by gently rolling one of the 4 dough pieces in the palm of your hand. Be sure to stretch the top of the ball down and around the rest of the ball, until the outer layer wraps around the other side. Pinch the two ends together to make a smooth ball.  Repeat with remaining 3 balls.  Dust pizza balls with flour, and store under a damp towel, in a proofing tray, or on a sheet tray covered with plastic wrap. This will prevent the outside of the ball from drying out and creating a crust. The top of the pizza ball should be soft and supple.

4. Let pizza balls rest in a cool place for at least an hour before stretching. If you will not be using your pizza balls right away you can refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze them in individual plastic freezer bags.

Georgia Three-Cheese Pizza

1 fresh dough ball

3 ounces fresh tomato sauce

1 ounce Sweetgrass Dairy Green Hill cheese (or Camembert)

1 ounce Sweetgrass Dairy Tomme cheese (or Cantal or Comté)

1 1/2 ounces Atlanta Fresh Mozzarella (or other fresh mozzarella)

6 Basil Leaves

1 to 2 Tablespoons high-quality extra virgin olive oil

1. Stretch dough to approximately 14 inches round and spread a thin layer of sauce over dough. Sprinkle evenly with cheeses and top with fresh basil. Drizzle with half the olive oil.

2. Pull pizza onto a peel and cook in a wood fired oven or super hot (500°+) conventional oven.  Cook until dough is nice and charred and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Slice and serve.

Bacon, Kale, and Goat Cheese Pizza

1 fresh dough ball

1/4 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup wilted kale

1/4 cup Sweet Water chèvre (or other fresh goat cheese)

1/2 cup rendered and chopped bacon

1. Stretch dough to approximately 14 inches round and spread 2 tablespoons olive oil over dough. Evenly distribute kale, cheese, and bacon over pie.

2. Pull pizza onto a peel and cook in a wood fired oven or super hot (500°+) conventional oven until nicely charred and cheese just starts to melt. Be careful to nicely cover the Kale with cheese as it will burn and taste bitter.  Slice and serve.

Home Pizza Making Tips from Dan Latham

If you are like me and don’t have an industrial range or a Green Egg at home, don’t fret. My GE blasts away at 550 degrees, which is totally adequate to make great pizza at home. Just make sure you preheat for at least 30 minutes and don’t disturb the oven.  If you have a pizza stone, great, use it. If not invert a half sheet pan for a similar effect. Just make sure in either case that you preheat the stone or pan adequately. On a side note, you will need a wooden peel to slide the pizza into the oven and metal peel or large spatula to remove it.  I have used cardboard, sheet trays, everything, and nothing beats a good peel.

Also be prepared for hot bubbly cheese to be on the bottom of your oven. It just happens, a lot.

Other tips are to have an abundance of good ingredients in the pantry like extra virgin olive oil, flour, canned tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella.

As well as the peels, make sure you have a good ladle or large spoon for applying the sauce. Finally, make sure you have a large cutting board or some place you can cut the pizza. Nothing is worse than bringing a pizza out of a very hot oven and having nowhere to go with it. Not that I would know anything about this…

Also please take the time to read the following blog posts from “From the Right Bank” and J & G Design’s “The Curatorial” featuring my favorite simple summer entertaining tips!

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