Does anyone else feel like this Valentine's Day creeped up on us? Weren't we just celebrating MLK Day? On top of the normal day-to-day stress with work and jobs, I had a cold last week and Wally also had that "special surgery" for puppies, so the Swanns weren't exactly thinking about Valentine's plans. This will be the eighth one I've shared with Brian, and we have reservations for Julep's on Saturday night (I absolutely love their sister restaurant Mint so I can't wait to try this, too). I also enjoyed Annie's Eats description of her dinner there - Pork Shank and BBQ Cheese Grits...yum.
But Thursday still calls for something romantic, right? I was pondering what to make and definitely wanted it to be something easy that we could make together and share. And I got a new pizza stone for Christmas that I needed to break in. The answer to my Valentine's Day dinner dilemma was obvious. Heart-shaped pizza. (Don't forget Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes for dessert!)
It's easy, fun, and a great way to spend quality cooking time together! And apparently popular, too. According to this CNN article, searches on Google for "heart-shaped pizzas" have soared 230% since January! Why not jump on the bandwagon?
Have you ever seen the Pizza Tonight food truck around Richmond? It's literally a wood-fired oven on wheels that dishes out hot and fresh Neopolitan pizzas. A genius idea. But did you know they also offer bake-at-home pizza packets like this one?
They come complete with two Neapolitan artisan doughs, 8 ounces of homemade Marinara (or White sauce), a spice blend, and and a set of very handy instructions. These are hard to get your hands on though - Ellwood Thompson's was sold out so they were nice enough to let me pick one up at their shop/kitchen in the Museum District. For those outside of Richmond or if Ellwood Thompson's is sold out again, you can also make these cute pizzas with ingredients from any grocery store - just get the dough, sauce, and seasonings separately.
Once we had our pizza packet, we stopped by Coppola's Deli in Carytown to pick up our favorite Italian toppings - sopressata, pepperoni, and Italian sausage (inspired by our favorite Brooklyn pizza joint, Sottocasa). We also split a sandwich (the Industrial) while we were there - we just couldn't get enough Italian meats that day.
In addition to the meats, we bought fresh mozzarella for the cheese topping (from Murray's in the West Village in New York City - thank you Carytown Kroger for making all my cheese dreams come true) and fresh basil.
Now we're ready!
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Making the dough heart shaped was really easy - no rolling or kneading involved. We didn't do any work - gravity did it all for us! We just held it by the top and allowed gravity to pull the weight of the dough down, stretching it gently and naturally. After about a minute of moving around all sides of the circle, it started to take a rough 10-12 inch shape.
To make the pizza heart-shaped, use a pizza cutter and make two semi-circle cuts, like the top of a heart, into the top of your dough. It doesn't matter if it's a little crooked. you can use your fingers to complete the shape later.
Take that piece of dough you just cut, flip it over, and connect it to the bottom half of the dough circle, lightly kneading it together and shaping it to a point.
We lightly floured the dough and the pizza stone and then transferred the dough over. I also tried to pinch the edge of the dough together to form sort of a raised crust.
Next is the best part - toppings!
This is our soppresata mozzarella pizza. I promise there is meat on there, it just seems to be hiding under the mass amounts of cheese...which I'm okay with.
And here we have the lovely pepperoni and sausage delight. We brushed a bit of olive oil on the crust so that it gets crisp in the oven. Pop it in, and depending on how crispy you like your pizza and the amount of toppings you have (Did ours have too much, maybe? Nah, no such thing.) bake it from anywhere between 13-18 minutes. Take it out, transfer it to a cookie cooling rack and throw some basil on it after it cools.
I can't wait to have another pizza night...and I think I've started a new Valentine's Day tradition. You can find Pizza Tonight products at Ellwood Thompson's, Relay Foods, Farm to Family, Fall Line Farm, Little House Green Grocery, or contact Pizza Tonight directly.
If you aren't feeling like the 'za love, you could still get lucky and try to make a reservation at some of the restaurants that won the 2013 Elby Awards, like Lemaire (best fine dining), Stella's (best upscale casual and highly recommended by yours truly), Kuba Kuba (best neighborhood restaurant), and Deco Ristorante (best new restaurant). Also check out Bacchus - review coming soon!
Happy V-day, pizza lovers!