Grilled cheese month. It’s a thing.
April is also deemed the month of the BLT sandwich, soft pretzels, soy foods (don’t even ask) and a personal favorite – garlic. But for some reason grilled cheese month is the only thing that seems to be shouted from the Internet rooftops.
While my waistline couldn’t tolerate 30 whole days of grilled cheese sandwiches, my Facebook feed has been so inundated with pictures of gooey cheese sliding out of crispy, buttered slices of bread, I just had to hop on the bandwagon.
And let me tell you friends, the grilled cheese bandwagon is a very, very good place to be.
Margherita pizza has been on my mind since Kev and I tried out a “certified Neapolitan” pizza place relatively new to Kansas City last week. After a scant wine pour which took me four conservative sips to finish, a price tag of $18 for a 10-inch personal pizza and spotty service, I wasn’t exactly banking on loving the pizza enough to warrant a second visit. As I followed our waiter, pie in hand, with my eyes, making his way from the exposed kitchen to our table, and witnessed up close just how tiny this pie actually was, I became even more skeptical it would live up to the hype I’d created in my head.
But then, I took my first bite, closed my eyes and was immediately transported back to Rome, inhaling my very first classic Margherita pizza; a pizza nearly impossible to find back in the states. It’s funny though, I thought I had found multiple spots in Kansas City (including my own kitchen) that came eerily close to replication, but after this particular experience, I knew I’d been wrong all along. It’s kind of like that time you thought you were “in love” when you were a kid or in a previous relationship, but then you meet your husband/spouse/partner and you kind of go ahhhhh so this is what it’s REALLY like.
Because pizza = love.
The sauce was fresh, sweet and in perfect proportion to the rest of the ingredients. The crust, chewy, thin and slightly charred. The mozzarella, stringy and sparingly used. All clean, simple ingredients harmonizing together to create the perfect bite.
Needless to say, I’ll be back for my Margherita pizza fix in the very near future (I’ll just steer clear of the wine list).
With my come to Jesus Italian pizza moment fresh in my mind, a menu plan of a grilled cheese yet to be determined and a sale of practically a bushel of basil for $2.99, the Pizza Margherita Grilled Cheese was born.
Because simplicity is what I adore about the margherita pizza, I wanted to take the same approach here. The sauce is only a few ingredients – crushed fire-roasted canned tomatoes (I like to use San Marzano or Muir Glen), plenty of sugar (I like a sweet sauce for Margherita pizza), salt, garlic and olive oil. It’s simmered for just a few minutes until all the flavors come together, then cooled to room temperature.
The sauce is spooned on to two slices of sourdough (you could also use a ciabatta or other hearty bread), covered in slices of fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with a touch of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
The outsides of each slice are brushed with butter and cooked in a hot cast-iron skillet until each side is golden brown, crispy and the cheese has melted completely and started to ooze out the sides of the bread.
Simplicity at its finest.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tsp. tomato paste
- 14.5 ounces fire-roasted canned tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil and garlic over a medium heat. Saute until softened, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste, stir to combine. Cook for one minute. Add tomatoes, salt and sugar, whisk until tomato paste is fully incorporated.Simmer for 8-10 minutes until thickened. Set aside.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle to a medium heat.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of sauce on each slice of bread. Top with four ounces of slices of cheese. Top with 4-5 leaves of basil.
- Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the other two pieces of bread, sauce side down on cheese and basil. Brush tops with butter. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Place sandwich butter-side down in a skillet heat to medium (work in batches if needed), brush other side with butter. Cook until golden brown and crispy on each side and the cheese is melted. (If you are having a hard time getting the cheese to melt, pop into a 350 degree oven for a few minutes.