What to CookPizza

Three Summer Pizzas Worth Turning on the Oven For

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I had set out to the farmer’s market Sunday morning in search of figs, but distraction hit me at every turn: basil bundles the size of house plants, brilliant orange Turkish eggplants, pints of golden teardrop tomatoes, fuzzy yellow peaches with their green leaves still intact, sweet peppers in nearly every hue: purple, green, red, and yellow.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For simple salads! For no-fuss dinners! For, yes, pizza! (Even if it means sweating by your screaming-hot oven because you wouldn’t let a little heat stand in the way of maybe the best toppings season of the year, right?)

Here are three summery combinations—peach and basil, broccoli rabe and sausage, and roasted peppers and tomato—all of which share one common ingredient: crème fraîche, which I discovered as a pizza topping last fall, when I made a version of Dorie Greenspan’s Alsatian tart flambée. Crème fraiche lends, of course, a lovely creaminess and tang, but it also eliminates the need for lots of (or any) cheese. I in fact prefer each of these three pizzas without any cheese, and this is not because I don’t love cheese—I do!—but because its absence allows the other toppings to really shine.

Three Summer Pizzas: Peach & Basil, Roasted Pepper & Tomato, Rapini & Sausage
Three Summer Pizzas: Peach & Basil, Roasted Pepper & Tomato, Rapini & Sausage

Many of my tips for making great pizza at home have been voiced by others, but here goes:

Lahey Dough

The virtues of the Jim Lahey pizza dough recipe (here and modified, below) include minimal effort (active time to prepare the dough is 5 minutes), nice yield (6 rounds of dough that can be stored in the fridge for 3 days), and high quality (the long, slow rise produces a dough with pockets of air trapped throughout, which when heated, expand, creating a beautiful, light crust).

I find in the summer that I need to cut back on the flour, so in my adaptation of the recipe, I use 950 grams as opposed to 1000 grams—but depending on the humidity (and other weather conditions) in your region, you may not need to make any adjustments.

Baking Steel

The baking steel not only creates a thin and crisp crust but also allows any air pockets trapped in the dough, especially along the outer rim, to expand beautifully—so if you like that ballooned edge characteristic of Neapolitan pizzas, the baking steel is a great tool to add to your collection. If you don’t have one, a rimless sheet pan (one you don’t care about, because it will get ruined) or turned-over rimmed sheet pan can be used instead, though the underside of the pizza will not be as crisp.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough + Margherita Pie

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough + Margherita Pie by Genius Recipes

Baking Steel

Baking Steel


Parchment Paper

It may feel wasteful, but using a bit of parchment paper allows for easy shimmying from peel to steel, and it’s a way to avoid the mess of flour or cornmeal (which would be used in place of the parchment paper) burning on your baking steel or pizza stone or oven floor. (Note: Parchment paper is not all created equal. I had been buying it online in bulk until I discovered my dough—and other things—were sticking to it. I have not had this issue with most brands I’ve found at the grocery store.)

Plan Ahead

For pizza to be an endeavor that does not demand every pan, cutting board, and inch of counter space in your kitchen, it requires advanced planning. With dough on hand and a few toppings prepared—onions caramelized, broccoli rabe sautéed, sausage browned—on one day, pizza can materialize quickly on another.

Three Summer Pizzas: Peach & Basil, Roasted Pepper & Tomato, Rapini & Sausage

Three Summer Pizzas: Peach & Basil, Roasted Pepper & Tomato, Rapini & Sausage

Alexandra Stafford Alexandra Stafford
Makes 6 pizzas (each serving 1 to 2 people)

Pizza Dough

  • 950 grams flour (a scant 7 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Pizza Toppings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small bundle broccoli rabe, tough stems removed; washed and roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces hot Italian sausage
  • 12 tablespoons (about) crème fraîche (3/4 cup)
  • 1 peach, thinly sliced
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon
  • Fresh basil
  • 2 roasted bell peppers, see link to recipe above
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh mozzarella, optional
Go to Recipe

Alexandra Stafford is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.

What do you pile onto pizza in the summer? Share your ideas and your best pizza-making tips in the comments below.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Summer, Weeknight Cooking, Dinner, Faster