Pope Francis's visit to Philly is just a few weeks away, and while local and national officials have been grappling with logistics, I've been grappling with a problem of my own: How does one pizzify the Pope? Of course I could go the easy route and make a Margherita pie, playing up the "holy trinity" of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. But since the man hails from Argentina—a place known for its grilled meats, spicy sauces, and empanadas—I decided to start there instead and develop a Papal pizza that blends Argentinian flavors with old-school-Philly attitude.
As it turns out, we're not so different. While Philly might be famous for the cheesesteak, the city's true culinary masterpiece is without a doubt its roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, sharp provolone, and long-hots. Argentina's most popular condiment, chimichurri sauce, shares the same tangy-piquant-spicy profile as Philly's roast pork sandwich, and it is often spooned over provoleta, another traditional Argentinian specialty made of grilled provolone cheese.
So, for this pizza, I created a mash-up of our two cultures: grilled provolone, chimichurri sauce, and broccoli rabe. The result is spicy yet smooth, with the perfect (some might say infallible) balance of tang and verdant flavor.
The Pope-Meets-Philly Pizza (with grilled provolone, broccoli rabe, and chimichurri sauce)
Makes one 12-inch pizza
- 1 packed cup fresh parsley leaves
- 3 packed tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1-½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ pound broccoli rabe, 1 inch of stem ends trimmed off and discarded
- One 4-ounce (¼-pound) slab sharp provolone cheese
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball Basic Pizza Dough (or pre-made dough)
Place your pizza stone (if using) on an oven rack about 8 inches from the broiler. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500°F and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes while you make the dough and/or prepare the toppings.
To prep the toppings: To make the chimichurri sauce, combine the parsley, oregano, vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture forms a paste, then stream in the olive oil and process until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and let it stand at room temperature while you prep the other toppings. (This recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce, which is more than you will need for the pizza. Store any extras in an airtight container in the fridge, and enjoy the sauce with oven fries, grilled meat, and sandwiches for up to 1 week.)
To prepare the broccoli rabe, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute; drain immediately and transfer the broccoli rabe to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. After a few minutes, drain the bowl, pat the broccoli rabe dry with paper towels, and chop it into ½-inch pieces.
To grill the cheese, preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan to high. Rub the slab of provolone all over with olive oil and grill it for 2 minutes per side or until grill marks appear and the outside of the cheese begins to melt. Remove the cheese from the grill and cut it into ½-inch dice.
In a medium bowl, toss together the broccoli rabe, cubed provolone, and 2 generous tablespoons of the chimichurri sauce.
To stretch/roll out the dough: Dust the ball of dough with flour and place it on a well-floured work surface. Using your hands or a rolling pin, gently stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch disk.
If you’re using a pizza stone: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet generously with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
If you're using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza: Dump the provolone-rabe mixture onto the dough and spread it out evenly, making sure that the cheese is well distributed.
To bake the pizza: If you're using a pizza stone, 10 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza for 5 to 7 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese just begins to brown. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone to reheat under the broiler for 5 minutes before you cook the next one.
If you're using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake at 500°F for about 10 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese just begins to brown.
Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes, then slice. Serve with a small bowl of extra chimichurri sauce for dipping the crust.