Pizza is one of those comfort foods that can deeply touch your soul. Even without toppings, that magnificent combination of chewy dough, robust sauce and gooey cheese creates something that is way more than the sum of its parts. Throw in some carefully selected toppers and a glass of perfectly paired wine, and you’re well on your way to one of the most pleasurable yet satisfyingly simple meals on earth.
Here are some of the pizza and wine pairings that we’re especially enthusiastic about as summer turns to fall. Enjoy!
Honey Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Shallots
Paired with Vouvray “Tuffeau”, Thierry 2009 Loire, France
When your dish has some sweet notes (honey, butternut squash and caramelized shallots, in this case) you need a wine with some residual sugar to balance things out. That’s not to say you need to serve a cloyingly sweet dessert wine, but a subtle hint of sweetness will bring a much needed sense of equilibrium to the party. If you tried a fully dry wine such as a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc here, the considerable sweetness from this dish would stomp all over any fruit notes in those wines, making the wine seem extremely tart and unpleasant. A gentle kiss of sweetness in your wine, however, balances things right out.
Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Sweet Italian Sausage and Arugula
Paired with Barbera d’Alba, Produttori di Govone 2009 Piedmont, Italy
The combination of cheese and sausage on this pizza can make it feel a little heavy (deliciously so, but still…). Serving it alongside a red wine that has some tannin to it, like this Barbera d’Alba cleans your palate right up. Tannin creates that drying feeling on the palate similar to a strong cup of tea, which can feel a little harsh when you have it without food. But, when you give that tannin a job to do (cleansing the palate from anything heavy, greasy or oily) it actually makes the wine feel lighter and more graceful. Meanwhile, now that your palate is cleansed, the food doesn’t seem quite so rich. So help yourself to a second slice!
Littleneck Clams, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic and Parsley
Paired with Vinos Piñol, Portal Blanco 2010 Terra Alta, Spain
If you’ve never enjoyed the glories of a clam pie, might I suggest that you get your butt on the Q train and head out to Franny’s in Brooklyn to try theirs, because it is hands-down the best. While you’re there, order yourself a bottle of a fresh, clean, dry and mineral white wine like this one to go alongside it. The beauty of this pizza is in its simplicity – just a few high-quality ingredients come together to create something that is blow-your-mind delicious, and you don’t want your wine to get in the way. A fresh, easy-drinking, simple white that echoes the minerality of the delicate clams is the way to go.
Feeling ambitious enough to start creating pizzas like these at home from scratch? We’ll teach you how at the next session of Chef Emily’s hands-on pizza making class at Astor Center.