HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline on Twitter

Critics Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge

Winemaker Challenge

Aug 16, 2011
Printable Version
Email this Article

Wine With . . . John’s Mushroom Pizza

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

Our friend John Thompson lives two doors down from us. An architect by profession, an ardent gastronome by avocation, he frequently joins us for Wine With tests. A couple of years ago, John’s zeal for baking bread led him down the path to pizza, which he now makes for dinner at home every Friday night. When he recently suggested that we bring a variety of different wines over to pair with one of his pizzas, we jumped at the opportunity.

With its firm crust and flavorful topping, John’s mushroom pizza was, in every respect, ideally suited to be a companion to wine. Here is his recipe:


(makes four 8” pizzas)

Special equipment: parchment paper, a baking stone, and a wood peel.*

The dough recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. For best results, mix the dough three days before baking the pizzas, since the flavor is subtly enhanced by a long, cool fermentation.

Although John used royal trumpet mushrooms, virtually any sort of mushroom can be substituted.

Ingredients for the dough:

1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast

¼ cup warm water

pinch of sugar

4 cups bread flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

1 ¾ teaspoon salt

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ cups cold water

Ingredients for the toppings:

6 ounces mushrooms, thickly sliced (preferably royal trumpet), or 2 ounces dehydrated forest blend mushrooms, rehydrated (or a combination)

One 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, sliced very thin

¾ cup ricotta cheese

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn roughly into chunks

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

One large handful fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped

To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water; add sugar and let rest for 4 or 5 minutes (the yeast should start to foam or bubble). In a 4-quart bowl, combine the two flours and salt, and stir in the yeast mixture. Add the salt, stir in the olive oil, then mix in the cold water, either by hand with a large wooden spoon or in an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment set on low speed. Continue mixing until dry ingredients are incorporated into a smooth mass. Gather the mass into a ball, then transfer the ball to a lightly dusted countertop or other smooth, hard surface. Knead the dough by hand for 5 -7 minutes. If you prefer to do this step in the electric mixer, use a dough hook and mix for 5 to 7 minutes on medium speed. When it is finished mixing, the dough should be fairly sticky. Transfer it to a countertop lightly dusted with flour.

Cut four squares of parchment paper approximately 6” x 6”each. Spray each square with vegetable oil. Divide the dough into four equal balls and place each one on one of the oiled parchment squares. Wrap them as carefully as possible so that they are not exposed to air and store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, and ideally 3 days.

An hour before baking the pizzas, place the pizza stone in a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 550°. Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator, unwrap each one, and set them on a lightly floured countertop or other hard surface.

Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil, over medium-high heat, until they are lightly caramelized.

To shape the dough, use a rolling pin or stretch out each ball of dough by hand, to a circle about 8” round. If you are using a peel, flour it and dust with semolina or corn meal to prevent sticking. Place the first round on the peel and spread it with a quarter of the tomatoes. Top with a quarter each of the mushrooms, the garlic, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses. Shake the peel to make sure the dough isn’t sticking, then slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the crust is lightly charred in places and the cheese begins to brown. Remove pizza to a rack to cool for 3 or 4 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat the process with the rest of the balls of dough. Sprinkle each finished pizza with a quarter of the Parmesan cheese and scatter each with basil.

* If you don’t have a wood peel, cover a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment and spray with cooking oil. When the pizza crust has been formed, transfer it to the parchment (the cookie sheet is what allows you to transfer the pie to the hot pizza stone). When the pizza goes into the oven, slide the cookie sheet out from under it, transferring both pizza and parchment to the stone (the parchment won’t burn during baking).

* * *

We tried thirteen different red wines with John’s pizza. Except for one corked bottle, all worked satisfactorily. The clear winners, though, were those that were medium-weight, so neither too heavy and alcoholic, nor too lithe and delicate. Different grape varieties provided different flavor profiles, as did different origins, but the common denominator in all the wines we are recommending turns out to be weight. They are substantial but in no sense domineering, content to complement the food rather than control the dining experience.


Approx. Price


Bonterra, Mendocino and Lake Counties (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009


We tried a couple of Cabernet-based wines with our pizza. While one seemed too heavy and ponderous, this medium-weight wine made for a fine match. It exhibits genuine varietal character, without excessive heat or headiness.

Castello di Bossi, Chianti Classico (Italy) 2007

(Imported by Winebow)


Perhaps not surprisingly, this wine was a fine pizza partner. Sangiovese, the dominant grape in Chianti, tends to have relatively high levels of acidity, enabling wines made with it to pair well with tomatoes and tomato sauces. In addition, the dusty finish so typical of good Chianti enhanced this wine’s interaction with the mushrooms on John’s pizza.

Dashe, Dry Creek Valley (California) Zinfandel 2009


We often like Zinfandel with pizza, so long as the wine is not too brawny or muscular. This wine satisfied because its spicy, briary personality is not obscured by excessive heat and alcohol.

Goat-Roti, Coastal Region (South Africa) Syrah/ Viognier 2008

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


Quite peppery, with a slightly meaty note in its finish, this wine definitely echoes its namesake from France’s northern Rhône Valley. Those intriguing secondary notes were what made it so tasty with our pizza.

Sebastiani, Sonoma Valley (California) Barbera 2008


Weightier than most Piedmontese Barberas, this wine nonetheless offers the attractive combination of a supple texture and bright, forward (berry and plum) fruit flavors that can make wines fashioned with the grape variety so much fun. It is very easy to enjoy, much like John’s pizza itself.