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Rico Cassoni
Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni pulling a finished pizza off his Kamado Joe smoker heated to 900 degrees for premium crust "leoparding." Photo by Frank Mangio
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Three cheers for the red, white and green?

For those readers who have been following my San Marzano tomatoes, this is part three and the culmination of the San Marzano series.  Please see our website ( then find the Recent Columns tab for Part 1 (5/17) and Part 2 (6/21).

July Fourth marks the official start of the tomato harvest at Casa Cassoni.  Although we get a few of the red beauties in late June depending on the weather.

Each year, our cul de sac July 4th party kicks off with homemade Rico Cassoni Margherita pizza.  Due to COVID-19, this year was a small crowd of 8 including my 2 doors down from me neighbor and Senior Editor Frank Mangio.

Anyone who guessed Red, White, and Green for the Italian flag since both Frank and I are proud American-Italians (but Americans first) were close.  However, the Red, White, and Green in this case is for the colors of a Margherita pizza. Let’s go into details on the colors as I share how to make a perfect pizza with beautiful “leoparding.”

There are two key white ingredients – flour and mozzarella cheese.  Not just any flour for the perfect pizza.  It must be Italian Durum wheat with 00 (double aught) grind.  Normally you can find Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthure 00 flour at stores, except in a pandemic.

We are grateful for Mangia e Bevi Owner, World Pizza Champion, and TOWAF friend Tore Trupiano for providing us with Italian imported 00 flour.  As for the cheese, I highly recommend block mozzarella that you grate or cube yourself vs packaged grated as the former melts much better.  Cut 6-8 oz of mozzarella cheese into small cubes, ~¼ inch squared, you can dust with flour to prevent the cheese from sticking and set aside.

Rico Cassoni and Frank Mangio
Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni, left, showcasing the “leoparding” of a crust. Senior Editor Frank Mangio highlights the San Marzano tomatoes. Courtesy photo

The next color up is red and you guessed it, homegrown San Marzano tomatoes grown from non-GMO seeds along with my Kamado Joe ceramic smoker cranked up to 850deg or hotter. As for green, this is Italian Sweet Basil also homegrown from non-GMO seeds.

Perhaps some are thinking, “Ok Rico, sounds yummy can I do this too?”  You sure can.  Here is how.  The following low hydration dough recipe is for a high-temperature cook of at least 750 degrees on a smoker or pizza oven.

Crust Ingredients: 500g 00 flour, 300g water (~95deg) NOTE-Do not exceed 100 degrees or you will harm the yeast, 7g Instant Yeast, 10g Kosher salt, 20g Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).  Measure out the ingredients, add water to a KitchenAid Mixer bowl along with yeast and allow to hydrate for 10 min.  Mix together flour and salt.

After the yeast is hydrated, add EVOO to the water, then flour mixture and mix with a dough hook for 10 minutes.  Use a slow speed for the first 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed.  Take the dough out of the mixer (this is considered a wet dough) and put onto a lightly flour-dusted board, lightly kneed, shape into a smooth ball, and put into a lightly greased bowl to proof for 1 to 1.5 hours or until at least doubled in size.

Take the dough out onto a lightly floured board again, cut in two, shape each into a smooth ball, put into greased bowls, cover, and let rise for another 30 to 60 minutes.  During the 2nd rising, fire up your smoker and preheat until your pizza stone reaches at least 600deg. Dough recipe courtesy of Kamado Joe’s John Setzler.

When your dough is doing its first proofing, it is a great time to get your tomato mixture going.  Ingredients: 10 to 12 oz San Marzano tomatoes (12oz if smaller tomatoes) cut into ½ inch chunks, 1tbsp EVOO, ½ tsp Kosher salt, and 2-3 garlic cloves minced.  Mix together and let marinate for at least 1 hour.

Now it’s time to make the pizza.   First, flatten out and stretch the dough to roughly a 12 to 14-inch circle.  Place the crust onto a pizza peel generously dusted with cornmeal, then add the mozzarella cheese followed by the tomato mixture onto the crust.  Make sure to burp your smoker before fully opening.   The smoker is very hot and will burn you if you do not burp.

Open the lid and slide the pizza onto the stone.  Depending on how hot your grill is, at 900deg, you will need to turn the pizza a half circle after about 1 minute and let cook for another minute.

Remove the pizza, top with basil, and let set up for about 5 minutes.  Cut, eat, and savor with wine.  Speaking of vino, we had 5 great bottles at our July 4th soiree that included:  2016 Chappellet Mtn Cuvee, 2017 DAOU Unbound (Syrah, Tannat, and Tempranillo blend), 2016 Hearst Ranch Tempranillo, 2015 Querceto Chianti Classico, and 2018 The Prisoner (red blend).

Have any pizza questions, reach out to me at [email protected].

Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni.

Wine Bytes

Take it from me, Frank Mangio, Rico’s San Marzano Pizza is heaven-sent!

Due to local rule changes temporarily eliminating restaurant indoor dining, here are a few great ones that feature outdoor dining.

MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE downtown San Diego features USDA prime-aged steaks with the same great service. For a limited time, 25% off all wine bottles when you dine on their patio or order to go. Call 619-696-3369 or visit

THE WINESELLAR BRASSERIE in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley is turning inside out!  A safe environment is promised.  New hours are Tues. thru Sat. 12 Noon to 8pm. Everything is available:  food, wine, cocktails, lunch, happy hour and dinners and take-out.  Call 858-450-9557.

FLEMINGS STEAKHOUSE in La Jolla is ready to serve you outdoors, from 4 to 8 p.m.  Due to limited seating, the restaurant recommends calling for an RSVP at 858-535-0078.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]