Pizza Party: Gluten-Free with Mrs. Z

Thanksgiving might be over, but happily, it’s always pizza season! And our pizza party formulated when Rosanne Zarrilli asked about weekend plans, and as luck would have it, we were wide open on Saturday night. So she suggested a relaxing, at home affair making pizzas and sipping wine. She was also aware that Russ has been wheat-free so she made a special effort to buy gluten-free pizza dough from Wegman’s
Thanks Mrs. Z—let the party begin!

A new visitor to the party, gluten-free crust from Wegman’s.

The appetizer platter.

Festive plates await the appetizers…

We arrived with a bottle of wine and a platter of meats, cheeses and olives, figuring if they didn’t all get eaten prior to pizza sampling, we could use the leftovers for toppings. Not necessary since Rosanne had a wide assortment of goodies for the pies. In particular, she purchased Risoldi’s homemade Italian sausage, an old family recipe popular in Mercer County, NJ. In addition, Mrs. Z produced some of her homemade meatballs along with a variety of cheeses and veggies.
Russ assists in opening the wine with a fancy contraption.

But before we started noshing, we enjoyed Rosanne’s wonderful holiday decorating touches. And if you know Rosanne, you know she always goes the extra mile—every inch of the house was spot-on festive! She even segued the Christmas theme into the dinner, starting with a beautiful and very tasty red tomato soup—Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary, a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’ repertoire (recipe follows.) Oh yeah babe, we’re making this again sometime real soon!

A swirl of creme fraiche adorns the tomato soup.

Can’t have Christmas red with out a green, thus the salad; a concoction she made from the Skinny and Martha Stewart sites—her rendition of Waldorf Salad—without the chicken. (She purposely left half of the salad unadorned with walnuts knowing Russ’ aversion to the nut.) Ingredients included: Bibb lettuce, celery, cucumber, green apple, green grapes, and toasted walnuts. The dressing was made up of:

  • 3/4 c buttermilk  (she used lowfat)
  • 1/2 c mayo (she used lite)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1+ T chives chopped
  • 1+ T parsley chopped
  • 2 T finely chopped shallot
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • pepper

The green “Waldorf” salad.

Now to the pizzas. First up, a gluten-free pie with that famous sausage, garlic, fresh basil, black olives, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. What helped make the crust crispy was rolling it out on corn meal, providing a wonderful crunch. The jury was in—we all were surprised how tasty this gluten-free version was—especially compared to some of the gloppy gluten-free pastas we’ve experienced in the past… Moving on…

Rosanne prepares the gluten-free crust over some corn meal.

Some of the toppings waiting their turn to shine.

Pizza number one using the gluten-free crust.

Pizza number two using regular crust.

A third pie using the gluten-free crust again.

Pie number two was a regular crust pizza with the infamous meatballs, red and yellow peppers, onion, basil, and ricotta cheese. Russ had to abstain, but I didn’t 🙂 Then came the final pizza, again using the gluten-free crust, and similar to the second pie as far as toppings. Lucky for us, there was a hefty portion of this last pizza leftover so we took it home and it enjoyed it for brunch on Sunday.

And God love Gary (Mr. Z.) About a month ago he had shoulder surgery and was still in an arm sling, trying his best to help out by pouring wine and doing dishes. We’ll just call that physical therapy 😀


Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche
  • Zest of one lemon


  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to a soup pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl fold in the lemon zest and the remaining teaspoon of rosemary to 2/3 cup creme fraiche. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and dollop each bowl with the lemon rosemary creme fraiche. Serve immediately.

Pizza, soup and salad, with good friends—not a bad way to pass a Saturday night.

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