If you’ve read this blog before, you’re probably aware that I have some unpopular opinions about pizza. The most controversial being my Neopolitan-style pizza fatigue. If you’ve never read this blog before, please don’t leave, I swear I am not a monster. The thing is, pizza has never been a big pull for me. I crave it very rarely and when I do, I’m usually jonesing for a New York-style slice, which I guess shows you just how classy I am. I like my pizza crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside. Basically, I want the breadiest pizza going. So, it should come as a surprise to no one that I decided to turn a slice of pizza into a sandwich. Say hello to the Bee Sting Grilled Cheese.
Now, for those of you who are not making the pizza connection with the name “Bee Sting”, don’t worry. I too did not know the charms of a Bee Sting pizza pie. And, full disclosure, I’ve never had the real deal because I don’t live in New York…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Not that long ago the words “bee sting” conjured up images of a German cake, the end of My Girl, and some literally painful memories. But then, I saw this beautiful pie on the blog Shared Appetite and I never thought of tiny Macaulay Culkin again…until just now.
So where does the Bee Sting pizza get its name? Well, it has everything to do with its toppings. The pizza features the likes of hot soppressata, chili flakes and a drizzle of honey. See? It’s all very clever. And where does this salty, sweet and spicy pizza hail from? Well, its origins can be traced back to a single pizza shop in Brooklyn: Roberta’s. It’s now a chain, so there are actually a few outside of Brooklyn, but you get the picture.
As I said, I have not had the real deal from Roberta’s. But from what I have read, the place is an institution. The Internet is peppered with glowing reviews of the joint from locals and tourists alike and in almost all of them, they mention the Bee Sting pizza.
So, now that you know the origins of the Bee Sting pizza, you might be wondering how it turned into a Bee Sting Grilled Cheese. Well, as I mentioned earlier, pizza and I have a lukewarm relationship. I know many regard pizza as the perfect food and I can totally see where you all are coming from. But to me, pizza is kind of meh. I would much prefer a bowl of noodles over pizza any day of the week.
This is likely shocking to a large number of you. It may even be blasphemous depending on the extent of your pizza-related zealotry. But as I said at the beginning, I am not a monster. And I don’t claim to be over pizza to be “alternative”. I just feel like pizza is the equivalent of yoga pants. Pizza is a default meal because it’s readily available at all times. This is not pizza’s fault, we made it common and casual. And I do realize that we have been glamourizing the pie for nearly ten years at this point. But, in the end, I just find it so difficult to get excited over pizza. Grilled cheese on the other hand…
I know there were some strong words in that previous paragraph, so I just want to reiterate that I don’t hate pizza. I don’t. Pizza and I are cool. I just don’t get worked up over it unless it is very extraordinary. Why else would I put so much weird sh*t on my own pizza creations? And why else would I be drawn to the likes of the Bee Sting Pizza? But I’ve been working on a wee theory. I believe that anything that tastes good on a pizza can taste good on a sandwich and I’ve got to say, the Bee Sting Grilled Cheese more than proves this hunch.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never had Roberta’s Bee Sting pizza, so I have nothing legit to compare this Bee Sting Grilled Cheese to. But in some way, I think this ignorance gave this wannabe-pizza-sandwich a bit of a competitive edge. Recreation can be tricky and disappointing, but wandering blindly into a recipe you vaguely understand can yield some inspired results…or crushing defeat. To be honest, crushing defeat is more likely.
With only a vague roadmap, I was free to alter the sandwich to my heart’s content. I, of course, needed the essentials: honey, chili flakes, and soppressata. But I choose to ramp up the heat by slathering the bread in a homemade Arrabiata sauce before adding cheese. And did I hold back on the chili flakes? No, no I did not. I also added slices of jalapeno because I have no regard for my well-being and a few parmesan curls for good measure. And just like that, the Bee Sting Grilled Cheese was born.
Nothing that goes into this Bee Sting Grilled Cheese is particularly hard to track down or make. But if you’re not so much with the corners, there is one big one you can cut. Instead of making your own Arrabiata, you can, like, buy it. I won’t even tell because I get it, sometimes you can’t even with a tomato sauce. If you take the sauce out of this recipe it goes from an hour cook time to like 15 minutes of your life. Basically, you have no excuse not to make this.
So, that’s the scoop on this Bee Sting Grilled Cheese. It’s the sandwich we didn’t know we needed. The sandwich that will see us through many a dark winter night, I promise.
Bee Sting Grilled Cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade
Bee Sting Grilled Cheese
- 2 tablespoon butter softened
- 8 slices whole wheat bread
- 1 batch Arrabiata Sauce see above
- 1 ball 250 g, 9 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
- 12 slices hot soppressata
- 2 jalapenos quartered and sliced
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup honey
For the Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sprinkle with a healthy amount of salt. Sauté until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook the onions down until lightly browned.
- Pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze. Add the red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. Stir to combine and sauté briefly.
- Pour in the tomatoes and bring the mixture back up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occaisionally.
- Once the sauce has simmered, transfer it to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Stir in the fresh basil and set aside until ready to use.
For the Sandwiches
- Butter one side of each of the slices of bread. Spoon the sauce generously on the unbuttered side of each slice of bread. Use the back of the spoon to spread the sauce to form a thin, even layer.
- Place mozzarella slices on top of the sauce on half of the slices of bread. Next layer the soppressata on top of the cheese, followed by jalapeno slices and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Finally, finish the sandwiches with a healthy drizzle of honey. Top each slice with a slice topped with just sauce and set aside.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and reduce the heat even more. You want to give the cheese a chance to melt before the bread gets too toasty. Fry the sandwiches until golden, then flip. This should take about 5-6 minutes as side.
- Remove the sandwiches from the griddle, slice and serve alongside a bowl of soup.