Recipe Sleuth: Matchbox’s Fire & Smoke Pizza

At the pizza restaurant Matchbox in DC’s Capitol Hill and Penn Quarter, there are 16 varieties of pies. But only one requires a warning note for customers: the spicy Fire & Smoke. The crisp crust is layered with smoked Gouda, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil, plus tomato and hot chipotle-pepper sauces.

Since the original Penn Quarter location opened seven years ago, it’s become a favorite among spice addicts. “We may sell more of our traditional pizzas, but we don’t dare take it off the menu,” says chef Jonathan McArthur. “We’d probably be hunted down.”

When making the pizza at home, be careful not to let the extra-hot chipotle meld into the tomato sauce too much. “You want some nuance in each bite,” McArthur says. For more modest taste buds, he suggests halving the amount of chipotle sauce—a request that diners can make in the restaurant as well. Most important is an extra-hot oven—the restaurant’s brick oven tops 800 degrees.

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Fire & Smoke Pizza

Makes one 14-inch pizza.

Make the dough:

1¾ cups warm water, about 80 degrees
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
4½ cups flour
In a large bowl, mix the warm water and yeast until dissolved. Add the vegetable oil and sea salt. Then gradually add the flour, stirring until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Mold the dough into a ball, place it into a greased bowl, and cover with cheesecloth. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. For a crispier crust, let it sit overnight. When ready to make the pizza, roll the dough out onto a floured pizza peel or paddle to ¼-inch thickness.

Make the tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 Italian plum tomatoes, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and reduce over low heat until the sauce has a thick consistency. Set aside.
Make the chipotle sauce:

1 ounce canned chipotles

Purée the chipotles (these are very hot peppers, so 1 ounce is sufficient). Set aside.

Assemble the pizza:

1 10-inch crust
½ cup tomato sauce
1⁄8 cup (1 ounce) chipotle purée
¼ cup chopped white onion
¼ cup puréed garlic
8 roasted-red-pepper strips
Smoked Gouda, sliced about 1⁄8-inch-thick, as needed
Dried oregano to taste
Fresh basil to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste

Preheat the oven with a baking stone to 500 degrees.

Spread the tomato sauce over the flattened dough, in concentric circles from the center toward the outside. Make sure to leave space in between. Apply the chipotle sauce in the spaces between, also in concentric circles. The 2 sauces should show up as distinct circular bands (be careful not to let them mix too much). Evenly distribute the onion and garlic over the pie. Cover the pizza with Gouda, starting with slices on the perimeter, working your way toward the center. Add the 8 peppers in a star formation (there should be 1 pepper per slice). Season to taste with oregano.

Bake the pizza until the crust is crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Note that the Gouda, having been altered in the smoking process, will not melt as mozzarella might; though it should singe slightly. When finished, sprinkle with fresh basil and drizzle with olive oil.

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