IT USUALLY happens on a Sunday, when I start craving for carbs and easy to make yummy dishes. The only dish that really does it for me is Sicilian Pizza. Soft and crunchy on the outside, with that slight aftertaste of overly cooked crust. The base has always tomato sauce of course and the toppings varies according to your mood and the state of your stomach.

My favourite pizza toppings are: Parma ham, rocket, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan/grana/ricotta salata flakes.

On another day I would put simply mozzarella, mushrooms and Taleggio. This is a semi soft smear-ripened Italian cheese. The cheese has a thin crust and a strong aroma, but its flavour is comparatively mild with an unusual fruity hint. Alternatively you can use Fontina cheese, Gruyere, Edam or Emmental cheese.

Whereas Rui’s favourite is pecorino, pieces of dried sausage and/or salame, hot chilli peppers and black olives.

Ingredients for the dough

  • 400 ml lukewarm water
  • 7 grams of dry yeast
  • 10 gr. Kosher salt
  • 500 g. all-purpose flour
  • Extra flour to mold the dough into individual balls

Ingredients for topping (makes a large pizza)

  • 1 tin of peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 90 gr. Fresh Mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil
  • Olive oil (for drizzling over the top before baking)
  • Extra Flour (to sprinkle over the pizza peel)

pizza toppings

Method

To make the dough:

In a 23cm x 23cm x 17cm dump in the water and dissolve the salt, then the yeast. Because we are mixing in the flour so quickly it doesn’t matter that the salt and yeast are thrown in together.

Put in all the flour and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a danish dough whisk. Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough — as you can see it will be a wet sticky dough. Sprinkle the flour over it to cover surface.

Then cover the container with a kitchen towel and wrap it all in a thick woolen blanket and place it in a warm and dry place (wrap the container up with a blanket or 2). Let it rest for about 1 1/2 hour. The dough can then be used right away.  You will find it to be very sticky, so use as much flour to get the handful of dough flat on your oven-tray.

pizza dough

 

To make the tomato sauce:

Take a pan and add one thinly chopped onion and gently simmer until brown; add 1 tin of peeled tomatoes without their stalk and squash them while stirring. Add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar and let it cook for 20 mins. At the end, let it cool down and add oregano to taste. Finally, whisk it up in a food-processor.

To make the pizza:

Preheat the oven to 220 ºC and place on the bottom of the oven a metal broiler, which will be used to produce steam; alternatively you can use an oven tray filled with water (be careful to cover the glassed door with a towel before you poor in the water, because the glass door could crack when too hot) — as you can see from the photos I’ve used a traditional firewood oven. Put up to 1 glass of water each time you put in another pizza in the oven. It usually takes 25 mins in the oven per pizza.

Now keep the packet of flour at hand and container with the dough. You will need to mould each ball of dough by covering your hands with flour. The dough will be very sticky, so keep adding flour to the handful of dough while you are moulding it in your hands, until you feel you can neatly lay it out on the baking stone, tiles or tray, because the dough has stopped going stringy. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. Roll the ball out into a half cm thick base, making sure that you go around the pizza folding or puffing up the edges of approx 3 cm to get them to be thicker than the centre part. I would shape my pizza on the pizza peel sprinkled with flour.

Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, avoiding the edges. Brake up the fresh mozzarella into 1 cm chunks approx. in your hand and place them over the pizza which has already the sauce spread on top, then ultimately drizzle some olive oil over it all. The pizza is now ready to go in the oven, don’t forget to pour a glass of cold water in the broiler or tray (be very careful, keep your face at distance as the steam can burn you), check after 10 minutes if pizza has a brownish colour all around its edges (turn it around if it seems to be browning on one side more than the other). It may need 5 more minutes depending on your oven.

 

pizza in the oven

pizza

Take the pizza out and leave on a cooling rack to keep a crisp bottom crust and add the toppings of your choice. If you are adding other cheeses apart from the mozzarella and vegetables you should cook them separately. Stick the pizza back in the oven for another 3 minutes.

… and Buon Appetito!

natcancook