Good pizza. One of life’s simple pleasures. Born out of poverty and necessity, the two drivers of so much culinary creativity and, like many simple and popular foods, is regularly over looked as something that doesn’t need special attention. Too often have I had disappointing pizza and it’s either the base, the sauce or both. Ever since a trip to Italy I’ve become obsessed with trying to find a good version and I’m pretty sure that this is very nearly it. OK, so it’s not as easy as buying shop bought or speed dialling your local Dominoes but It’s much cheaper and loads tastier.
There’s three stages:
Stage 1 (the easy bit): The base tomato sauce
I make this sauce in batches (adapted from a recipe in the mighty Il Cucchiaio D’Argento or Silver Spoon) as it serves as a perfect base for many an Italian meal and believe me when I say it’s idiot proof…
You will need:
- 1 tin of plum tomatoes
- 3-4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
- a generous pinch of salt
- a generous pinch of sugar
- Olive oil
Add the the lot to a pan, cover and put on the lowest heat for 30 mins. Do not stir it. After 30 mins remove the lid and mash up ingredients with a spoon or any utensil of your choosing. Continue cooking with the lid on for 15 mins or until the contents look somewhere between passata and puree in thickness. Allow to cool then add a good glug of olive oil. At this point you may wish to pimp yours up with any herb of your choosing. Retain sauce until needed. A few days in fridge or 6 months in freezer.
Stage two (the hard bit): The pizza dough
Take a moment to loosen up those shoulders, do a few windmills in your kitchen so that if the neighbours saw you they’d think you were bonkers. I’ve no shame in admitting this dough recipe is cribbed from Mr Oliver but dough recipes are dough recipes and I’m betting Jamie didn’t spend years in his outhouse kitchen refining this one.
You will need:
- 400 g of strong white bread flour
- 100g of semolina flour (or just use 500 g of strong white bread flour)
- 1/2 tbsp of sea salt (or whatever salt you have to hand)
- 7g sachet of instant yeast
- 1/2 tbsp of caster sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 325 ml luke warm water
- Shoulders like Jon Pall Sigmarsson
Sift the flour/s and salt into a bowl and leave it in there. Mix the remaining ingredients in a jug and leave for a few mins. Now, let’s dispense with the mixing the ingredients on your worktop nonsense right here. You do not need to make a volcano shaped well of flour on your worktop which you then add the water mixture to. The likely result of this action is that tepid, yeasty water will break over the sides and end up all over your worktop and on the floor. Mix it all in the bowl. The end result is exactly the same. Bring everything together with your hands and mix for a few minutes until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t worry if the dough seems a little wet. Whatever you do don’t add too much flour as this will tighten up the dough.
Place the dough on a well floured worktop and then start kneading. And then carry on kneading and kneading and kneading and kneading. It’s one of those activities that defies the usual laws of space-time. Two mins of knead-time feels like 10 mins of real time. This is because after two minutes (if you are doing it properly) your shoulders start to ache! Take the pain. You can do it, work that dough! Once you have a springy dough place in a bowl and leave to rise for one hour in a warm place.
After the hour cut the dough into 4 or 8 equal pieces. Roll to 3-5mm thickness, thinner the better, on a floured surface. Add dough to a preheated baking tray (230° C) and then spoon on the sauce, not too much though.
Stage three (the fun bit): Add the toppings!
This bit I’ll leave up to you… for us we had mozzarella, thick sliced salami and mortadella.
Pop in the oven at 230° C until the the dough is golden and cheese is melted.
It’s been a week since we had this Pizza and we are craving it already. Perhaps family pizza night should go from once a month, to once a week!