MANGIA! It’s a Pizza Party!
Who doesn’t love Pizza? It’s a comfort food for everyone – kids and adults alike. Back in college, I would eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. The combination of crispy bread, sauce, and cheese is perfect. But with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be making something really special.
BUT, before you read on, go to this YouTube link. Put on the song and then read the post. It really gets you in the mood!
Come on, you gotta have Italian music when you’re talking about pizza!
Let me get this part off my chest first. This is a very thin, crispy pizza. It’s not deep dish pizza, it’s not a chewy crust, it’s not delivery and it certainly ain’t DiGiornio. This pizza is what I love – a flavorful crust that is crispy from edge to middle, beautifully melted cheese, and just a few toppings that really make it special. I’m a cheese pizza kinda guy. My dad is a cheese pizza guy. My grandfather is a cheese pizza guy. So, we make cheese pizza. Sometimes, we’ll jazz it up with veggies or some great salami, but cheese is always a staple.
I’ve been making this pizza for a long time, from scratch. That means the dough and the sauce are homemade and now I get fresh mozzarella cheese from my friends, Tom & Debbie over at Lazzaroli Pasta. (Remember the butternut squash ravioli from last week?). Basil and fresh tomatoes are from the garden. Once you get the hang of it, it’s incredibly simple. And in my opinion, you can’t find a better pie anywhere than this one which you can make from your own home. Follow the steps and you’ll be a pizza expert in no time.
Pizza Dough (makes 2 big pizzas, or 4 small ones)
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)
1 package of active dry yeast (make sure it’s not expired, ok?)
1 tsp honey
1 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)
3 cups of all purpose flour (sifted)
1 T kosher salt
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Put the active dry yeast in the clean bowl of your stand mixer (or a big bowl if you’re mixing this by hand). Pour the honey and warm water in and mix it around. Immediately, your kitchen should smell like bread or if your nosebuds are like mine, beer (yeast is a key ingredient in beer). Honey is what the yeast eats. Don’t add salt now, because that’ll kill the yeast. Let this sit for about 5 minutes, until it becomes foamy and develops a skin on top of the water.
While the yeast is activating, sift the 3 cups of flour and salt. Now, you’re ready to go. Put the stand mixer (paddle attachment) on low speed and add the flour in 1/2 cup increments. Halfway through, it’ll look like this.
Add the extra virgin olive oil. Keep adding the flour until the dough starts coming together. Once the dough is a cohesive ball, switch to the dough hook for kneading and increase the speed to medium. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it becomes really soft and smooth. (And, yes, I do mean 10 minutes because this isn’t a flaky dough like a biscuit, so knead away!)
After 10 minutes, it’ll look like this:
Ah, a lovely dough. Roll it up into a ball and rub it with olive oil. Put in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, to prevent a skin from forming.
Now, you gotta let the dough rest for a few hours (maybe 2-3) in a warm spot. This will allow the dough to proof. If you tried to bake the dough now, it would be really tough and dense. Allowing it to proof makes it light, airy, and crispy. It’ll really grow in size. During this time, you can make the sauce. To be honest, I use my tomato soup recipe as my sauce. It’s really good and since it’s a thick soup, it does double work as pasta sauce!
See the difference? Punch the dough (get out some aggression) once and it’ll deflate like above. Now, you’re ready to start making some pizza.
Vivek’s Margherita Pizza
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)
1 recipe of pizza dough
1 recipe of tomato basil sauce (you won’t use all of the sauce)
fresh mozzarella cheese (I use Lazzaroli Pasta’s fresh cheese) – I LOVE THIS CHEESE. Just LOOK at it.
a few cherry tomatoes
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (or as high as it’ll go). I use a pizza stone to cook my pizza and definitely recommend it for the best possible crust. You can use a pizza pan, but it may not get as crispy.
Cut the dough in half and roll it out until it’s really thin. Put some cornmeal on a pizza paddle or pizza pan and make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Ladle some of the tomato basil sauce on the pizza.
Top it with the cheese and season the cheese with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and crushed black pepper. Bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes (maybe more, maybe less depending on the strength of your oven), until it is bubbly on top and very crispy.
Put the basil leaves and cherry tomatoes on the pizza and add a another good dose of olive oil. Slice and enjoy!
Did the music just end on you? You need something more? Ok, here’s another song you can play!
A cool story about the Margherita pizza is that in Naples, there was a pizzeria that delivered a pizza with the colors of the Italian flag fresh mozzarella (white), tomato (red), and basil (green) to a visiting Queen at the time, whose name was Margherita. When she asked the name of the pizza, the pizza maker, not having a name for it, cleverly responded with “Pizza Margherita”, naming it after the Queen.