Hi everybody, and welcome back!
In my last post I gave you some info on the origins of pizza, and tried to explain you what a real Italian pizza is like. If you haven’t read it yet, just click here and then come back 🙂
At the end of this post I will give you an easy recipe for home-made pizza, but first let’s get back to where we left.
A question was left unanswered in the previous post, so let’s do it now:
WHAT TO ORDER IN A PIZZERIA?
Depending on your appetite, you can have one to five courses over a pizza night in Italy.
To decide how many things to order, I usually look around whenever I enter a pizza place, to get an idea of the size of portions.
I will now give you a few examples of the five courses I mentioned before, focusing on the dishes that are most common and traditional.
The thing that most commonly precedes pizza is bruschetta (toasted bread, topped with a variety of ingredients.)
The purest version of traditional bruschetta is obtained by rubbing some garlic on toasted bread, then adding salt and oil. A popular version is with tomatoes and basil.
Something conceptually similar to bruschetta is fresa, the difference being that toasted bread is replaced by a round, crunchy flat-bread with a hole in the middle. Some pizza places make their own fresa with pizza dough. I personally love this option!
If you are craving for something more substantial, you can choose the standard antipasto many restaurants propose.
It is often named antipasto all’italiana, and consists of a selection of cheese, various kinds of salami and cured meats, vegetables (fresh and/or cooked and/or marinated), and sometimes meatballs and other deep-fried stuff (especially in the South).
That is, of course, your favourite pizza.
Pizza is accompanied fairly often by fries or baked potatoes, salads or cooked vegetables.
I suggest you check the fruit list, especially in Summer. Most pizza places offer at least a few fresh options served alone or with ice-cream, and you could also find local varieties of fruit: for instance wild strawberries, which grow spontaneous in our woods, are a real treat, alone or with whipped cream/ice-cream.
As I said before, I really am a sweet-tooth, so I could recommend you many many different desserts. But this post is about pizza, so I really shouldn’t let sweet stuff get all the attention. For this reason and for brevity’s sake, I’ll just mention two: Babà and Tiramisù.
Babà is soft and delicious sweet from Naples, shaped as a champagne cork and drenched in a mixture of water, rum and sugar. A nice variant is made with Limoncello liqueur instead of rum. Can be served alone, or filled with cream, custard, fruit, chocolate… Babà are usually individual, but sometimes they come in the shape of a cake.
Tiramisù means literally “bring me up”, and if you look at the ingredients you’ll know why: it is made with coffee soaked Savoiardi (Italian biscuits), layered with a cream of raw eggs and mascarpone cheese, it all topped by a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
I bet that at this point your mouth is watering, mine surely is… I admit I had to take a break to get a quick snack! 🙂
So now let’s get to the core of this article, the moment everybody was (hopefully) waiting for: the recipe.
HOW TO MAKE PIZZA AT HOME
Home-made pizza will always be quite different from the one you would get in a Pizzeria; even if you select the best ingredients and carefully follow the perfect recipe, you will still have a big missing piece: a professional oven.
A wood-burning oven reaches a temperature of 485° C (905° F), and that allows pizza to be fully cooked in just as little as 60 to 90 seconds; using a normal house oven, the cooking time will stretch out to about 20 minutes.
Obviously that affects the results, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good pizza at home!
You just need to make it differently.
And anyway, though different from the ones made in Pizzeria, home-made pizza can be really delicious… so, let’s get started with the recipe!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
You only need the following ingredients to make Pizza Margherita for four!
For the dough:
- Flour, 600 g / 21 oz. You will get best results using a relatively strong flour: a strong flour contains more gluten than a weak one, and gluten makes the dough elastic and easier to manage (consult Wikipedia for more info on that). If you can’t get it, plain flour will be OK.
- Water, about 350 ml (0.74 pt)
- Brewer’s yeast, 10 g / 0.35 oz. I’m not sure this is easy to get everywhere, when I lived abroad I used to find it only in Italian and Polish food shops. In alternative you can use dry bread yeast.
- Salt, 15 g / 0.53 oz
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Olive or any cooking oil, 2 tablespoons
- Tomato purée, about 500 ml
- Mozzarella, 3-4 balls
- Basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
Put the water in a pot, and heat it for a few seconds until it’s lukewarm. It’s very important that the water is not too hot or it will kill the yeast; test it with your finger and make sure it is at a comfortable temperature for your skin.
Then crumble the yeast into the water and stir in until dissolved. You can also use your hand to gently melt it in, and when you’re done put in the oil and sugar.
Put the flour and salt in a big bowl (consider that the dough will double its size over leavening), and start adding the yeast you have melted in water.
The best way to do this is to slowly pour the liquid with one hand, while incorporating it with the flour with the other hand.
Once you have all ingredients mixed together you can start to knead: put your hand beneath one part of the dough, lift it, flip it on the rest on the dough, and push it in.
Keep doing that until the dough is completely uniform and smooth. I usually do that directly into the bowl (the less messy option), but it is easier to knead on a plan and smooth base, so you may want to do it on a wooden/marble slab, or even on a clean counter!
Now your dough has to rest. Make a ball out of it, spread a little oil on the inside of the bowl (so it will not stick) and put the dough back in.
To avoid that the surface of your pizza dough dries, you have two options: you can use either cling film or a kitchen towel wetted with warm water to cover it. In both cases, place it directly in contact will the dough following its shape.
The dough will double its size in about one hour, but you need to make sure that it stays warm.
Unless is Summer and there are 30+ degrees in your kitchen, you will have to create the right environment for pizza to grow. I usually put the bowl in the oven with only the light on. Or you could wrap it in one or more blankets.
If you’re planning to use real mozzarella (as I suggest you do), keep in mind that it contains a lot of water.
To avoid a pizza covered with liquid, you should cut the mozzarella into slices, one or two hours before using it, and store it in the fridge (if possible, in a sieve or colander that has been put on a plate/bowl).
If you’re not in a rush, you could allow the dough to raise for 2-3 hours instead of one. Traditional pizza has a very long leavening time.
In any case, after completion of the raising time, the ideal would be to divide the dough into individual portions and let them raise for another hour, but still, it is a passage you can skip.
Preheat the oven to the highest temperature available.
Stir the tomato purée with salt, a small pinch of sugar, and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil (you will add some later). I usually add also ground black pepper and dry oregano, but it’s a matter of tastes.
It’s time to actually make your pizza!
Use your hands and fingers to spread out the dough; I do it directly in a baking paper layered baking tray. I start by rubbing some oil on my hands, and I stretch the dough with both hands before putting it on the tray.
Then I spread it out more, always starting from the centre and going towards the borders: if you do this, and never touch or push down the borders, they will be bigger and softer once cooked.
Now that your base is done, spread the tomato on it. You can drizzle some oil on it, or save it for later if you prefer to add it raw.
Average cooking time is 20 minutes, but it will really depend on the height of your pizza and the oven temperature, so make sure to check it out from time to time.
It should stay on the bottom of the oven at first, and then move to the centre.
Only when the pizza is ready, add the mozzarella and basil leaves, and put it back in the oven for less than a minute. When you see the cheese melted, your pizza is ready to be eaten!