We love pizza in our house; it’s a weekly treat that I serve up mainly on a Friday or Saturday night. A comforting end to the week. Pizza is easy, pizza is flexible and pizza is, I reckon, one of the very best things to ever come out of Italy. Well done, Neapolitans, you did good there. Like pretty much everything else we eat, our pizza is almost never shop or takeaway bought. I’d say 99% of the time I make it from scratch, dough, sauce and all. It’s not faffy, even if you don’t have a breadmaker, and there is the added bonus of being able to put whatever toppings on you like. We like ours simple, with fresh tomatoes and cheese and olives. Here are my components of the perfect pizza:
I have a breadmaker which has a pizza setting, so knocking up a batch of dough is the work of mere moments, but before we got it, I used this recipe. Note – I never once used the 00 grade flour, as I just couldn’t find it and I wasn’t going on a bear hunt for it when regular strong white bread flour works just as well. Once mixed and kneaded, set it aside in a bowl, in a warm place, covered in a tea towel or cling film to prove. You can make this hours in advance. For instance, I generally make the dough mid morning, and leave it proving happily away until dinner time. When it’s time to make the base, I start it off with my rolling pin (Sorry Italians, I know this isn’t the proper way) and then push it out with the heel of my hand until it’s really thin. I then put it directly on the oven shelf to put the rest of the toppings on – a lesson I learnt after an unfortunate episode where I couldn’t get the the pizza off my kitchen worktop having made the entire thing, got cross, scrunched it up and threw the lot in the bin.
The Tomato Sauce
This really could not be simpler. Drain the juice from one tin of tomatoes, chopped or whole, it matters not. Put the drained tomatoes into a jug (if you use a stick blender) or directly into the jug of a blender. Add a liberal sprinkling of Thyme, a good pinch of salt, pepper and sugar and some minced garlic if you like, and blitz to a smooth sauce. Again, you can do this ahead of time. If you don’t want to make your own, look for passata in the shops.
It has to be creamy, stringy mozzarella. Go for the balls of mozzarella that come in packets of milky water, and if you can get it, choose buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) rather than pre-grated mozzarella. Also, this pizza, although really simple, is meant to be a treat, so don’t scrimp on the fat content, go for full fat cheese, it is SO much tastier. Your tastebuds will thank you, even if your thighs don’t.
A few dollops of fresh pesto (use fresh instead of jarred – its readily available in the fresh pasta/sauce aisle in the supermarket. You’ll never go back.), a few slices of fresh tomato and a handful of black olives, and that’s that. I don’t put anything else on it, purely because I don’t think it needs it. However, the toppings are where the fun is at, so go forth and top the pizza however you see fit.
Bake in a hot oven (around 200°C). Pizzas cook best in shorter periods of high heat, rather than in a cooler oven for longer, the base will be crispy and the toppings will be oozy and really really yummy. Also, let the oven get to temperature before cooking.
This is his “I love my dinner and I’m smiling” face.