Pizza

Pizza

The best comfort food for adults and kids, pizza is beneficial for the spirit probably more than for the body. But sometimes it is as important to be happy after a meal, at least for me.
The fact that I love pizzas with vegetable toppings the most, helps a lot to reduce the feeling of guilt. Also, the typical Italian pizza is much lighter than the American cousin in cheese and condiments. Usually when you go to a pizzeria in Rome you order your own large size pizza and most of the time you can finish it by yourself: not because we have a gargantuan appetite, but rather because the pizza is much lighter altogether.

If you hesitate diving into this recipe, thinking why I should make pizza when I can buy it frozen or I can order it at any time of the day and night, reconsider: this is a simple 5 ingredients recipe for a made-from-scratch pizza. The dough comes together in a couple of hours, it is not sourdough, but the result is very satisfying. This is more like the Roman pizza, thin and crispy rather than thick and chewy. And definitely healthier than any store-bought options.

Also, it is a wonderful family project that will create fun memories.

Ingredients:

Serves 3

For the Pizza Dough
450 gr = 1 pound (approx. 3 cups) All Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast (make sure it is still good – if package is left open for a long period of time it does not work as well)
½ tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil
275 ml lukewarm water = 9.5 oz = 1 cup + 2.5 tablespoons approximately
A few tablespoons of Semolina flour for sprinkling on the kneading board.

For Margherita Pizza
1 large bottle (24oz) of Tomato Puree or a large can (28oz) of San Marzano Tomatoes Crushed (if whole peeled tomatoes: drain the excess juice, crush the tomatoes with a fork, or pulse 3-4 times in a food processor)
2-3 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, Dry Oregano
Shredded low moisture Mozzarella or chopped Mozzarella Log – 1 &1/2 cup
Fresh Basil Leaves

For Mushroom Pizza
1 large bottle (24oz) of Tomato Puree or a large can (28oz) of San Marzano Tomatoes Crushed (if whole peeled tomatoes: drain the excess juice, crush the tomatoes with a fork, or pulse 3-4 times in a food processor)
2-3 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, Dry Oregano
1 pint of white mushrooms, rinsed and patted dry, sliced thin
Mozzarella – 1 &1/2 cup approximately, patted dry and chopped
Fresh Rosemary, cut small

Preparation:

IN THE STAND MIXER
1. Place all the flour except ¾ of a cup in the standing mixer bowl

2. Add the yeast, the sugar, and the salt (make sure you don’t pour the salt directly on the yeast, as it might kill it.

3. With the flat beater attachment, start your mixer on low, just stirring

4. Add EV Olive Oil to lukewarm water (warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Careful: hot water kills the yeast.

5. Add the liquid to the flour mixture, while the mixer is stirring

6. Increase your mixer speed to medium-high.

7. When your dough starts coming together, stop and switch the flat beater attachment for the hook attachment.

8. Add the remaining flour with a teaspoon, sprinkling it on the side of the bowl.

9. Continue kneading until you have a nice elastic ball. At least 10 minutes total. The ball should not stick to the walls of the mixing bowl, and should present a smooth surface and be very elastic.

10. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic film and let the dough rise in a warm place with no air currents for an hour or more, until it has doubled in volume.

11. With the help of a weight scale, divide the dough in 3 parts, approximately 9 oz each.

12. Start moving gently the dough on the wooden board, sprinkled with flour or semolina, until when you get a nice round ball with no wrinkles.

13. Arrange the balls on a baking sheet sprinkled with semolina. The dough will rise, so the balls should be at least 2 inches apart.

14. Cover with plastic film again, and let it rise again until doubled in volume.

MAKE THE PIZZA CRUST
1. Take one ball of dough and start flattening it and stretching with your fingertips. Fly in the air to relax the dough if extremely confident  Sprinkle with Semolina or with flour as you gain some extra centimeter. The dough tends to go back to its original shape and size, that’s why you must use the flour or semolina to keep the progress achieved!

2. Turn 45 degrees as you go, so that you try to achieve a round shape. Oval shapes and rectangular ones are also OK! The taste doesn’t really change.

3. You should aim at a dough as thin as possible, as it will raise a bit while cooking. Normally one ball is for a 10” pizza. Using the round aluminum pizza trays helps achieving the round shape.

PIZZA MARGHERITA TOPPING
1. Put 4-5 spoons of tomato sauce already seasoned in the middle of the crust. With the help of the back of the spoon make circles, covering the whole surface but leaving a 1/3 of an inch white border all around.

2. Add 3-4 Basil leaves, chopped

3. Sprinkle with olive oil.

4. Cook in the hot oven for approximately 15 minutes, turning halfway.

5. Remove and quickly add Mozzarella cheese. Put back in the oven for 5-6 minutes or until melted and bubbly.

PIZZA WITH MUSHROOMS TOPPING
1. Same as the margherita, just add the sliced mushrooms on top of the tomato sauce, let it cook, and then add mozzarella cheese. You can also add some Fontina or Scamorza cheese, as I did for the pizza in the picture.

A Few Notes:

  • Pizza dough can be made by hand. Use a large bowl at the beginning to mix the ingredients. Transfer to a wooden board to knead.
  • This recipe is for a thin crust.
  • The sugar in the dough helps the dough rise, do not skip it.
  • If the dough is too sticky, just add more flour one teaspoon at the time. It is very hard to do the opposite, i.e., to add water to a dough that is too dry.
  • Toppings: the sky is the limit. Zucchini, roasted peppers or baby peppers, caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant. They will make your pizza even more special and super healthy!
  • Dough can be kept in the fridge for 48 hours. Let it come to room temperature when you want to use it and let it rise again.
  • Cooked Pizza can be frozen for a quick snack. Just reheat in the hot oven, never in a microwave!

Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.