October 6th, 2012 The name pizza comes from Greek and Latin – the Ancient Greeks used to bake flat bread with cheese, oil and herbs on top. However, pizza as we know it, is relatively modern and was invented in Naples (1889) – the first being the Margherita in honour of Queen Margherita of Italy. If you think about it, it would have to be modern because the tomato was only brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors in the sixteenth century. I make pizza all year round, but in the Autumn the end of the tomato season is a good excuse for making pizza with a fresh tomato topping, rather than canned or frozen. Most pizzas (but not all) have a layer of tomato sauce on a flat dough, with an additional topping or toppings, such as mozzarella, anchovies, ham, cheese, sausage, olives, etc. My favourite is chorizo, mushroom and mozzarella, I know that chorizo isn’t very authentic (being Spanish), but it does go extremely well with tomato and cheese. For me, ideally, pizza should have a flat crispy base and a good spicy topping – frozen and even pizza from most chain pizzerias will not do at all! One day I’ll build a wood fired oven – it is the best way to make pizza.
Tomato sauce recipe: 6 or 7 medium sized tomatoes (blanched and peeled) or 1 can 6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped) a pinch of dry crushed chilli a cup of chopped mixed olives (optional) a few fresh basil leaves (torn) a splash of red wine a splash of red wine vinegar a small squirt of anchovy paste (optional) black pepper to taste extra virgin olive oil
Chop up the garlic and mix it with the chilli in some warmed olive oil. Add the tomatoes before the garlic starts to brown – a potato masher is particularly good for squashing whole peeled tomatoes into a paste.
When the sauce starts to bubble put the chopped olives in, along with the wine and vinegar. Tear up and stir in the the basil leaves, then season with black pepper to taste. I use a small squirt of anchovy paste to give the sauce a little bit of salty savoury flavour – use sea salt instead if you if you don’t like anchovies. I used to chop up the olives and put them on top for the pizza as a topping, but I’ve found that adding them to the sauce is easier. When the sauce is done, allow it to cool.
Pizza dough (makes two 12 inch pizzas): 250g 00 grade flour 250g strong white bread flour 1 level teaspoon of fine sea salt 1 7g sachet of dried yeast (or use fresh yeast if you can get it) half a pint of luke warm water 1 tablespoonful of olive oil If I’m in a hurry, I put all the ingredients into a food processor with a dough hook for ten minutes – it does do a fairly good job! Otherwise, mix the flours and salt into a small mound on a clean work surface, with a well in the centre. Stir the yeast and olive oil into the luke warm water and leave it for a minute or so. Pour the water mixture into the flour well and use a spoon or fork to slowly mix the flour into the water from the edges. Once this starts to become solid, kneed the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes, until it becomes soft – it’s ready when you can roll it into a ball, as above. Put the dough into a bowl and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. It should rise a little bit, but we are not making bread, so don’t worry if it doesn’t do much. Divide the dough in half and roll it out on a floured work surface, with a rolling pin. My pizza is square, but you can roll it into any shape that pleases you.
Make a thin layer of tomato sauce on top of the rolled out dough (the back of a wooden spoon helps).
Lay your topping/s onto the tomato sauce – I use some basil leaves first,
followed by slices of chorizo,
mushrooms, a little black pepper and a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese. I cook mine in a hot oven on a metal baking sheet for between 30 – 40 minutes. Keep an eye on it and remove it from the oven when it looks right. My mental shopping list contains a pizza stone – a big piece of flat stone that can be heated in the oven. The uncooked pizza is slid onto the stone while it’s in the oven and the result is a crispy base akin to baking it in a real pizza oven. The tomato sauce can be prepared and frozen – it should keep for quite a few months. The pizza dough can be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated until needed.