A simple and authentic Italian “Margherita” pizza

1

September 10, 2012 by Bloke In A Kitchen

With just a little planning ahead, you can easily make your own tasty, authentic Italian pizzas at home.  With a bit of practice, you’ll soon be whipping out pizzas that are tastier (and fresher, and cheaper) than what you can buy ready-made.  Once you’ve prepared them, they take very little time to cook too.  You’re in a win-win situation here.

The pizza dough recipe below is pretty much what any self-respecting Italian pizzaiolo would use (in this case, none other than Antonio Carluccio!), and it should be rolled out almost paper-thin, and slightly deeper at the edges.  After making your own pizza from scratch a couple of times, you’ll never look back!  If you get serious about pizza (and it’s pretty darn addictive once you start), like me you’ll be googling away all night to find pizza making tips and new recipe ideas, and you also might well want to invest in a pizza baking stone to help replicate the soaring temperatures of the traditional wood fired pizza ovens of Naples.

Ingredients            Makes 4 good-sized pizzas

PIZZA DOUGH

  •  1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
  •  300ml (10 fl oz) warm water
  • A pinch of good quality salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for greasing the trays
  • 600g ’00’ flour, (or plain flour), plus extra for dusting

 

TOMATO PIZZA SAUCE

  •  1 x can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar

TOPPING

  • Enough grated cheese to nicely cover the pizza  (a strong extra-mature Cheddar, or preferably an Italian cheese such as Parmesan / Grana PadanoParmigianoReggiano)
  • 2 balls of Mozzarella cheese (most supermarkets now sell a ‘No Frills’ Mozzarella ball which I use, and is pretty good)
  • Mushrooms, very thinly sliced (optional)
  •  Fresh basil leaves

 

METHOD

Make the base:  Put the flour into a large bowl, and stir in the dried yeast and salt.  Make a well, pour in the warm water and the olive oil, and bring together with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, fairly wet dough. Knead the dough on a clean, floured surface for 5 minutes, until it’s smooth and ‘springy’. Cover with a slightly damp tea towel, and set aside. You can leave the dough to rise if you like, but it’s not essential for a thin crust.  You could also place the dough in the fridge if you’re preparing it ahead of time.

Make the tomato pizza sauce:  Gently heat the olive oil, and then add the chopped garlic. Cook the garlic gently for a minute or two until slightly golden, and then add the chopped tomato.  Cook until the juice/water in the tomatoes has reduced – you want a rich, slightly sweet tasting sauce.  Remember to taste the sauce, and perhaps add a little more oregano, seasoning, a pinch more sugar, or even a glug of good olive oil if you wish. Leave to stand at room temperature while you get on with rolling out the pizza bases.

Roll out the dough:  If you’ve let the dough rise, give it a quick knead, then split into four balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into large rounds/oblongs, (depending on the shape of your baking tray!), using a rolling-pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise a little in the oven. Lift the rolled dough onto your greased baking tray/s, and then stretch and spread the dough to fill the tray.

Please note:  With a little practice, stretching and shaping the dough by hand makes an even better pizza base, but for now, using a rolling pin is absolutely fine.  Let’s not get tooooo cocky just yet!

Add the toppings and bake:  Make sure you pre-heat your oven to 240C/fan 220C /gas mark 8.  (An instant blast of heat adds great to the texture and taste of your pizza).  Smooth the sauce evenly over the pizza base with the back of a spoon.  Scatter with cheese, drizzle with olive oil and season. Put the pizza, still on its baking sheet, on top of the preheated sheet or tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crisp. Serve with a little more olive oil, and add the fresh basil leaves.

Repeat this for the remaining pizzas.  (If you’re cooking two pizzas at once, you’ll need to switch them over in the oven, so that they finish cooking at the same time).

* Any dough left over can be kept in the fridge (in a bowl, covered with clingfilm) but needs to be used within 48 hours.  You can also successfully freeze leftover dough, just wrap in in clingfilm.

I often have some home-made tomato pasta sauce at hand, so that I can rustle up a tasty pizza (or pasta meal) in next to no time.

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