Maybe it’s because I grew up in a rural area where pizza delivery didn’t happen, or maybe it’s because my mother always cooked from scratch, but making pizza is one of my many happy childhood memories, and is something that I still love to do.
I have refined the process slightly by investing in a pizza stone, which is a terracotta slab that is preheated and holds the heat, simulating to some extent the effect of a pizza oven.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist where pizza is concerned and tend not to go for fancy toppings, but I know people who will look in the fridge and put whatever is there on top of their pizza. I also have it on good authority that if you are in Scotland and ask for a pizza supper, you will get pizza deep fried in batter and served with chips!
I have spent years puzzling over the best way to get the risen dough onto the hot pizza stone without knocking all the air out of it, and have recently perfected a technique. I leave the dough to rise on a flexible nonstick baking sheet (sold as reusable oven liner/cake tin liner), and then just slide the sheet onto the stone when it is time. When the pizza is cooked, the sheet slides off the stone, and the pizza slides off the sheet. Perfection!
- 1.5 cups strong flour (plain flour will do)
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 2 tsp fast-acting yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
I use a stand mixer to make the dough. Then I can make the sauce while the mixer kneads the dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you will need to knead the dough by hand.
- Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.
- On a slow speed, add the yeast, and then the salt.
- On a medium speed, add the water.
- When the dough has formed a homogeneous mass, turn the speed up to high and leave for 5 minutes (keep an eye on the mixer to make sure it doesn’t walk off the work surface). If you don’t have a mixer, knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- When the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
- Dust the work surface (or non-stick sheet) with a mixture of flour and coarse cornmeal.
- Turn the dough out onto the work surface and work it into a disk about 13″ in diameter. Make a little rim around the edge. Leave it to rise for 30 minutes.
- 1 400 g can chopped tomatoes or 500 ml tomato passata
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- pinch salt
- pinch sugar
- 1 tsp balsamic vineger
- 1 tbslp dried oregano
- 1 tblsp olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
Using the chopped tomatoes gives a chunky topping, while using the passata gives a sauce more like you find on commercial pizzas. It’s a matter of preference, or what you have in the house on the day, which one you use.
- Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until the onion is translucent.
- Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil, while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat, and leave to simmer for 45 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to stand up in peaks – otherwise it will make the crust soggy.
Baking the pizza
- Pizza base (see above)
- Pizza sauce (see above)
- 200 g grated mozzerella
- Optional toppings: eg peppers, mushrooms, olives, jalepenos, salami, pepperoni…
- Fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 220°C. If you have a pizza stone, heat it up in the oven. Otherwise, preheat a heavy baking tray.
- Spread the sauce over the base, leaving the rim clear of sauce.
Add the toppings of your choice. I always put the cheese on last, but you may prefer to put your extras on top of the cheese.
- When the oven is hot, take the stone or baking tray out, being careful not to burn yourself. Transfer the pizza onto the stone or tray (see my note above) and return it to the oven.
- Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. To serve, slide the pizza off the stone or tray, scatter some fresh basil over the top, and cut it into wedges.