I love pizza! I actually think after years of making it myself I’ve finally got it downn pat, but pizza is a personal thing. I always use the same topping and make my tomato sauce from scratch. I’m not into new fangled toppings and tomato sauce from a jar, pre-bought. I like wafer thin slices of proscuitto, fresh basil, olives and boccocini on mine. I also like to throw a bit of fresh rocket on it after it’s been cooked, but mostly I just eat it hot out of the oven. My kids love this too, olives and all.
I think the key things with pizza are:
- Get your oven hot, crank it right up
- Cook first on a perforated pizza tray then take off the tray and place pizza straight in oven, that way you’ll get a lovely crisp bottom and you don’t need a pizza stone
- Make sauce from scratch, if just the once, it really makes a HUGE difference
- Use the best quality topping ingredients you can afford, but use sparingly. I buy local as opposed to imported proscuitto and it’s divine, my delicatessan slice it wafer thin.
I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and my tomato sauce and pizza dough recipes are adapated from his book “Jamie at Home”.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and torn
3 x 400g tins of good quality whole plum tomatoes (I used La Gina)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pur 4 generous glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic and shake the pan around a bit, once the garlic starts to colour add the basil and tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil remove from the heat. Strain the sauce through a course sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push any larger bits through. Keep pushing through and remember to wipe any saucy goodness from under side of the sieve. Discade basil and remaining lumpy bits and pips.
Pour the sauce back into the frying pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours. It will be ready when it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza. Use any leftover sauce to make a bolognaise or freeze and use next time you make a pizza.
makes 6 to 8 medium sized thin pizza bases
1kg strong white bread flour, I use Farina “00”
1 tablespoon salt
7gm dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
650ml tepid water
In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar, olive oil and water, stir and set aside to let the yeast activate. It will go a bit frothy, that’s what you want. In a large bowl or on a clean work surface sift the flour and salt, make a well in the centre. Pour in the wet ingredients mixing and drawing in more of the dry ingredients as you go. When it all starts coming together knead until you have a smooth springy dough.
Place dough in a bowl and either cover with clingfilm or a clean tea-towel and place in a warm-ish draught free spot in the kitchen. Allow dough to prove and double in size.
Remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it a bit to push out the air with your hands. Divide the dough into as many little balls as pizza’s you want to make, remember the bigger the balls the thicker your pizza base will be, don’t be deceived! Roll out each ball to a relatively thin, bout 0.5cm thickness and using your rolling pin place onto a greased and floured pizza tray (I use the olive oil in a spray can to oil my pizza trays).
Putting the whole thing together
So, your oven is nice and hot hot hot, pizza bases are rolled and on trays ready to be topped, tomato sauce all good to go and all your toppings are ready to rock. I buy whole kalamata olives and pit them myself at home, don’t ask me why but they just taste better done this way. To pit them, I simply put them on a board and using a small thick based glass, place the glass on the olive and gentle press, this squashes them a little but not too much and then using my hands I simply split them and discard the pit.
thinly sliced prosciutto
kalamta olives, hand pitted
fresh basil leaves
So, spread a thin layer of sauce, tear over some basil leaves. Place some prosciutto around, sprinkle some olives and semi-dried tomatoes and then tear over boccocini. Place in oven, keep an eye on this baby, when everything is started to bubble and the edges browing take out of the oven, off the tray and place directly onto shelf in oven. Then when she’s brown and you can feel the bottom has gone crisp, go for it!