Making pizza is a pleasure I indulge almost weekly. Even if the result cannot outperform the wood-oven-baked thing you get in a good pizzeria, it’s still very decent. Plus, it’s not nearly as difficult or demanding as ads would have it. (Let me be blunt about it: the “just add water” boxes you find at the supermarket are just an expensive and packaged version of what you find in this post. Plus, they taste worse.)
There are hundreds of different recipes: I like to think my variation is the best trade-off between simplicity and richness in taste (I refer to the dough, of course).
Apron-to-table time: 60 minutes.
Here’s what you need for 4 servings:
- 300g all-purpose flour (I use durum wheat double-milled semolina, if you’re lucky enough to find it.)
- 240g of water*
- 1 packet dried baker’s yeast
- 1/2 teaspoonful salt
- 1 teaspoonful white sugar (mandatory!)
- 400g fresh mozzarella
- 300ml tomato sauce
- dried oregano or fresh basil
First, turn the oven on and set it at 50°C/122°F.
Put the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water in a large bowl. Work it at medium speed with the robot for at least three minutes. You will know that everything’s fine when suddenly the crumbly, dusty mess in the bowl becomes a single soft, spongy ball that’s just barely sticky. (Press your finger against the dough: the finger should remain clean. If it shows some dough residue, add a teaspoonful of flour to the mixture and work again. Remember, it’s better to have a dough that’s a little sticky than to have a dough that’s too solid.)
Now turn the oven off if you live in a warm climate, otherwise keep it on. Wrap the bowl firmly with plastic wrap and put it in the oven. Leave it there for 30 minutes.
Now you can set the table. Once you’re done, you will still have time to slice or dice the mozzarella. I prefer slices, but dices are ok. Also, prepare all other toppings you may want to add.
After the 30 minutes have passed, take the bowl out: the ball of dough will have at least doubled in volume. Turn the oven to maximum. You want it as hot as it can get, possibly hotter. Restaurant pizzas are cooked at about 350°C/662°F. A home oven cooks at about 250°C/482°F but the result is still very decent. Of course oven time is a little longer.
While the oven heats up, generously sprinkle flour on the baking tin. You want to dust the baking tin evenly, so that the dough will not stick and an be rolled out easily. (You can use oven paper, but the pizza will remain soggy.)
Pull the dough about 3mm thick. Allow the borders to be a little thicker (so sauce won’t overflow). Sting the dough with a fork.
Once the dough is rolled out, pour the tomato sauce and spread it even, avoiding borders. The oven should be hot now, put the tin in. Cook for 10 more minutes.
Take the tin out of the oven, and quickly arrange the mozzarella and all the other toppings (I told you to have them ready) without letting the pizza lose too much heat.
Put back in the oven for 5 more minutes, then take out, sprinkle with the dried oregano or a few basil leaves (I prefer oregano).
Pizza is now ready, enjoy!
A note regarding water quantity
Work the dough for a while before concluding you need to pour in more. This means at least three minutes. Initially, the mixture will remain all crumbly and refuse to blend. Do not worry. A couple minutes’ frustration will save you a half hour of water again/flour again seesaw. Really. I’ve been there and done that.
A note regarding dough
You want to work it with your hands. It’s easy, it doesn’t get you as messy as you fear and it’s great for your RSI-risking hands and wrists. But if you want to use a kitchen robot the this time. We’ll use our hands when I teach you tagliatelle.
A note regarding mozzarella
I prefer fresh mozzarella over the cheaper melted cheese version. First, it is richer in water which means you’ll eat less fat. Second, the texture and taste are simply not comparable. But if all you can find is melted cheese, you do what you can with what you have, Marine.
Hey,what about toppings?
There are more ways to garnish a pizza than stars in the sky. I “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and just put anchovies. Only rule: toppings go in the oven with the mozzarella, only for the last 5 minutes.