1kg ‘00’ flour (fine white Italian flour) also called pasta flour and widely available
20g fine salt
10g fast action yeast
600ml tepid water
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well together using your hands coated with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
It will look a shaggy mess but just cover it and leave the dough to relax and absorb the liquid while you make yourself a cup of tea - about 15 minutes
Then, rubbing your hands with olive oil again, knead for about 10-20 seconds only before covering and leaving for 10 minutes.
Repeat this another 2 times, making a total of three separate kneads and 10 minute rests, when the dough should look smooth and slightly puffy. Give a quick final knead, cover and leave at room temperature for 3-4 hours until about doubled in size.
You can put the dough, covered, in the fridge until the next day until you are ready to use it which will give it an even better flavour, but remember to let it come to room temperature before dividing into pizza balls.
Cut the dough into 8 pieces (approx 200g each) or 6 pieces if you want a bigger pizza.
Form the dough pieces into balls, sprinkle well with flour, then cover until ready to use within the next hour
Again, the dough balls will keep covered in the fridge for a few hours until you need them.
(If you make too many, you can pop them in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer for a month or three. When you fancy a pizza just thaw overnight in the fridge, bring to room temperature and you have pizza on demand).
Now it’s time to make a tomato sauce. I know you can buy jars of passata and ‘pizza’ sauce but why do it when this is so quick and ten times better.
1 tin good quality tomatoes (preferably San Marzano - see foodie chat)
½ tsp salt plus a grind of black pepper
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp good quality red wine vinegar
Put everything into a saucepan and simmer until thick and spreadable. This may take 10-15 minutes but the important thing is not to have a thin, watery sauce. Taste and adjust if necessary.
When you are ready to make your pizza, knock out the air from a ball of dough on a flat surface and with plenty of flour to prevent sticking, use your hands and fingers to spread out as thin as you like, keeping a small ridge around the edge and trying to keep to a circle that will fit in your frying pan. You can also use a rolling pin to do this but you won’t have a raised edge/crust.
Heat your frying pan to hot, but not smoking, and add a little olive oil. Drop in the pizza base and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing down the edges and on any bubbles that rise up. Lift up the edge of the pizza to check that it is golden and crispy.
Add your topping, drizzle with olive oil and whack under a very hot grill until the topping has started to bubble.
If your frying pan won’t go under a searingly hot grill, just slide the pizza base onto a baking sheet on carry on from there.
Toppings can be whatever you fancy.
Try a classic Margheritta of tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh cherry tomatoes and basil, but put the fresh basil on after taking out from under the grill, otherwise it will burn. Drizzle with olive oil. And if you hanker for some meat, just tear some pieces of good Parma Ham and lay over the top before serving. (see photo)
If you dare be different and non-traditional, try a pizza without tomato sauce.
Spread the base with some seasoned creme fraiche or marscapone cheese, then top with some finely sliced red chilli and a handful of raw king prawns. Sprinkle with some grated parmesan, drizzle with olive oil and grill for a few minutes until bubbling and the prawns are cooked. (I suddenly became very popular with my neighbours after making this one).
The other pizza photographed here has tomato sauce, mozzarella, sautéed onions, red peppers, red chilli and barbecued chicken. And fantastic it was too.
There are lots of combinations of toppings so just go for it and experiment, but my one bit of advice would is be careful of toppings that have a lot of moisture such as mushrooms as the water can leach out during cooking and give you a soggy topping never mind a soggy bottom.
I always sauté mushrooms if I am using them to get rid of as much of their water content as I can.
Fresh mozzarella such as buffalo tastes fantastic and creamy, but holds a lot more moisture than cows milk mozzarella, giving it a softer texture.
If using buffalo mozzarella on a pizza it needs to be sliced early and dried on kitchen paper to dry off. It’s a bit more work but worth it for the taste.
Alternatively, a good Italian cows milk cheese from say a producer like Galbini (widely available) can be used straight away once drained from its packaging, although personally I would still dry it off.
I know ordering or buying a supermarket pizza is really easy, but trust me, once you perfect your own homemade version, you will never go back. And the satisfaction you will get from the admiring comments and looks from your guests is worth all the effort.