Friday, January 21, 2011


The word alone makes most people smile.  That perfect combination of home made bread, tomato, cheese opens the door to an endless variety of personalization choices.  For me, the basic combination is all I need but once in a while I splurge with some fresh asparagus or leftover meatballs or shrimp.  

There are few aromas that can compete with that of pizza baking in your oven.  The rich cheeses, the aromatic basil and the slight acidity of the tomato all get your memories flowing and your mouth watering.

I am going to give you the basics, including the dough recipe.  I promise not to frown if you choose to use a fresh pizza dough from your grocer's refrigerator or from your local bakery.  They are fairly readily available and perfectly acceptable.  Please do not used one of those pre-formed packaged pizza / focaccia shells sitting on the shelf next to the white bread.

I do not usually advocate single-use or specialty gadgets but one item that I suggest you add to your collection of  baking sheets and pans is an aluminum pizza screen.  They are reasonably priced and help produce a wonderfully crisp crust.


[for the dough]

1 package active dry yeast
1.5 cups room temperature water
3.5 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

[for the topping]

2 cups shredded cheese [I like the mozzarella/provolone mix]
1/3 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
6-10 fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup tomato puree
1 small clove garlic, minced

[for the dough]
Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl if you are going to kneed by hand.  Stir to mix well.  Add the oil and all but 2 tablespoons of the water. Mix with the dough hook for 5 minutes. If the dough seems dry then add the rest of the water. Let rest for 5 minutes and kneed for another 10 minutes.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour.

[for the sauce]
For pizza it is best to use a raw "sauce".  Please don't use a pre-made sauce!  Blend the tomato puree, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.  


When the dough has risen for an hour, turn it out onto a floured surface.  I like to use a silpat mat for this but you can work directly on your counter top.  

Preheat oven to 425*

Rub some flour on your hands and begin to stretch the dough with your hands.  At this point you can cheat and use a floured rolling pin to flatten and continue to stretch the dough until it is quite thin but not torn.  This dough generally makes a 16" crust.  Feel free to leave the dough in a free-form shape if you are unable to get it into the traditional round.  I like the rustic look and then you can be sure your guests will know it is handmade!

Place the dough on the pizza screen or baking sheet and very lightly cover with the sauce.  The sauce should barely cover as illustrated in the photo above.  If you use more sauce than that the pizza will be soggy.

Sprinkle the grated Romano over the sauce. Now arrange the fresh basil leaves over the pie.  Cover with the shredded cheeses and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil.  

Bake on middle rack for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Serve piping hot from the oven.  You can also cut into bite-sized pieces and serve as an hors d'oeuvre.

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