I love good pizza. Everyone has their own take on what that is but for me it has a thin crispy base, good sauce (NOT tomato purée!) and simple but good quality toppings. It can be quite hard to find this so I like to make my own occasionally. It takes alot of time but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in doing it from scratch. Dissolving the yeast, seeing the dough take shape, and kneading & kneading it until the dough becomes stretchy and shiny and ready for a stint of relaxation while you make your sauce. It’s an arduous process, but one I am happy to indulge in when I have the time. And sometimes when I don’t, like last Saturday.

I had been preparing for a few days, stocking up on fresh yeast, Italian 00 flour, too many cheeses and various types of meat. A few words about these, Italian 00 flour is a must, if only because it’s what Italians use and they know what they’re doing. It’s a fine grind flour that’s high in gluten, which results in alot of bite. I take alot of time with my sauce as tomatoes test better the longer they’re cooked, this time however, I tried a new baked tomato sauce which needs very little attention and it worked really well. The toppings? Your pizza will be as good as these, I bought some San Daniele ham, as good as parma (if not better for my taste) but slightly darker and a little sweeter, some sliced piccante chorizo, some nice rocket, buffalo mozarella, a delicate fresh chevre, manchego (one of my favourites, you can substitute cheddar or something similar if you can’t get it), some really nice black olives & lots of basil.

pizza dough

So, what about the dough? Again, this can be a contentious issue. To add olive oil or not? I always used to but actually forgot it this time, and you know what? It was still really nice. So, I would say, really it’s up to you, but this time, I rolled my pizza really thin and the dough was really light and I can’t help but wonder if this was the absence of olive oil. I’ll know next time I make it and add it. I use fresh yeast, I think it gives better results & the dough rises better and faster. You can get it in health food shops normally, at least that’s where I get mine.

Push your domestic oven to it’s limits, heat it to the highest temperature, our flat was like a sauna! I like mine rustic, rolled as big and thin as I can get it and baked on a large tray that is the width of the oven. I am impatient and wanted to try everything so I made half and half pizzas so that I could try the flavours immediately.

homemade pizza

How was it? At the risk of sounding cocky, great. No other adjective required. Washed down with some delicious wine that I brought back from Paris and followed with a good film, a great Saturday night.

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients (enough for four large pizzas):

Dough:

450g Italian 00 flour
25g fresh yeast
300ml tepid water, warm to wake the yeast but not hot as hot water will kill it
1 tsp salt

Roast tomato sauce:

500g pomodorino tomatoes, halved
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
a splash of balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
a handful of basil
a generous splash of olive oil

Toppings:

(All have tomato sauce)

Pizza 1: San Daniele Ham, Manchego & Rocket
Pizza 2: Chevre, Black Olives – halved with the stones removed, Manchego
Pizza 3: Buffalo Mozarella & Black Olives (as above)
Pizza 4: Chorizo, Black Olives & Manchego

Method:

The dough:

First of all make the dough. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Clear and clean some workspace on your counter and pour the flour onto it. Add the salt. Make a well in the center and add the water/yeast a little at a time, bringing the flour into the center until it is all added and the dough is taking shape. If it’s too dry, add more water and if it’s too wet, add a little more flour. Knead your dough, don’t be afraid of it, this isn’t like pastry, dough can really take it, the more you knead it the better. Divide into 4 and continue to knead until the dough appears shiny and is quite elastic. At this point it’s done. Lightly oil a plate and put the dough on it. Lightly oil the dough with a pastry brush so that it doesn’t get a hard skin and cover with a damp cloth or some cling film. I leave it for a couple of hours in a warm place to let it rise but if you’re pushed for time an hour will do. Once it has risen, roll the dough on a floured surface until it’s as thin as you like it/can get it. Transfer to your heated oiled tray. I find it easier to add the toppings here as these are big pizzas!

Roast tomato sauce:

Oil an oven dish and add all the ingredients. Roast for an hour or so until the tomatoes break down and purée. Set aside.

roast tomato sauce

Putting the pizza together:

The nice bit!

Pizza 1: San Daniele Ham, Manchego & Rocket

Add a light layer of tomato sauce (2-3 tbsp should do) and some manchego, not too much, you want to lightly cover it so it works with the other ingredients not dominates. Put in the oven and depending on your oven it will take between 5 and 10 minutes. Remove, add the ham and rocket on top. Dress lightly with a good extra virgin olive oil. Slice and serve.

Pizza 2: Chevre, Black Olives – halved with the stones removed, Manchego.

Slice your chevre, this was a small log so I left the slices whole, if large cut smaller. Arrange the ingredients on the pizza putting the manchego last. Cook as above. Dress lightly with a good extra virgin olive oil. Slice & serve.

homemade pizza

Pizza 3: Buffalo Mozarella & Black Olives (as above)

Slice your buffalo mozarella and spread on top of the tomato sauce. Add the black olives. Cook as above. Dress lightly with a good extra virgin olive oil. This is one of my favourites as the cheese is wonderful melted.

Pizza 4: Chorizo, Black Olives & Manchego

I think you know what to do now!

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Niamh

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