Great pizza at home
Pizza has been around since the times of ancient Egypt and imperial Rome. Today, several regions in Italy, and even Italian Americans in New York, claim to have invented pizza.Who’s right? Probably all of them – the concept of flatbreads baked with toppings is so simple, many cooks probably came up with it independently.But what makes a pizza great? Most of us judge a pizza by how closely it mimics what we grew up with. My kids like local chains, while cities around the world have their own versions.Whatever your concept of a great pizza is, you can make it better at home, and it’s fun for the whole family.The key to great pizza is its crust – simple dough is transformed to crispy/chewy excellence in the blazing heat of the pizza oven. The best pizza ovens are wood-fired with a terracotta floor, but you can do a pretty good job at home by using a pizza stone and peel.Place the stone in the center of your oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Slide your pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel or thin cookie sheet (a good sprinkle of corn meal keeps the uncooked dough from sticking). Then the peel is used to easily rotate and finally retrieve your masterpiece.Like a thin crust? Roll your dough thin. Like a thick crust? Increase the quantity, roll it thick and let it rise more before baking. For extra thick crusts, bake the crust most of the way through before topping.For a calzone, make your pizza on one side of your dough, fold over and seal the edges.As for toppings, anything goes, but for the best results, exercise some self-control. Too many toppings will lead to a soggy “za.Homemade pizza is a great way to bring the family together – even the little kids can get into the act. Why not declare tonight “Homemade Pizza Night” and spend some quality time together?!Chef Michael Angelo (mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods and Tony Rosacci’s Fine Catering of Littleton. More recipes are available at http://www.TonysMarket.comRustic pizza dough1 1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)1 package active dry yeast1-2 teaspoons honey3 cups all-purpose flour, or a combination of wheat and all-purpose; plus more for kneading1 teaspoon sea salt1 teaspoon olive oilcorn mealIn a large bowl, dissolve yeast and honey in warm water. Combine flour and salt then gradually stir into yeast mixture forming a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.Chef’s tip: use a stand mixer and dough hook – continue to sprinkle with flour 1 tablespoon at a time while kneading until dough is elastic and not sticky.Toss dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk (a slightly warm, turned-off oven works beautifully). Punch dough down. The dough can now be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight if desired.Sixty to 90 minutes before supper, cut the dough in half, shape into two balls and place balls several inches apart on a lightly floured surface. Cover with plastic and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about one hour.Dust pizza peel or baking sheet with corn meal. Gently flatten and stretch dough into shape on a lightly floured surface, turning frequently, into a 10-inch circle. Transfer dough to the peel or baking sheet. If making a thick dough, poke dough a dozen or so times with a fork (docking). Dough is ready to top and bake. Makes enough for 2 pizzas or 4 calzones.Simple pizza/pasta sauceSimply amazing if made with great tomatoes. I suggest La Bella San Marzano brand tomatoes from Italy.1 28-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes2 tablespoons olive oil1 small onion, minced1 small carrot, minced1 clove garlic, crushedPinches of salt, pepper and crushed red pepperPinch of sugar, optionalHerbs and spices (such as basil, oregano, marjoram and fennel)In a bowl, coarsely crush the tomatoes, leaving them just a little chunky. Saut onions and carrots in oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, add the garlic and saut one minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and your choice of herbs and spices to taste. If tomatoes are not sweet, sugar may be added to taste. Simmer on a low flame, stirring often for at least 15 minutes. Puree if a less chunky sauce is desired.Italian pizzatopping variationsHere are some classic combinations from Italy, plus my personal favorite.n Pizza Margherita (to honor the queen)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, and 3-4 fresh basil leaves. Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, sprinkle with the mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil, add the basil and bake.n Pizza al prosciutto e funghi(a standby)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 2-3 ounces finely sliced and shredded ham and 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella. Spread the tomato sauce, sprinkle on ham, mozzarella and mushrooms, drizzle with olive oil and bake.n L’Atomica: an explosionof flavor!1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon rinsed capers, 3-4 anchovy fillets, a dusting of oregano and crushed red pepper, to taste. 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella is optional. Assemble the pizza, drizzle with olive oil and bake.n Pizza quattro stagioni(the four seasons)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 3-4 canned artichoke hearts, quartered, 5-6 black olives, 1/2 cup finely sliced mushrooms, 2 ounces finely sliced ham, shredded and 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella. Spread the tomato and the mozzarella, arrange the other four toppings each in its quarter of the pizza; drizzle with olive oil and bake.n Pizza capricciosa (from Pizzaria Giancarlo, outside Florence’s Porta San Frediano)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella, 1 finely sliced hot dog, 1/2 link sweet Italian sausage cooked, skinnedand shredded, 8 thin slices pepperoni, 2 ounces thinly sliced ham, shredded, 2 canned artichoke hearts, quartered. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the sauce, drizzle with olive oil and bake.n Contadina (another specialty from Giancarlo)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 pound mozzarella, shredded, a small onion, finely sliced and the rings separated, 1 sweet Italian sausage (2 inches), skinned and crumbled. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the sauce, drizzle with olive oil and bake.n Pizza ai Quattro Formaggi (cheese galore!)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella, 1/3 cup (each) shredded pecorino, gorgonzola, fontina and Asiago; one black olive, sliced. Spread sauce on and sprinkle with the cheeses. Dot it with the olive and bake.n La Maialona (the hogger)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella, 2-3 ounces thinly sliced ham, shredded, 1 hot dog, finely sliced, 1 sweet Italian link sausage (2 inches long) skinned and shredded. Spread the tomato sauce, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over it, and bake.n Alla Michaelangelo: (author’s favorite)1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 cup Tony’s Italian Cheese Blend, 1 ball fresh Italian mozzarella du Buffala (sliced), 2 ounces capocollo (sliced thin and shredded), 1 Italian sausage (poached lightly in pizza sauce and sliced), 3 crimini mushrooms (sliced), 1-2 tablespoons bell peppers, 1 tablespoon shredded green onion whites, and 1-2 imported anchovies in oil (rinsed and placed on one side only.) Spread sauce on, layering remaining ingredients with sprinklings of cheese.Fresh fruit pizza8 ounces mascarpone or softened cream cheese1/2 teaspoon almond, lemon or orange extractpowdered sugar to taste3 cups fresh sliced fruit and berries1/2 cup apple jelly, apricot preserves or orange marmalade*Quick cookie crust2 cup flour1/2 cup powdered sugar1 teaspoon almond extract1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup unsalted butterPrepare crust:Mix the first 3 ingredients then add the butter through the feed tube while the processor is running. Turn up until ball forms.Spray tart pan with removable bottom with stick-free spray. Take a chunk of dough and roll into a rope. Finger press it into the sides of the tart pan’s flutes. For the bottom part of the crust, flatten a chunk and press with fingers into bottom (can do one day ahead). If you don’t have a tart pan, simply shape crust by hand on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.Top pizza:With a fork, whisk mascarpone (or cream cheese) with extract and just a hint of powdered sugar. Spread cheese mixture over cooled crust. Arrange fruit in a thin attractive layer on top. Slightly warm marmalade and brush over fruit. Serve immediately.
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