I am a firm believer that pizza is healthy, well, the way the Italians make it. A thin crispy yet soft base smeared with tomatoes and torn shards of mozzarella. We haven’t managed to give our domestic pizzas the blistered crust of baking in a wood-fired oven, though I am thinking of ways of modifying the firebox of the Rayburn… For now, we whack the temperature as high as it goes and slap the pizza on a pre-heated tray. I’ll apologise now for the lack of photos, but we couldn’t wait to eat them!
Papesse I was pretty good. OK, I’m being harsh. It was really good, but I am impatient and expected the flavour to be more developed. Well, the dough was far superior to that of a quick levitation with brewer yeast and definitely decent enough to equal many a pizzeria in the land, but I am being impatient as know it will only get better and better! What a hard life – a sentence of eating pizza (at least) once a week FOREVER.
As with much of Italian cuisine, less is more, as far as toppings go. My favourite is Parma ham with rocket and shavings of parmesan, but for our first batch of Pizza di Papesse Panda-in-crime chose his two favourites: quattro formaggi and aubergine.
RECIPE: PIZZA QUATTRO FORMAGGI
Depends how hungry you are!
A hunk of Papesse
For the tomato sauce
A slug of olive oil
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
A crushed clove of garlic
A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper
For the topping
A combination of mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola and parmesan
An aubergine, thinly sliced into rounds
A ball of mozzarella, torn
A sprinkle of oregano
METHOD: Preheat your oven to its highest setting.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the crushed garlic for a couple of seconds before adding the tinned tomatoes. I always use peeled plum tomatoes and not chopped tomatoes as find there is more flesh making for a less watery consistency. It’s easy to mush them up with the back of a wooden spoon when cooking. Cook the tomatoes down over a medium heat (about ten minutes) until the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick sauce. I think tinned varieties have improved in quality as I always used to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the metallic taste, but no longer find this necessary so just season with salt and pepper. If you find your tinned tomatoes lacking in flavour, you can add a squeeze of tomato puree.
Dust the worktop with a little flour and flatten the ball of dough, knocking the air out of it with your fingertips. Stretch the pizza dough until it is as thin as possible mounding the dough up slightly around the edges. You can use a rolling pin to start it off, but stretching by hand really helps the texture.
Smear on the tomato sauce right up to the edges and scatter on the cheeses. I haven’t given quantities as it really depends on the size of your pizza base and is easier done by eye, spreading them out evenly so every mouthful will be a burst of flavours.
If making the aubergine pizza, fry the slices in olive oil or for a healthier alternative brush each with olive oil and grill. Arrange the slices over the torn mozzarella and tomato base and sprinkle with oregano.
When topped to perfection, transfer to a pre-heated baking sheet (I assemble the pizza on a sheet of greaseproof paper as don’t have a paddle and more importantly, am clumsy) and cook for about 6-8 minutes until crisp and golden. You’ve got to watch them, as the timing depends on your oven and the thinness or your base. Remove, cut into wedges, drizzle over some chilli oil and enjoy with a robust Chianti.