Take a lit­tle pizza my heart, baby

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

We all know that if you want real blow-your­socks-off pizza, you have to get your­self over to the home of the wood oven in Naples. But did you know that you can make an im­pres­sive ver­sion in your own do­mes­tic oven? The key is mak­ing sure that the oven is as hot as it can pos­si­bly get, and that you have ei­ther a pizza or bread stone or a hefty bak­ing tray hot and await­ing the ar­rival of your pizza.

Of course the in­gre­di­ents play a ma­jor part, too. My ba­sic pizza dough recipe is easy to make, and (un­der the right con­di­tions) cre­ates a lovely, chewy dough that puffs up in some places and crisps up in oth­ers.

The temp­ta­tion with piz­zas is to pile them up with ev­ery­thing you have in your fridge that might taste nice on a pizza. But the dough needs con­tact with the heat in or­der to per­form, so less is more when it comes to pizza top­pings. If you are mak­ing a tomato-based pizza, the layer of tomato, in par­tic­u­lar, needs to be mod­est, or the dough un­der­neath won’t cook.

If you find your­self with loads of dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents you want to use, my ad­vice would be to di­vide them up into com­pan­ion­able groups and just make mul­ti­ple piz­zas. I’d also like to dis­pel the myth that pizza has to be a large, cheesy, tomato-laden thing. In Italy, pizza is many things to many peo­ple. It is eaten through­out the day, some­times in a small slice as a snack, and at other times cov­er­ing the en­tirety of a restau­rant ta­ble.

You can try almost any­thing as long as you re­spect the rules. For ex­am­ple, the re­cent ap­pear­ance of chicken tikka masala pizza on some take­away menus takes fu­sion cui­sine too far, if you ask me.

Cal­zone is the rebel of the pizza fam­ily. It is noth­ing more than a reg­u­lar pizza folded in half, but the fact that its ap­pear­ance is not re­ally im­por­tant and it can hide many sins means that it is per­fect for those who like a mul­ti­tude of top­pings and flavours go­ing on.

My cal­zone recipe is for a very sim­ple meat ragù with lots of moz­zarella, but you can be ad­ven­tur­ous. It’s im­por­tant that it has a wet sauce and some melt­ing cheese, but you can try a few dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions in there – slices of salami, discs of cour­gette. Chil­dren love the el­e­ment of sur­prise about cal­zone too.

White pizza — pizza bianca — is a thing of bril­liance. Leav­ing out the tomato sauce means that all the other in­gre­di­ents get a chance to ex­press them­selves, so it’s a great mo­ment to use any lovely cheeses or cured meat you might have. Scrubby, aro­matic herbs such as thyme, rose­mary and sage also re­spond re­ally well to a bit of di­rect heat, so make sure you find a way to in­clude them.

The key to suc­cess with this style of pizza is mak­ing sure that there is enough cheese and oil and that you al­ways have at least one stand­out in­gre­di­ent, like an­chovies.

Fi­nally, my Nutella pizza is con­tentious, but it’s a fix­ture on Neapoli­tan pizze­ria menus, and Nutella is orig­i­nally an Ital­ian prod­uct, so there.

I don’t know where I first heard about this bril­liant dish, but I’m glad I did. I’ve tried it a few ways (in the name of re­search), but have found that I pre­fer it spread inside the pizza so that it can qui­etly melt, as op­posed to spread on top.

Cut­ting the pizza in half is tricky and can re­sult in burnt fin­gers, so don’t feel ashamed if you opt for the eas­i­est style. As you can imag­ine, you can’t re­ally get it wrong with this one.

Makes one large or six small piz­zas 150ml/5 fl oz luke­warm wa­ter ½ tbsp dried yeast A pinch of sugar 1 tbsp olive oil 250g/9oz strong white flour, plus ex­tra for dust­ing 1 tsp salt

In a bowl, mix the warm wa­ter with the yeast, sugar and oil. Leave for 8-10 min­utes or so to froth up. Mean­while, place the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the cen­tre. Pour in the wet in­gre­di­ents and mix with your hands or a spoon un­til you have a sticky dough. Keep adding hand­fuls of flour or drops of wa­ter un­til you have a work­able con­sis­tency.

Turn the dough out on to a wellfloured sur­face and knead for five min­utes un­til stretchy and glossy. Re­turn to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise some­where warm for one hour.

Turn out again and knead for a few more min­utes be­fore rolling out on a floured sur­face, then trans­fer to a pizza stone or a hot tray to cook. 3 Ital­ian pork sausages, re­moved from their skins and crum­bled 100ml/3½fl oz white wine 1 x 400g/14oz tin plum toma­toes, drained, rinsed and chopped 150g/5oz frozen peas 250g/9oz moz­zarella, ripped into small bits 2 hand­fuls of basil

In a large fry­ing pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and cook the garlic un­til it be­gins to feel sticky, then add the beef and sausage meat.

Sea­son with a lit­tle salt and pep­per and turn the heat up a lit­tle. Cook, stir­ring of­ten, for five min­utes un­til the meat is browned.

Pour in the wine, wait three min­utes, then add the toma­toes, peas and a splash of wa­ter. Sim­mer for 20 min­utes.

Pre­heat your oven to its high­est set­ting and put two large flat trays inside to heat up.

Di­vide the dough into two or four pieces and roll into large rounds. Place each one on a flour-dusted sur­face or plate. Spread the ragù evenly over the dough bases, leav­ing a 2cm edge. Scat­ter over the moz­zarella and basil, then pick up one half and fold it over the other. Crimp the edges by pinch­ing them, mak­ing sure the sauce doesn’t leak out.

Care­fully trans­fer to the hot trays and place in the very hot oven for 15-20 min­utes un­til the sur­face is golden and puffed up. Eat im­me­di­ately.

Slice work if you can get it: from left, beef ragù and pea cal­zone; pizzette bianche; Nutella pizza. In­set: the logo of the AVPN, Naples’s pizza po­lice

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