Pizza with tomato, nepetella and baked ricotta
Makes 2 large pizzas
The nepetella herb grows wild on the isle of Salina and is similar to catnip (nepeta). It has the flavour of mint and oregano combined, and these can be used together in its absence. Baked ricotta is also a typical local ingredient, but is improvised for this recipe. Fresh buffalo mozzarella can be used as an alternative, chopped and added to the pizza after cooking. The dough for this recipe is not the slow-fermentation sourdough type used in Franco Manca restaurants, but is a good domestic alternative. — 540g strong white flour, ideally Caputo ‘00’ Pizza available from nifeislife.com, plus extra for dusting — 5g salt, plus ½ tsp — 7g fast-action yeast — 30ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus
extra to serve — 350ml lukewarm water — 2 x 250g ricotta cheeses — 4 tsp dried nepetella leaves or 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint and 2 tsp dried oregano — 6 tbsp Italian tomato passata Prepare the dough the day before you want to make the pizza. Put the flour in a large bowl, add 5g of salt and the yeast, then stir in the olive oil. Add all the water and mix to a dough, which should feel sticky to touch but not too wet. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes on the worktop, folding and stretching it, adding a little flour if it is too wet. It will become smooth and elastic during this time (a stand mixer with dough hook can be used for kneading). Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with cling film then place in the fridge for 16-24 hours to rise.
Place all the ricotta in a sieve lined with two sheets of kitchen paper, set over a bowl. Place in the fridge for two hours or more, so that the cheese dries out, feeling firmer to the touch.
Preheat the oven to 140C/ gas mark 1. Place the dried-out ricotta on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt and bake until lightly browned, smaller and further dried out – about an hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then place on a plate in the fridge to firm up.
When ready to bake the pizzas, heat the oven to its highest setting. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven as it heats. Alternatively use two baking sheets or pizza pans lined with baking parchment.
Remove the bowl of dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (about one hour). ‘Knock back’ the dough, punching the air out of it, then divide it in half. Shape both pieces into smooth balls, cupping your hand over the dough on the worktop and working in a circular action. Place the balls of dough 10cm apart on a floured worktop, dust the surface with a little more flour and cover loosely with cling film. Leave for 20 minutes, until they double in size.
Just before baking, chop the ricotta into small pieces and set to one side with the herbs and passata.
Stretch each dough ball into a disc about 25cm in diameter. Try to do this gently, so it retains the air bubbles in the dough as much as possible – do not use a rolling pin, and do not worry if the pizza is not a perfect round.
Lift one disc on to the baking stone or prepared baking sheet. Immediately spoon on half the passata, using the base of the spoon to quickly spread it over the whole base. Scatter over the herbs then bake until the dough is puffed and light brown and the tomato is bubbling.
Depending on your oven’s temperature this can take between two and five minutes. Scatter half the baked ricotta on the pizza, along with a drizzle of oil, just before serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.