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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 nifeis­, 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.

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