There is a picture hanging up in my parents’ dining room that depicts a quaint Italian scene. In the foreground is a little table with two chairs. An antipasti plate with a variety of cured meats and a bowl of olives sits in the middle of the table, with two mugs of dark hot chocolate on either side. In the distance is a large town clock in the center of the town square, a flock of pigeons, a little vegetable market, and a harbor with rows of colorful boats. The artist sure packed a lot into one scene. That was me! I painted it when I was 12 years old after we returned home from a family vacation in Northern Italy. Even as a young girl, the food made an impression. How could it not? Obviously, the antipasti and the hot chocolate were at the forefront of my mind when I was painting (what an interesting pairing – what was I thinking?) but I have plenty of other food memories from that trip, like tripe, thin-crust pizza, rich, creamy gelato, and the special feeling of eating dinner way past my bedtime.
You’re probably wondering about the tripe. One of our hotel restaurants featured a set menu. For one of the courses, I immediately dug into what I thought was a pile of wide noodles in a cream sauce. It took me a while to look up and notice that no one else in my family was touching the “noodles.” Turns out it was a pile of tripe! My family still jokes about it to this day. Of course I remember the thin-crust pizza a lot more fondly than my creamy “noodles” – the perfectly crispy crust, the simple tomato sauce that tasted like ripe summer tomatoes, the creamy Mozzarella cheese, and the aromatic fresh basil. I remember eating an entire pizza by myself because the crust was so thin, and washing it down with a glass of coke with no ice (the European way, which I prefer!)
I was really excited when I got this recipe for this month’s Italian recipe swap, because it came from someone who has also experienced real Italian pizza. Krystal of Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate recently returned from a vacation in Italy. She couldn’t choose just one Italian recipe to share, so gave the recipient a choice – this thin-crust pizza or a creamy lemon gelato. The latter looked so amazing, but since we don’t own an ice cream maker, I chose the pizza. She says this recipe gives you a taste of Italy at home, and I would have to agree. Cook’s Illustrated really got it right, as eating it conjured up the Italian pizza I ate over 15 years ago. The only difference is that instead of ice-less coke or rich hot chocolate, I got to enjoy it with some red wine!
This recipe makes two 12-inch pizzas. We topped one with grated Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced, locally grown tomatoes, and fresh basil. The other one was our version of a Quattro Formaggi (four cheeses): Mozzarella, Italian Fontina, Parmesan, and Ricotta (I wanted blue or Gorgonzola, but Levi and Dustin won this time). The recipe makes a ton of delicious sauce, so keep that in mind and halve the sauce recipe if you only want to use it for your pizzas. We are looking forward to using the leftover sauce in a pasta dish soon.
For the Dough:
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBS. olive oil, plus extra
1 1/3 cups ice water
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
3 cups bread flour, plus extra
For the Sauce:
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Quattro Formaggi – Grated Mozzarella cheese; grated Italian fontina; grated Parmesan; dollops of fresh Ricotta (or blue cheese/Gorgonzola)
Margherita – The best tomatoes you can find, thinly sliced; Mozzarella cheese; fresh basil
- At least 24 Hours before prepare the dough. In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, and yeast until combined. With the machine running, slowly add ice water through the feed tube and process until a dough forms and no dry flour remains. Let dough stand for 10 minutes.
- Add oil and salt and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball – about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl, knead briefly on lightly oiled work area until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
- To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
- One hour before baking the pizza, adjust the oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500˚ degrees.
- Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, with at least 3 to 5 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour, and place on a well-floured counter top. Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8-inch disk. Leave 1 inch of the outer edge a little thicker, while gently stretching the middle until you have a 12-inch round. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and spread a handful of cornmeal on the paper (if using). Place the dough on the paper.
- Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over pizza (we didn’t really measure – just spooned some on until it looked right to us), add a couple handfuls of cheese and whatever other toppings you are using. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the pizza and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt. Carefully lift the parchment paper with pizza on-top and place onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling, about 10-12 minutes. Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Repeat steps above to make and bake second pizza. Enjoy with your favorite bottle of red wine.