I never liked pizza growing up. I know that sounds crazy, but cheap grease and highly processed ingredients never set well with my tummy or my taste buds, even before I was old enough to know what really went in those pizzas. It wasn’t until I visited Naples, and I ate my very first authentic pizza, a classic Margarita, that I started to warm up to the idea. I ate so much pizza that first trip that I returned home fluent in pizza and in love with everything Neapolitan. In fact, I may have cried, heartbroken that I was not born Neapolitan. I was sixteen, intrigued with Buddhism and convinced that I had to have been a Neapolitan in a past life. I have always been a seeker, and in Naples I found a piece of myself that I never want to let go. While my world view has changed dramatically, my love for pizza has not. Now one of my favorite things in the whole wide world to eat is a good pizza, not too saucy, not too complicated and the kind that is not intended to be shared. I want a pizza all to my lonesome.
It has become a weekly dinner, and is usually enjoyed at the end of the week when I am trying to use random vegetables that didn’t get used earlier in the week. With the right dough, quality olive oil and some roasted garlic, every vegetable tastes fantastic. There is really nothing you can’t put on pizza. Lately, little miss Octave has been requesting pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every. Single. Day! Although she probably won’t be eating pizza as much as she would like, it is really sweet to watch and learn her preferences.
I found this recipe a few years ago at 101 cookbooks. I have adapted it slightly, using coarse sea salt and a little more water. In my experience, the wetter the dough, the better result. Spelt flour and whole wheat flour work fine here too, however I wouldn’t substitute more than half, otherwise it is pretty heavy. While those flours work, and I usually just use whatever we have around, I prefer unbleached white bread flour because it creates the perfect consistency for traditional pizza dough. This recipe makes enough for 3-4 pizzas, depending on the size you prefer, so I usually make 2 at a time and freeze the rest. If the dough is made ahead of time, a pizza from scratch only takes a few minutes to prepare and 15-20 minutes to bake. Or on a lazy day, if you have those, you can prepare the entire pizza, toppings and all, place it on a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the freezer until it is solid. About 45 minutes. Transfer to a large ziploc bag, put it back in the freezer, and bake whenever you need a quick meal.
Last night we ate this pizza with cherry and roma tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced red onions, a killer 25-year-old aged balsamic my mom just sent me, and a healthy amount of mozzarella and basil. The only thing missing was the pistachio pesto I posted last week. That smeared underneath all these lovely ingredients is absolutely delicious. Tonight Octave will be happy to find we are having pizza again. With the left over dough from last night, it is just too easy not to use again tonight. Tonight’s pizza is balsamic roasted potatoes, beets, carrots and onions with a lot of feta, and a fried egg or two. The good news is I have tried absolutely everything you can imagine and ingredients you probably cannot imagine, on top of this dough, and while I have combinations I prefer, I am rarely disappointed. I cannot compare this dough to the beautiful pizzas that come out of Naples, because every single ingredient down to the city water and cigarette smoke lingering in the pizzeria, plays a crucial role in the taste and experience. BUT, it is my favorite go-to recipe that I have used thus far. So, go traditional or get adventurous, and make some homemade pizza!
Makes 2 medium-large pizzas
4 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
1 ¾ tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
2 cups scant filtered water, warm to the touch
¼ cup olive oil
Handful of cornmeal
In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add water and olive oil and mix on medium speed until the dough starts to come together. Knead for 5-7 minutes. If you are mixing by hand use a large wooden spoon to mix together and once the dough starts together, wet your hands and start to knead. Keep wetting your hands so they don’t stick to the dough. It will take a little longer by hand, maybe 10-12 minutes. Keep working with the dough until it is smooth and slightly tacky. It should not almost look silky, and you want your dough to be more on the wet side. When I use my mixer, this is easier to attain, because you don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to your hands. Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover with a towel, and place in warm place to let rise for at least 2 hours, The original recipe does not call for the dough to rise, but I have noticed a big difference when I let it. I have even let it rise for 4 hours and the results get better. Split dough into 2 equals portions.
Preheat your oven to 425. On a well floured surface, roll out your dough as thick or as think as you like. I change-up the thickness depending on what ingredients I am using. The less ingredients, the thinner I roll out my dough. Dust a pizza stone or baking sheet with parchment paper with a generous handful of cornmeal. Place your dough on top and drizzle 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil before you garnish with your favorite ingredients. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board. Slice and serve.