New York Pizza
I’ve made pizza before in Italy, so how hard could it be to make it in my New York City apartment? I had a hankering for pizza last night and was feeling ambitious – a perfect time to experiment in the kitchen and whip up something fabulous for my Foodie Friday recipe series. Uh huh, right. This might be a good time to call for pizza delivery. If you’re feeling as ambitious as I did, here’s a slightly improved version of my pizza recipe. Let me know if it gets you kissing your fingertips to the sky and singing “That’s Amore” into the night.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 packet of dry yeast
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- Rao’s Pizza Sauce
- Mozzarella (sliced and shredded)
- Fresh basil
Making the Dough
Don’t be discouraged, but this is the point where I want to jump up and say, “here’s where it all went terribly wrong!” but I don’t think it is. It’s not how I prepared the dough, but how I handled it that made my pizza taste like one of those once-frozen personal pies sold at airport hotels and concert venues. If you follow these instructions, you should be fine. First, place the yeast in 3/4 cups lukewarm water and let it stand about ten minutes until dissolved. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt and olive oil. Slowly pour the water and yeast combo into the bowl while stirring.
Stir and knead the dough until it comes together. Knead for a good 5-10 minutes. You want a sticky, elastic dough. If you feel like it’s too wet or dry, add flour or water. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about an hour. Cook’s Confession: mine didn’t rise so well. I was really hungry and impatient. Not a good combination in the kitchen.
Here’s something you can do to make your dough better than mine: place that covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it sit for a day or two. Not only will the dough behave, your pizza will taste amazing.
Making the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 425˚F. If you have a pizza stone (like me) preheat your oven to its highest setting. Mine is 500˚F. You want that stone to be as hot as possible for a crispy crust. If you don’t have a pizza stone, stretch the dough on an oiled or nonstick pan. Start from the middle, push the dough out toward the edges. Your goal is a THIN, flat, even shape. I spread my dough onto a pan before transferring it to a pizza peel (probably a mistake), then the stone. My dough was also WAY too thick. If I owned a rolling pin, I probably would have used it.
I tried a variety of toppings, including fresh mozzarella, pre-shredded cheese, pre-made pizza sauce and pepperoni. My advice is to make your own sauce, even use fresh tomatoes or canned crushed tomatoes with garlic and olive oil. The sliced mozzarella is superior to the shredded in taste, plus it melts like a dream. Experiment! Find your own winning at-home pizza combination.
Place the pizza into the oven, on the tray or slide onto the pizza stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust turns golden-brown. Lift up the pizza to make sure the crust is solid and it is completely cooked before removing from the oven. Enjoy.
The secret to a truly great pizza is the oven itself. At my family’s home in Italy we have a 200 year old wood-burning brick oven. It takes several hours to heat the oven until the red bricks turn bright white – a sign that it’s ready. We push the ashes to the sides and back of the oven and slide in the pizza. Because the oven is so hot, a pizza only takes five minutes to cook. The crust is perfectly crisp, with a hint of wood fire in the flavor.
Heating up the oven:
Carefully saucing the pizzas. The key is not to over-sauce or over-cheese the pizza, a mistake I’ve made many times.
The fire burns in the oven, changing the color of the bricks from red to white.
Pizzas baking in the oven next to red-hot coals.
These pizzas are ready within minutes. The crispy crust bubbles with molten cheese and garlicky tomato sauce. A perfect Italian treat, paired with a cup of local farmer’s wine and platters of prosciutto.
Whether you have a wood burning pizza oven or not, pizza is a fun dish to prepare with family and friends. Because the dough can be stored for several days, it eliminates prep time on pizza night. Good luck with the recipe and if all else fails, you can order delivery. Buon Appetito!