La Pizza Vera Napoletana

with Tatiana Bento

This month’s recipe from Tatiana is influenced by her recent trip to Naples, Italy on her quest to discover the best pizza in the world. Here she tells us about not only her journey but also reveals all she learnt, with a wonderful true, authentic pizza recipe. 

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Last month we stumbled upon the opportunity to do some “food research” (involving eating lots) in the south of Italy, and we couldn’t possibly say no to that could we?

Now Italy has always been known for its amazing bread and I have always been a tiny bit obsessed by it, so that became my first priority, especially a very specific type of bread… La Pizza and if you want pizza you have to go to Napoli.

Napoli is a magical, rough around the edges, city on the west coast of Italy and is considered to be the birthplace of pizza. What can I say, I felt right at home. But the pizza culture here is not a thing of the past, it’s very much alive with every café, restaurant and hole-in-the-wall pulling out amazing looking breads, but I was interested in a particular type. La Pizza DOP.

Pizza DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta – roughly translated as ‘Protected designation of origin’) is the only pizza in the world to be recognised as being faithful to the authentic stuff. They only allow two types of pizza: La Margarita (made with tomatoes, mozzarella de bufala, olive oil and basil) and La Marinara (made with tomato, garlic, olive oil and oregano), but who needs more when they taste so good?

The DOP denomination was created to protect names, quality and traditional methods used in producing food products; in this case it guarantees that the right flour, mozzarella, tomatoes and oven are used in the creation of the pizza. Surprisingly the movement started when the local restaurant owners decided it was time to protect the legacy of pizza; an association with the University of Napoli was forged.

Together they defined what makes a true pizza Napoletana and developed a classification system that not only recognises the food and skills but also grants it a protection status.

Before we left for Napoli we did our homework to find out where we could try the authentic pizzas; two places kept popping up, Pizzeria Da Michele and Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro just around the corner from our hotel, which was miles away from the “tourist area” of Napoli. Curiously enough these two have been some of the most active restaurants in the process of recognizing pizzas, so we headed straight there.

The pizzas are super thin, very large, and really soft and with few ingredients on top, they are not always perfectly circular but they leave behind the most amazing aroma.

What can I say? We did wait for over 2 hours in Pizzeria Da Michele just to get through the door, but it was all worth it as I had probably the best pizza in my life. The day after we went straight to Pizzeiria Tianon da Ciro for a second dose of DOP pizza, and again they were wonderful and inspired me to keep on learning about pizzas.

Now you may be wondering what is so different about a DOP pizza so we are going to try and teach you how to make them yourself. It’s all about the ingredients, the wood burning oven and the method but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of San Marzano Tomatoes, your pizzas will still come out delicious.

THE SAUCE RECIPE

Makes enough for 3 large pizzas or 6 small pizzas

Ingredients:

1 tin of San Marzano tomatoes

(or a tin of pomodoro tomatoes)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of oregano (dry)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons of fresh basil

How to make:

Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a frying pan on a very low heat. Use a potato masher to press the down and extract all the juices.  Don’t use a food processor or hand blender, as those will break the seeds and give your sauce a bitter flavour. Add all the remaining ingredients, mix well and cook for about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow it to cool down immediately.

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THE DOUGH RECIPE

Makes 3 large pizzas or 6 small pizzas

Ingredients:

600g Type “00” flour or Strong bread flour

400g water, cold

12g of fresh yeast or 6g of instant yeast

12g of Sea salt

60g extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Semolina/bread flour for dusting

How to make:

Start by measuring your flour in a large bowl. If you are using fresh yeast measure it into your bowl of flour.

Use your fingertips to rub the yeast and flour together, as you do when making a crumble.  If you are using dried yeast simply add it to the flour and give it a mix. Measure and add the salt, stir it together before measuring and adding the cold water.

Olive oil is not a stated ingredient when making DOP pizzas but it does give you beautiful tasting dough so it’s up to you if you want to add it in or not. If you are using olive oil, this is the time to add it in so measure it and place it in the bowl with the rest of your ingredients.

Combine all the ingredients with the help of a plastic dough scraper or a spoon. Once it starts to come together tip the bowl over onto the worktop, scraping all the bits of flour off your bowl, and knead the dough; without adding anymore flour to your table as this will disturb the delicate flour/

water balance. Knead it for about 10 minutes, the dough should become smooth, soft, supple and elastic and it shouldn’t feel tacky.

If you are using an electric mixer, use the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

TIP #1:You can get fresh yeast from the bakeries in large supermarkets

TIP #2: Look for “00” Type flour in your local Italian deli

Sprinkle flour on your work surface and place the dough on top. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes to relax the gluten.

Prepare a large tray by lining it with baking paper and lightly oiling it with olive oil. Using a metal dough-scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or 3 pieces if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), you can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball, sealing the bottom with a tight seam. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the tray, drizzle olive oil over the dough, rubbing it in to make sure it covers all the dough.

Cover the tray with cling film and put it in the fridge overnight as it develops the flavour in the dough. They can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. This is also the time to freeze your dough if you want to have a batch ready to go in the freezer. To freeze: Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. Place the bags in the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.

TIP #3: If you are in a hurry and want to have your pizza that day, just leave it in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours or until double in size instead of placing it in the fridge overnight.

On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the fridge. Dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour and cover the dough loosely with oiled cling film. Now let rest for 2 hours.

TIP #4:If you proved your dough outside, skip this step.

At least 1 hour before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible. If you are making a true DOP pizza you need to fire up your wood burning oven at this moment and get it as hot as you can.

TIP #5:If you don’t have a wood burning oven it is really important to have a pizza stone as the pizzas need to cook from the bottom up. You can get these in kitchen shops or online.

Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour, flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough with the help of a dough scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured work surface and re-flour your hands, then continue shaping it. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten

TIP #6:Make sure your peel or tray doesn’t have edges, so the pizza can slide freely.

When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter), lay it on the peel, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly oil the pizza base; this will help the dough not to get soggy. Then top it with about 2 tablespoons of sauce, add your other toppings.

TIP #7:Only a few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including the sauce and cheese are sufficient. If you go for more or large amounts of topping you might end up with a soggy bottom!

Slide the topped pizza onto the stone and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, and then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 minutes to bake.

TIP #8:If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower shelf before the next round. If the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Enjoy!

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Topping Ideas

MARGHERITA PIZZA

Per pizza

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp tomato sauce

Fresh mozzarella, drained

Basil

How to make:

Spread 2 tbsp of olive oil over your dough, this will help the dough not to get soggy. Cover your pizza dough with tomato sauce and spread some mozzarella on top and bake as described in the pizza dough recipe. Once baked, remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.

PEPPERONI PIZZA

Per pizza

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp tomato sauce

Fresh mozzarella, drained

Dried oregano

Pepperoni

Spread 2 tbsp of olive oil over your dough; this will help the dough not to get soggy. Cover your pizza dough with tomato sauce and spread some mozzarella on top. Place a few slices of pepperoni on top and bake as described in the pizza dough recipe. Once baked remove from the oven and sprinkle with dried oregano.

MUSHROOM PIZZA

Per pizza

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp tomato sauce

Fresh mozzarella, drained

Mushrooms, thinly sliced

Dried oregano

Spread 2 tbsp of olive oil over your dough; this will help the dough not to get soggy. Cover your pizza dough with tomato sauce and spread some mozzarella on top. Place a few slices of mushrooms on top and bake as described in the pizza dough recipe. Once baked, remove from the oven and sprinkle with dry oregano.

TYPHOON PIZZA STONE £23.99

Lakeland.co.uk

Parc Trostre, Llanelli SA14 9UY

For perfectly cooked pizzas with crisp bases and definitely no soggy bottoms! Home baked bread also benefits from being baked on the stone.

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