Pizza making has always been a family tradition for me. In the summers at our family cottage in Ontario, Canada, we would make pizza dough in the mornings and leave it to rise in the hot sun on the deck railing while we swam in the lake. Once the dough had risen, we would roll it out on to a round pizza pan, drizzle it with olive oil, herbs, fresh tomatoes and parmesan cheese then pop it on to a hot BBQ. It was the closest we could get to having a wood fired Italian pizza in the middle of cottage country. After a day spent swimming, canoeing and kayaking, it was a welcome treat.
Homemade pizza dough is simple to make if you are willing to put in a little time (2 hours to rise the dough) and the effort to make it. If you don’t have the time, you can rise the dough the night before and leave it in the fridge (just take the dough out 1 hour before making the pizza).
Making your own pizza is not only healthier, it can also become a family affair by involving children. My American niece loves to roll out her own pizza dough at home and in her Montessori classes. It’s a great way to get young children involved in dinner preparation by rolling the dough, spreading the sauce and throwing on their favourite toppings.
The following recipes and pizza making tips are borrowed and adapted from Catherine Fulvio’s Bake Like an Italian. This is the closest thing you will get to a delicious Italian pizza at home (unless you have your own wood fired oven). The pizza crust is thin and crispy topped with homemade tomato sauce and Italian/Irish cheeses or whatever you fancy.
Salsa di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)
This recipe makes more sauce than you will need for the pizza. You can store it in the fridge and use it with pasta dishes. Or you can freeze it for the next time you make pizza. Catherine uses two cans of tinned tomatoes but I prefer to use passata as it yields a thicker and fuller sauce.
Ingredients – 3 tbsp. olive oil, 3 garlic cloves crushed, 1 jar (680g) of passata, freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp. sugar to sweeten and a few sprigs of fresh basil.
Method – Heat the olive oil over low heat, add the crushed garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute then add the tomato passata or tinned tomatoes. Season with freshly ground black pepper, add the sugar and simmer for at least 30 minutes until thickened. Tear the fresh basil and add it to the sauce at the end of the cooking time. Check the seasoning. Blitz the sauce until it is smooth using a hand blender.
Spelt Pizza Dough
This recipe makes enough for 2 medium round pizzas or one large rectangular pizza (enough for the whole family to share). Catherine uses 200g of strong white flour but I use half spelt instead.
Ingredients – 100g strong white flour, 100g spelt flour, 1 1/2 tsp. fast action dried yeast, a pinch of salt, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 150ml warm water, semolina for dusting.
Method – I make my dough using a mixer fitted with a dough hook. If you don’t have one, alternatively you could make it by hand. Place the flour, yeast and a pinch of salt in the mixer then drizzle over the olive oil, add the warm water and mix until it forms a soft dough. Add more flour or water if necessary to achieve a dough. Knead the dough on a medium speed for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (If needing by hand – 10 minutes). Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and form it into a ball. Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with olive oil and cover with oiled cling film. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Tip – Leaving the dough in a sunny spot or near a heat source like a wood burning or gas fire is ideal, but if you don’t have any of those options you can preheat your oven to 70 degrees then turn it off and leave your dough to rise in there.
1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Drizzle your pizza pan(s) or baking tray(s) with olive oil and dust with a little semolina.
Tip – If you heat your pizza pan it will ensure you get a thin crust. I tend to leave mine in the oven while it preheats. Obviously you would do this before adding the olive oil and semolina.
2. Once your dough has risen, turn it out on to a floured surface and knead it for about 3 minutes. Divide it in two if you are making two pizzas. Shape each ball into a circle and pull it out from the centre. To make one rectangular pizza, use a rolling pin to shape the dough then stretch it with your hands moving outwards all the way around. Place the dough on the pan/tray.
Tip – If you flour the dough and fold it in four, it’s easier to transfer to your pan/tray.
3. Assemble your pizza by spreading the base with tomato sauce, grated cheeses and your choice of toppings. (I favour a blend of Italian mozzarella, parmesan and Irish Cheddar). Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately with a healthy salad and a glass of wine or beer.