A few days ago, we celebrated Food Revolution Day, a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills.I discovered the event through other food blogs, had a look at the official website to learn more and decided to get involved, by hosting a Pizza Making Workshop at my house.
I often make pizza at home and have learnt how to cook it from my mum. She would normally buy the dough from a local bakery in Rome, but she is an expert in choosing the best ingredients for the topping and in cooking the pizza to get the perfect crust.
One thing I learnt over many years perfecting Italian recipes is that you can totally Make Great Pizza At Home even if you are not a professional pizzaiolo! All you need to make a delicious classic Italian margherita pizza are: a great recipe, high quality fresh ingredients, time and a good oven!
Of course, I am not a professional “pizzaiola” (pizza maker), so the idea of teaching people how to make pizza was a bit scary. It wasn’t meant to be a real cookery course though, but a fun night of cooking with friends, promoting the Food Revolution idea: that preparing food at home and using good quality ingredients can be easy and fun. I prepared recipe cards to hand out to my guests, put my apron on and started my first cookery class!
I narrowed down the guest list to a few foodies / photographers: Sam, Hannah and Wendy. The evening got pretty geeky as we all took out our Nikon D600 cameras, flashguns, lenses and light reflector.
I started the workshop by reminding my students about the importance of choosing the best ingredients. I bought most of them from an Italian deli:
- pastry flour (which in Italian is called “00”), fresh mozzarella (from cow’s milk, not buffalo)
- tomato sauce (the organic peeled tomatoes in the photos turned out to be tasteless, so I replaced them with Cirio finely chopped tomatoes, which instead were rich and flavoursome)
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil, oregano, salt and pepper
My go-to recipe for classic Italian margherita pizza
Makes 3 round pizzas.
For the dough
- 500g flour
- 250g water
- 1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5-10g salt
- 7g dry yeast
For the topping
- 1 1/2 tins of good quality peeled or chopped tomatoes
- 300g fresh mozzarella
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of salt
- handful of basil leaves
Using a food processor, mix together the warm water, flour, salt, yeast, water and olive oil. Don’t add all the water at once: slowly add a little bit, then mix the ingredients, keep adding the water until you obtain the right texture. You should have a ball of dough that is smooth and not sticky.
Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Leave it in a warm room for at least twelve hours (if possible).
While we were waiting for the dough to rise, I prepared Bruschetta with Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes. I cut the tomatoes and seasoned them with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. I sliced a white bread loaf and grilled the slices in the oven to make them brown and crunchy. Then I rubbed a clove of garlic on the warm bread and topped it with the tomatoes.
As we didn’t have time to leave it to rest overnight, our dough was hard and lacked elasticity. We tried flattening the pizza using our hands (my husband demonstrated great potential for a future career in pizza making!), but we had to eventually use the “evil” rolling pin.
The rolling pin should not be used to make pizza, as it removes all the gas produced during the rising stage. Flattening the dough by hand maintains the texture that will make your pizza rise in the oven with crunchy bubbles. To make the perfect pizza, it is very important to leave the dough to rise to get an airy and open texture, crust.
When the pizza base is ready, place it on a pizza pan and add the tomato sauce. You need to cook the base with the tomato sauce for about 10-12 minutes.
If you want to use raw vegetables (such as courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, etc.) you need to add them now. All other toppings that don’t require cooking (mozzarella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, boiled eggs, ham, rocket salad, etc.) need to be added after the pizza base is cooked.
The oven should be very hot (around 220-230 °C). Always open and close it very quickly!
When the base is brown and nearly cooked, take the pizza out of the oven and add the mozzarella, basil, oregano and salt. I also like to splash a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
Put the pizza back in the oven for two or three more minutes (just enough to melt the cheese). Your homemade Italian style pizza is ready!
I hope you enjoyed this post and it will inspire you to make pizza at home! Homemade dough is very easy to make, it only requires some patience for the rising and practice for the kneading.
The pizza dough can be cooked in a iron cast skillet (American style) or in pizza pans (Italian style). And of course, in a wood fired oven, if you are lucky to have one!
My favourite toppings are: cooked ham and marinated artichokes; bresaola, rocket salad and Parmesan shavings; courgette flowers and anchovies. But you can be creative and add anything you like. Ham and Pineapple Pizza? Go for it, I won’t judge!