PIZZA MARGHERITA

IMG_5070My husband is Italian and he loves pizza. But, not just any kind of pizza. He is very specific and has extremely high expectations for any pizza pies he will be consuming.  After a business trip to San Francisco, he came home raving about the pizza at A16 and presented me with their cookbook. I finally attempted making their pizza a few months ago and it was delicious. Although at first it seems like the process is quite complex, it really isn’t. More than anything, it just takes a little time. I highly recommend making this for your next dinner party with friends. You just have to remember to make the dough a few days ahead, so that it has time to gradually develop its flavor.

PIZZA MARGHERITA

Makes 1 pizza

1 Neapolitan style pizza dough base (recipe to follow)
1/3 cup San Marzano Pizza Sauce (recipe to follow)
1/3 cup grated grana
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick discs
5 large basil leaves

IMG_5067Using the bottom of a ladle, spread the tomato sauce evenly over the surface of the pizza base, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered along the edge. Evenly sprinkle the grana over the tomato sauce. Judiciously distribute the mozzarella and basil leaves over the grana. Bake the pizza for 6-7 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown and the top is bubbling. Remove the pizza from the oven and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

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NEAPOLITAN-STYLE PIZZA DOUGH

Makes 4 (9-10 inch) pizzas

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-105 degrees F)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups “00” flour (found at Italian or specialty markets)
IMG_5046In a small bowl. sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let proof for 10 minutes, until the yeast has dissolved into a soft, frothy paste. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
IMG_5047In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast mixture and mix together on low speed for 2 minutes, or until the dough is shaggy and most of the water has been absorbed. Continue to knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smoother.

Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead on medium-low speed for an additional 10 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth, soft, and warm to the touch.
IMG_5048Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn the dough around so that all sides are lightly coated in oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
IMG_5049The next day, punch down the dough with your fist, then fold over the sides and turn the dough over in the bowl. Recover and return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
IMG_5052Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured cutting board or work surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. One at a time, cup the pieces in your hands and tuck under the sides until you have formed a smooth ball. Place the ball on the floured surface, providing plenty of room between the balls, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let the balls proof for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
IMG_5054To make your oven pizza ready, place a pizza stone on the lowest rack and preheat the oven to its maximum temperature, 500-550 degrees F, for at least 30 minutes.
IMG_5064To shape a ball of dough into a pizza, place it on a well floured surface. Using the tips of your fingers, pat down the ball, flattening it into a disk. Place the palm of your hand in the center of the dough and gently but firmly press down. At the same time, with the other hand, pull the dough outward while rotating it clockwise to form a flat circle. The entire time you are working on the dough, maintain a thin layer of flour underneath to prevent sticking. I have found that in order to make a very thin pizza base, I have to do a combination of hand pulling and using the rolling pin. I use the rolling pin towards the end of the process to finish it off. Ultimately, you want the base to be 10-12 inches in diameter.
IMG_5065Generously dust a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with flour. Slide the pizza base onto the peel, and immediately shake to make sure it will slide off. Dress the pizza with desired toppings.

To transfer the pizza, place the peel over the stone and quickly jerk back. The pizza should slide smoothly off the peel onto the stone in one piece.

Bake the pizza for 6-7 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown and the top is bubbling.

Remove the pizza from the oven and drizzle with olive oil before serving.
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SAN MARZANO TOMATO SAUCE

Makes 3 cups of sauce, enough for 9 pizzas

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano Tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

Empty the can of tomatoes into a large bowl. Gently squeeze the tomatoes into smaller pieces with your hands. Add the salt and stir to combine. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the pizzas.

Enjoy!

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