I don’t know about you, but my appetite for pizza is pretty stupendous. Did you know that hot flatbread dates back at least 12,000 years? Wowza! The tomato was added to flatbread when Spanish explorers brought them from the Americas to Europe. I want to know who figured out that squashing a few ripe ones on flatbread before baking made something so yumma-licious.
My favorite pizza is Margherita, which is known around the world. In 1889, pizza got a big boost when Neapolitan baker Raffaele Esposito presented Queen Margherita of Italy with a pie in the colors of the Italian flag: red tomatoes with green basil and white mozzarella. When the queen told Esposito how much she liked it, he named the combo for her. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Baking pizza at home is ridiculously easy when you use ready-made dough (whole wheat is delicious) or a ready-to-dress crust, but it can be more satisfying to do it all from scratch. Truth be told, I did it one time! I’m proud to say I can check it off my list of things that I accomplished in my culinary endeavors.
Here’s a recipe I found tucked away in one of my mother’s old recipe cards. The handwriting didn’t belong to my mother, so I have no idea whose recipe this belongs to!!
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup hot water (110 F)
- 2 to 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Olive oil to prepare bowl
- Cornmeal for peel and stone
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- ½ lb mozzarella cheese in small pieces or rounds
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4-10 leaves basil, cut into bits
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Dissolve yeast and sugar in ¼ cup water. In bowl, combine remaining ¾ cup water with 2 cups of flour and salt. When yeast bubbles, add to flour mixture. Stir and turn out onto a floured board. Let dough stand while you clean bowl. Coat inside of bowl with olive oil.
- Knead dough 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to make it silky. Return to bowl, cover with two light layers of plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours or until double in size.
- Punch down dough and flatten on a well-floured board. Pound dough with heel of hand and lift to stretch it, methodically working dough into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Sprinkle peel (see tools below) with cornmeal and place dough on it.
- Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza stone (see tools below); put in oven. Preheat to 400F.
- Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella, and garlic on dough. Sprinkle with basil and 1 Tbsp oil. Top with Parmesan.
- Slide pie onto hot stone, using a quick, jerking motion (like playing shuffleboard, but in reverse). Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is browned to taste. Let pizza cool 5 minutes; slice.
Peel – Assemble your pizza on this wooden paddle. A dusting of cornmeal will help pies slide easily off the peel and onto the stone.
Pizza Stone – Avoid soggy crust with a pizza stone, which pulls moisture from the dough to guarantee crunchiness. A perforated metal pan called a pizza screen has the same effect.
Remember, pizza today can be anything you want it to be, from a belt buster stacked with cheese and meat to a low-fat version loaded with vegetables. I can’t tell you how much I love pizza. That’s amore, indeed.