Fact: pizza is a primary food group. We don’t care what the nutritionists say, this cheesy, carby, saucy delight is an essential diet staple. And while the coronavirus crisis is in full swing, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t miss a slice (or five) from our local pizza joint.
And no, we’re not referring to chain-restaurant delivery pizza or your frozen supermarket number, we’re talking about the real deal. Fluffy yet crispy wood-fired bases speckled with beautiful charring, topped with minimal ingredients and maximum flavour. Drooling already? Same. Throwdown that dough and master pizza at home with these six essential tips.
Understand That Not All Pizza Is Created Equal
From the deep-dish pies of Chicago to the hearty rectangular sheet-pan slices of Sicily, there are literally hundreds of pizza styles, flavours, shapes and combinations around the world. In New York, you’ve got your famous dollar slice at joints like 2 Bros Pizza, while tucked away in Caiazzo, Italy resides one of the worlds best pizzerias, Pepe in Grani, the brainchild of master pizzaiolo Franco Pepe.
Pizza is much more than just a dough and toppings—it's a culinary representation of the region’s history, culture and ingredients. Pizza fact: it’s rumoured that the iconic Margherita pizza was created to honour Queen Margherita of Savoy and garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to represent the colours of the Italian flag. So in summary, define your pizza story before you jump head-first into making one.
Enrol In Pizza Education
If you’re a true pizza fiend like us, a spot of saucy education can go a long way to achieving that delicious doughy delight at home. Luckily for us, the internet is simply brimming with pizza content if you know where to look. Drop-in on Munchie’s YouTube channel and binge-watch their series The Pizza Show, hosted by Brooklynite and owner of Best Pizza in Williamsburg, Frank Pinello.
If you’re after a more step-by-step approach, the team over at Bon Appétit have created a seven-part show dedicated to making the perfect pizza, aptly titled Making Perfect. From finessing the dough to DIY mozzarella, this will leave you wanting to master the perfect pie one ingredient at a time. For those home-cooking vibes, we also suggest heading over to David Seymour’s channel where he road tests recipes from some of your favourite sites like Tasty, showing what’s achievable from his small home kitchen.
Geek Out About Your Gear
No, we’re not referring to the latest sneaker drops here—we’re talking kitchen gear. While a woodfired pizza oven is obviously the ultimate method of cooking your dough, it’s not particularly accessible for most home cooks. But never fear, we’ve found some sneaky kitchen hacks that will help you achieve pizza pie perfection.
Firstly, investigate your outdoor cooking options. Many Weber barbecues can be converted into a pizza oven with a pizza stone, and allow you to ‘grill’ the dough—resulting in a unique smoky flavour. But if your oven is where it’s at, that’s perfectly fine too. The trick here is to go hot and fast—simply place your pizza stone or pizza steel into the centre or upper rack, allow your oven to pre-heat on the highest temperature for at least an hour, and bam—nearly Neopolitan pizza will pop out in under ten minutes.
What You Knead To Know About Dough
While mass-produced chain restaurants might have you thinking pizza is about the toppings, a truly magnificent pie is allllll about the dough. Neapolitan pizza promotes perfectly crispy, charred crusts with a soft centre, while New York pizza boasts an architectural-like structure to hold up those super-sized slices.
For that Brooklyn-style slice, we recommend checking out Adam Ragusea’s approach to the perfect New York pizza at home. Alternatively for absolutely minimal effort and maximum wow-factor, save Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough to your bookmarks now. Starring only three ingredients—flour, salt and yeast—it’s pretty impossible to mess this one up.
Get Saucy With It
Look, we’re going to keep this section simple. Put down the store-bought barbeque sauce and step away from that relatively offensive aioli—there’s only one acceptable ingredient to lovingly lather your dough with and that’s good old red sauce. We’re particularly partial to the internet-famous recipe for tomato sauce with onion and butter from beloved Italian chef Marcella Hazan. Another stupidly simple take on this pizza essential, the recipe only calls for canned whole Italian tomatoes, butter, onion and salt. Let the flavours get to know each other as you simmer away, or if you’re short on time, simply crush up a can of San Marzano tomatoes and consider your sauce sorted.
Let’s Talk Toppings
In case you missed it, please see the dough section for our stance on toppings. Designed to complement the dough, not overpower it, toppings should be well-considered, minimal and of the highest quality. And no, potato wedges do not belong on a pizza.
Take for example your classic Margherita recipe. You’ll want to find the best low-moisture mozzarella available, cook it off and garnish with fresh sprigs of basil. It’s seriously that simple. Try checking out your local Italian grocer or formaggio (cheese) store for the goods. But it doesn’t have to stop there—be inspired by what chefs and restaurants around the world are creating when it comes to toppings, or reimagine what seasonal ingredients could look like on your dough. We’re particularly taken by Bon Appétit’s perfect pizza recipe which takes a twist on the traditional by adding maitake mushrooms, chiles and parmesan—drool.
Next up on the cooking agenda is spag bowl. Flex your culinary skills with 11 easy spaghetti bolognese hacks.
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